With an inspirational life story and incredible heart for women and children, we are so happy to introduce Loann Tan, who is leading our new Empowering Women, Strengthening Families program. 

I joined Holt-Sunny Ridge in November 2017 and I feel honored to work with women in the Empowering Women, Strengthening Families Program. It is an amazing blessing to be able to impact the lives of birth mothers to overcome hardship and help expectant mothers or new families in crisis stay together through this new program.

When I was 9 years old, I escaped the oppression of the Communist regime in Vietnam with my dad. I remember being told by my uncle to hide under a fishing boat until my dad came to get me. We ended up on another boat, and hundreds of thousands of others fled for the same reason. While waiting for my uncle to sponsor us, it took us more than one full year to arrive in the United States. Most of that time we were living in refugee camps in Hong Kong and the Philippines. For four years, my dad and I lived with his brothers and their family in Marina, California. My dad usually had to go to sea for weeks as a fisherman. It was the only trade he could do in America as a non-English speaker to earn an income. At the age of 13, I moved in with my stepmother and her two children. I was fortunate to have a place I called home, however the home was in the projects in Oakland, California. I was living on food stamps and trying to avoid the gangs and endemic gun violence. I felt it was a blessing because I was living with a stepmother that loved me and I had a permanent home. During my school years, I had support from teachers, especially my sixth grade teacher, who sent me to summer camps for four years with her own money. My dad had finally passed the naturalization test and became a United States citizen and was able to sponsor my mother and my two younger sisters to come to America. I later took my naturalization test and became a U.S. citizen also.

I had my first job at the age of 14, working after school and on the weekends to financially help my family and to save for college. I was a first-generation college student. My family later owned a nail salon, which helped us become more financially stable. Growing up as an immigrant, I was inspired to achieve the “American Dream” and then to give back. I mean the “American Dream” as in having a home, a spouse, two children, a dog and a white picket fence, except that our picket fence is yellow. With the support of my husband, we have sponsored my cousin, her parents and her younger brother. I hope to continue to do sponsorships from my home country.

I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. At Holt-Sunny Ridge, I work with birth mothers to develop custom weekly action plans that are tailored to their unique situation, as well as support them to establish long-term goals and access resources. I am ecstatic to be with Holt-Sunny Ridge and to work with a mission to empower mothers to independently care for their children and their selves through housing support, educational scholarships, medical care, career counseling, therapeutic services, support groups, day care assistance and case-managed support and guidance. Throughout my entire life, so many people have helped me to thrive and have had an impact on my life and goals. I feel fulfilled to be at a place in my life with a mission and purpose. For 15 years, I have worked as a social worker in the field of foster care, adoption and post-adoption — working with foster parents and adoptive parents, caring for babies with special needs, being an adoption subsidy specialist for these babies with special needs, and foster care licensing. I grasp every opportunity given to me to give back for what America has given me. I feel my life’s work is helping others and doing good deeds to pass it on for what was given to me.

Loann Tan | Birth Mother and Resource Social Worker

Want to talk with Loann about the Empowering Women, Strengthening Families program? Email her at loannt@holtusa.org.