Date: 1993-04-07

Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)

Summary: John E. Adams guided the Oregon-based adoption agency into a global operation

John E. Adams, the son of missionary parents who guided Holt International Children's Services from a small local organization into worldwide professional prominence, died Monday in a Eugene hospital after having a heart attack at home. He was 69.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Central Presbyterian Church, Eugene.

Mr. Adams took over as executive director of Holt International Children's Services in 1967, at a time when the international adoption agency was placing 180 children per year with families in the United States. By the time he stepped down in 1980, the agency was placing more than 3,000 children annually.

Under Mr. Adams' leadership, Holt International expanded its services from one country in 1967 to seven countries in 1980. The agency currently serves children in 16 nations.

``I have a simple vision,'' Mr. Adams said during his tenure with the agency. ``It is that we some day have a world where every child is wanted. It's a world in which each child is adequately and permanently nurtured as a wanted person by his parents, whether they are biological or adoptive.''

Mr. Adams' insistence on detail and thoroughness made Holt's policies into models that are widely copied around the world, said Susan Cox, the agency's director of development.

``Jack was one of the most articulate spokesmen for child welfare anywhere,'' Cox said Tuesday. ``His feeling was that thinking the end justified the means was very shortsighted for children.''

After stepping down from Holt International, Mr. Adams went to work for Church World Service in New York, overseeing the organization's refugee assistance programs. After spending two years there, he took a position as an administrator at the Seoul International School in Seoul, South Korea.

Mr. Adams retired last summer and returned to Eugene, where he continued to work occasionally for Holt International. He visited Vietnam for the agency last December.

Born of missionary parents in Korea on Sept. 17, 1923, Mr. Adams lived and studied in Korea until he was 16. Following college and seminary graduation in the United States, he became a pastor of several Presbyterian churches in Washington state and Oregon.

In 1962 while visiting Korea with his wife, Janet, and their three sons, they met a girl at an orphanage they wished to adopt. Mr. Adams' involvement with Holt International began when he asked the agency to assist in the adoption. Their adopted daughter, Nancy, now serves on the Holt International board of directors.

Mr. Adams also served on the United Nations committee of experts who developed guidelines for international foster care and adoption. He was a featured speaker at the Milan World Conference on Adoption and Foster Care in 1971 and was involved in the development of the ``International Rights of the Child,'' which was part of the United Nations International Year of the Child in 1979.

Mr. Adams often referred to his international adoption work as ``lifesaving expeditions.''

One of the most desperate occurred in 1975, as Mr. Adams directed round-the-clock efforts to prepare Vietnamese children for legal evacuation to the United States as their country teetered on the brink of collapse at the end of the Vietnam War. Mr. Adams' attentiveness to detail was credited with the orderly adoptive placement of nearly 400 Vietnamese children, whose documents had to be processed in a matter of days.

Survivors besides his wife and daughter include his sons, John of Eugene, Stephen of Sacramento, Calif., and David of Winston-Salem, N.C.; and two grandchildren.

The family suggests that remembrances be contributions to Holt International Children's Services at 1195 City View, Eugene, Ore. 97402.


Primary links

Pound Pup Legacy