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China Adoption: Holt International

Coming home - Holt International

Angelina Jolie, Julie Andrews and Mia Farrow made headlines by adopting children internationally, but celebrities are not the only people who adopt overseas. Several families in Johnson County have adopted children abroad through Holt International.

For about 50 years, Holt International adoption agency has been finding families for children who have been abandoned and orphaned in countries such as China, Korea, India, Guatemala and Vietnam.

Holt's Missouri and Kansas branch director, Judy Young, said one thing that sets Holt apart from other international adoption agencies is Holt's in-house services. Holt, 203 Huntington Road, Kansas City, Mo., provides services including a mandatory adoption preparation class, adoption study interviews, child presentation interviews and post placement services.

" Although the international adoption process can seem overwhelming, Holt International offers step-by-step assistance through the entire process," Young said.

Holt also offers free "How to Adopt" informational meetings at the Antioch Library, 8700 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Merriam. Social workers and families who have already adopted children from overseas are available during these meetings to answer questions.

One such family includes Jimmy and Sally Dodd of Overland Park, who have adopted two girls from China.
The Dodds decided to adopt internationally after visiting Haiti during a short-term mission trip with Cross International in 2001. The Dodds went with their three biological children, Mark, 18, Megan, 15, and Sarah, 10, to pass out Christmas bags to children living in crowded orphanages.

" The look on these kids' faces when they received those bags really shook us all up," Sally said. "These kids had nothing, absolutely nothing ... and it really made us realize that there are kids out there that are desperate for a home, for a family, for attention and for love."

When the Dodds returned home from Haiti, Megan got the family thinking seriously about adopting a child from another country.

"Megan wanted to adopt all the children in Haiti," Jimmy said. "She was really the one who was gung-ho about adopting, and Sally and I were dragging our feet."

The turning point for Jimmy and Sally came when the family attended a Steven Curtis Chapman concert. The Christian artist spoke about international adoption and the Dodds felt like he was speaking directly to them. The Dodds had thought about adopting domestically, but the chance of them being able to adopt in the United States was low because they were both in their 40s and they already had three children of their own, Jimmy said.

After some serious soul-searching, the family became convinced to "wholeheartedly" pursue international adoption, Sally said.

The Dodds got connected with Holt International and adopted Paige, 3, in 2003 and Allie, 1, in 2005. Sally said the adoption process was worthwhile.

" While the process may seem long, the rewards are wonderful, much like a pregnancy," Sally said. "Once you have a child in your arms, you will quickly forget the pain of waiting."

Paige and Allie immediately became a part of the Dodd family and the love the family feels for the girls seemed to be instantaneous, Sally said.

" We marveled at how we could love these little Chinese princesses so quickly," she said. "Yet immediately we were overcome with the same love we have for our biological children."
Mark, Megan and Sarah said they also felt an immediate bond with the girls and they enjoy having them around, especially when Paige sees another Chinese person.

" She will commonly shout, 'Hey look, China,'" they said. "We try to never respond negatively. We encourage the little girls by saying, 'Yes girls, just like you.' We want them to be proud of their Chinese heritage."

The Dodds are committed to being a multicultural family, and they plan to expose Paige and Allie to their Chinese heritage, Jimmy said.

" We have learned that just because your family is multiracial, it doesn't mean that you are multicultural. To be multicultural takes work," he said. "We have already begun to expose the girls to basic Chinese language videos, Chinese music and some Chinese celebrations."

As the girls grow older Jimmy and Sally plan to enroll them in a Chinese language school.

" We want them to be proud of their Chinese heritage as we are now an American-Chinese family," Jimmy said.
For more information about Holt's services call (816) 822-2169.

This article was written by Tiffany Ryan for The Johnson County Sun.

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