HomeChinese AmericanPodcast Puts Spotlight on Chinese Adoptees Searching for Birth Families

Podcast Puts Spotlight on Chinese Adoptees Searching for Birth Families

Ricki Mudd
Adoptee Ricki Mudd shared her story with the new podcast A Family in China. She is also a regular commentator on the podcast.

By Olivia Wolf
AsAmNews Staff Writer

A new monthly podcast is featuring stories about Chinese adoptees and their birth family search. Its goal is to serve as a platform for storytelling and, hopefully, to be a resource for future adoptee-birth family reconnections.

A Family in China released its first episode in January with an interview of adoptee Ricki Mudd, who is also a regular commentator on the show.

Mudd was previously featured in the documentary Ricki’s Promise, which details her reunification with her birth family in China. In the podcast, Mudd discusses this experience as well as more universal issues such as navigating cultural differences and the One Child Policy.

However, in an interview with AsAmNews, Mudd emphasized that she is not an expert on Chinese policy.

“It’s a lot to ask someone like me, who’s very removed from China,” said Mudd. “People are always asking me to make judgements on this other culture’s political decisions. It’s a very difficult position to be in.”

The host of the podcast, Lisle Veach, also dismissed any claims of expertise. “I’m very conscious that I am not an adoptee nor an adoptive parent. I like to take a backseat as much as possible and allow those who are to do the talking.”

Lisle Veach
Lisle Veach with friends he met in China during his time there in the 1990s. He was inspired to start the podcast A Family in China

Veach’s interest in adoption developed while teaching English to rural families in China throughout the 1990’s when the effects of the One Child Policy were having their greatest impact. He then worked at Holt International, a global adoption and child welfare agency. One of his responsibilities was to organize and lead heritage tours for adoptees and families.

“In my limited experience, I noticed that there was a nice, packaged story often given to adoptees about the One Child Policy, but there was so much more being left uncovered,” said Veach. “The discussions I had with Chinese families and adoptees touched a spot in my heart at the time.”

Formerly, Veach hosted two podcasts, both about living abroad in new cultures. To the best of his knowledge, A Family in China is the first and only podcast about Chinese adoptees searching for birth families.

“I thought this could be a useful tool to the adoptee community. It’s still an experiment though. I hope that adoptees and adoptive families pick up on it and decide it’s something worthwhile. If that happens, I’ll consider it a success.”

Ricki Mudd
Ricki Mudd

Mudd, who is often contacted by adoptees and their families because of her documentary, was surprised when Veach first contacted her on Facebook to participate in the project. “I was almost more impressed that he cared so much about these people who he didn’t know, and I thought, ‘Wow, what a big heart.’ I’m fully behind his effort on this and want to help in any way I can.”

Lisle also enlisted the help of his co-worker from Holt International, Iris Leung, a Hong Kong native responsible for researching the birth family situation in China. In the first episode, Leung introduced the website Baobeihuijia (Baby Come Home). In China, it is used to help birth families locate missing children, and it could potentially be a useful resource for international adoptees.

Iris Leung
Iris Leung

Leung also provides insights into Chinese culture. Having lived and worked all around China, Canada, and the U.K., Leung is an indispensable bridge between China and the West; she also brings skills as a translator.

While Lisle thinks it would be great to interview birth parents in China, he is unsure if that will be a possibility.

Mudd explained that her own birth family is averse to publicity, especially in China. “I could ask them to do an episode, but I think they’d say no. They’re just very shy–it’s a cultural thing.

When a Chinese newspaper published their photos in a story, my birth mother freaked out and sent me this massive flood of texts. She called me; she called the director of the documentary. I took this as a sign that she probably doesn’t want to be known.”

Many adoptive families in the United States believe that birth families fear backlash from the Chinese government for abandoning their children or breaking the One Child Policy. However, according to Brian Stuy, the founder of DNAConnect and Research China, there have been virtually no legal repercussions during adoptee-birth family reunifications. Much of the aversion to being known instead revolves around the shame of losing a child.

“I tend to look at my family’s reactions with a delicate cultural lens,” said Mudd. “For us in America, everything is very much about exposure, like, ‘Help make these issues known!’ and ‘Don’t be silent any longer!’ For my family, it’s more like, ‘Head down, don’t stand out.’ So I need to listen to their wishes and respect that.”

Because Mudd lives in the United States and speaks only basic Chinese, it is difficult for her to gage the public’s reaction to her story in China. However, she feels that there is a general tone of support for her.

As far as Veach is aware, A Family in China should be accessible to Chinese listeners, though one of his former podcasts was blocked for unknown reasons.

Ming Foxweldon, the adoptee featured in episode two, hopes that the interviews will be translated to allow Chinese people to hear her story, which involves living in China and meeting with potential birth families on live television.

“The podcast is a helpful tool to communicate,” said Ming. “I appreciate that Lisle hasn’t tried to influence how I talk about my experience. He is very open-minded and understanding. I’m telling my story on my own terms, and I hate the word ‘empowering,’ but I do feel that’s the best word to describe this.”

The next episode, with guest speaker Stuy, will be released in mid-March. The series can be found on the A Family in China website or downloaded from podcast apps. The website also has valuable information about additional resources for adoptees and families.

“I hope this podcast can gain traction and help people feel a little more secure in who they are,” said Ricki. “For people who want to find their birth parents, I hope they are able to do that, and for people who don’t want to, I hope they can build the confidence to say ‘Hey, I don’t really need to do this,’ because that can be a hard statement to make too.”

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