- The Washington Times - Friday, November 13, 2015

Snapshots of the lives of Vietnamese children who were adopted during the final, tumultuous days of the Vietnam War were captured in a Capitol Hill photo exhibit on Thursday.

More than 100 families, children and guests gathered for the exhibit, “Children of Vietnam — A Forty Year Retrospective,” in the Russell Senate Office Building.

The event was organized by Holt International Children’s Services and its supporters in honor of National Adoption Month and to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, said Susan Soonkeum Cox, Holt’s vice president for policy and external affairs.

Several of the attendees, like Tara Linh Leaman, were among the “first generation” of Vietnamese adoptees — many of whom had a Western serviceman father and Vietnamese mother.

These Amerasian children faced a perilous future as the victorious North Vietnamese communist forces swept into the defeated South and began taking their opponents to re-education camps — or worse fates.

During 1971 and 1975, an estimated 8,000 Vietnamese children were adopted by families in other countries; some 5,675 children were adopted by American parents.

PHOTOS: Vietnam 'Operation Babylift' marks 40th anniversary

Some of these children were part of “Operation Babylift,” ​an extraordinary effort that moved some 3,000 Vietnamese infants, toddlers and young children out of Saigon during the final weeks in April 1975 before the northern forces arrived.

Holt-chartered planes alone brought out about 400 children.

At the Thursday reception, Ms. Leaman, who is now on the Holt board of directors, offered heartfelt thanks to her parents, who “chose me” 41 years ago and raised her in their Pennsylvania farming community.

She said her parents were “a bit ahead of the curve when it came to transracial, trans-ethnic adoption,” Ms. Leaman said.

But when they embraced me, she said with pride, “they were embracing also the African-American culture and the Vietnamese culture. And that became their culture, too.”

The photo exhibit showed “the disproportionate impact of war on children, the innocent victims of armed conflict,” said Ambassador Susan Jacobs, special adviser for international children’s issues at the Department of State.

Adoption experiences learned in Vietnam and other countries showed the benefits of intercountry adoption and practices like pre- and post-adoption education and support, homeland tours and “culture camps,” she noted.

Chuck Johnson, executive director of the National Council for Adoption, and Patrick Witham, president of Paragon Bio Teck Inc., praised Holt for its decades of leadership: In 1956, devout Christians Harry and Bertha Holt adopted eight Korean children who were orphaned in the Korean War. The agency they founded has since helped facilitate some 40,000 adoptions.

“We believe that a stable and loving family delivers the best opportunity for a child to flourish and prosper … and we will continue for decades to come,” said Phillip Littleton, president and chief executive of Holt International.

“Our mission has not ended,” added Clayton Henderson, chairman of the Holt International board of directors.

The event was hosted by Oregon Democrats Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio, who are both part of the 158-member Congressional Coalition on Adoption.



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