The longtime chief executive of a leading international adoption firm left his position late last month, and has been replaced by one of the organization’s top executives.
Phil Littleton resigned on Sept. 30 after 18 years with Holt International Children’s Services, a Eugene, Oregon-based Christian adoption and social services nonprofit credited with pioneering international adoptions in the 1950s. The organization’s chief financial officer, Dan Smith, became interim chief executive on Oct. 1, and told the Register-Guard newspaper of Oregon that “no formal timeline” has been announced for the board’s search for a permanent chief.
According to a press release announcement from Holt, Littleton expanded the $32 million organization into 15 countries, and impacted “the lives of more than one million children, family members and other individuals around the world.” Littleton also led a merger of several other child welfare organizations, and expanded Holt’s domestic adoption work and its broader social service work.
“I’m proud of how the organization has expanded its services well beyond adoption to keep families together and to care for children in their home countries through our sponsorship programs,” said Littleton in a statement.
Smith, Littleton’s interim replacement, previously served 12 years in the corporate sector, and four years in Tanzania as finance director of the Lutheran Mission Cooperation.
A married father of three adult children, including one who was adopted from China, Smith has also served in senior finance and administrative roles with several human services organizations in adoption, child welfare, behavioral health, and public health and hospice.
“He’s been a great leader for us, and personally a mentor for me,” Smith said of Littleton in an interview with the Register-Guard. “We will miss him as he moves on to this next chapter in his life.”
According to the Adoption History Project at the University of Oregon, Holt’s founders were once “lightning rods for controversy about how adoptive families should be made,” beginning with the married couple’s adoption of eight Korean War orphans under a special act of Congress. While the History Project notes the organization has since changed its approach and leadership, its early years, particularly its work in Korea, remain the subject of scrutiny.
Holt, meanwhile, receives praise for its adoption work, and engages in policy issues such as expanding citizenship rights for international adoptees. The organization’s influential longtime Vice President Susan Soonkeum Cox — the first adoptee on Holt’s board of directors, and an appointee on former President Bill Clinton’s White House Commission on Asian and Pacific Islanders — also retired this year.