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Korean Adoptees Remember

Part: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

A Personal Visit to Harry Holt

A watchdog group called International Social Service was keeping careful tabs on this new frontier of adoption. "I'm sure at I.S.S. they were like 'What is going on here?'" says Park Gregg. "I think that they were very suspicious of what he was doing." One I.S.S. employee struck Park Gregg as someone who was especially concerned about the fate of all these children flowing from Korea into American homes. "Susan Pettiss documented a lot of stuff in these files in these years...and it's funny, looking through these files, I really start to like her. I like her a lot," Park Gregg says.

Susan Pettiss visiting the Caritas school in Vietnam. August 1967.

Susan Pettiss is now 93 years old and living in Medford, New Jersey. She vividly recalls the period of time in the 1950s when she was working for I.S.S. and pressing Congress to demand more oversight for the kind of adoptions Holt was doing. She went to Capitol Hill twice to testify that there should be more safeguards, such as having trained social workers evaluate prospective parents. Pettiss also tried to work through more informal channels. She met with Holt in Oregon to try to persuade him.

"I went to his home," Pettiss remembers. "I had dinner with him as a matter of fact. He was very pleasant. He was a very sincere man."

"But," Pettiss adds, "he had somewhat the attitude that he had all the answers. I think his religion came into this, that if these individuals were born-again Christians, good church members and the minister would vouch for them as good church members then the Lord would take good care of that child."

Pettiss says she and Holt did agree on one thing: that the children needed homes.

Holt was undeterred by critics and continued on his mission of bringing Korean children to America until he died in 1964.

A letter he recorded in 1961 for one adoptee was preserved on tape, though a creative engineer later mixed in music. In the letter, Holt tells the young girl's adoption story and what his hopes are for her new life in America.



Next: What Happens to the Cute Babies When They Grow Up?