New book follows the journey of a Chinese adoptee in search of her birth family – AsAmNews
By Amanda Bang, AsAmNews Intern
Mia Hagood started asking her parents about her birth family when she was just four years old. She made photo albums of herself to give to her biological family in hopes of finding them one day.
Wesley Hagood and his wife didn’t know much about Mia’s birth parents except for the papers they received when they adopted her. Motivated by their daughter’s curiosity, they began a search that ultimately lasted nearly 15 years.
China started its international adoption program in 1991. Since then, about 110,000 children have been adopted through this program, many of them from the United States.
Wesley Hagood, 67, published the book Finding your Chinese birth family in December 2021, which was the first of its kind. Her book documented her own family’s years-long search process in hopes of providing resources for other families going through a similar process, as such resources were not previously available.
“It was really a leap of faith to start writing the book before we found Mia’s biological family,” said Wesley Hagood. “Finally, we had a path forward that used something called genetic genealogy-type research…which would ultimately lead to the discovery of Mia’s biological family. (We) started writing the book saying this was the ultimate solution that I was going to recommend.
Her daughter called the discovery of her biological family “surreal”.
“Because after searching for so long, it was finally hard to successfully find them,” said Mia Hagood. “After so much work, it was a really great relief to know that it wasn’t for nothing and I was really excited to be able to ask them questions and get to know them”
She said her birth parents were “shocked” to find out she had been adopted overseas.
“I think it was a big surprise,” she said. “I noticed they were really happy because…if they weren’t, I don’t think they would have been so inclined to talk to me.”
In the book, her father discusses the three main methods a family can use to find their Chinese birth family. He reviews the success or failure of these methods in his family’s journey.
The first method mentioned is documentary research, which relies on the translation and interpretation of the document provided by the government adoption agency. For Mia Hagood and many others, document searches have proven unreliable.
“We eventually found out that all of these documents weren’t true,” Wesley Hagood said. “They were just created for the purpose of declaring Mia and other children at the time as available to be part of the international adoption program.”
He also indicates that media-based research is another difficult and less effective method.
“We also tried, what I’m referring to in the book is a media search where you put up posters in the area where they claim the child was found in hopes someone would see the posters and would come back and say, hey, there maybe a relationship here, maybe I know the biological family,” he said. “But neither of those first two kinds of research really paid off.”
The most successful method that ultimately led the Hagood family to find their daughter’s biological parents was the genetic genealogy approach. The family used DNA testing with traditional genealogical techniques to search for a genealogical match.
When he started hearing about DNA projects such as Genographic Project, 23andMe, and MyHeritage: Family Tree and DNA, he thought it would be beneficial to use Mia’s DNA to create his own family genealogy.
“In some cases, like with Family Tree DNA, the goal was to help people who were doing genealogical research on their family,” Wesley explained. “When we first tested she probably didn’t have anyone closer than a fourth or fifth cousin. But over time they had like a third cousin who she married, and it turned out to be a young man whose ancestors were actually from the town where the orphanage was.
These connections led them to a Chinese 23MoFang DNA Testing Site, where they found Mia’s first cousin. This eventually led the Hagood family to find Mia’s biological mother and father.
Now, Mia Hagood talks to her biological family via WeChat and sends gifts and letters by mail. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, she has not yet been able to visit her birth family in China.
Wanting to help others in her situation, she created a website provide a “road map” for other families trying to find their biological family. The website describes the different methodologies mentioned in his father’s book as well as different sites, books and blogs that they found useful in their research.
“When we started looking, there really wasn’t much specifically geared towards a specific methodology,” Mia Hagood said. “So that’s what we tried to design, to make it as clear as possible.”
She also hopes the site can help young adults and teens who might have less help as resources.
For all potential adoptees and families going through a journey similar to theirs, Mia and Wesley Hagood said patience is key.
“Fortitude, so you can keep looking and keep trying even if it seems like all your hard work isn’t really yielding anything solid,” Mia Hagood said. “My dad and I have been working on this for 15 years, and I can’t count how much of that could have been counted like waiting for someone to respond or waiting to get somewhere or waiting for the results and waiting for something to ship. .”
“It can take a long time to make that big breakthrough and you have to be patient,” said Wesley Hagood. “Sometimes you kind of have to take a break because it can be so intense. You can spend a lot of time, money, emotional energy, and then feel like you’re not going anywhere.
For this Chinese New Year, Mia Hagood was finally able to offer her biological parents the photo album of her childhood.
“I originally made it with the intention of giving it to my birth mother if I ever found her, so it was really cool that I could finally send it.”
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