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Sofia’s Journey | Daughters' Return

Daughters' Return
(50 minutes)

When the Dutch couple Wilma Leemakers and Jim Kuijper started the search of their adopted daughter Eline’s birth parents, they knew they were embarking upon a journey that the Chinese would describe as: “looking for a needle in the ocean.” But they felt that was the only thing they could do for a child who yearned for any information on her birth parents, and who filled the walls in her room with drawings of her imagined birth mother. For months, they ran an ad in a newspaper in the city where Eline was adopted. The ad finally caught the attention of a journalist and subsequently led to a family in a mountaintop village. An online meeting between the family in China and Eline’s adoptive parents was arranged. Seeing Eline’s picture on the screen, the Chinese mother burst into tears: “My daughter! My daughter!”

One year later, Eline met her birth parents and her siblings, and was exposed to what her life could have been: poverty, squalor, and hopelessness. Her parents suffered big fines for the over-quota child; her elder sister had to drop out of high school in her junior year… Re-uniting with her folks transformed Eline in unexpected ways. With the help of her adoptive parents, a foundation under her name was established to provide scholarships to poor kids in a school in her Chinese hometown; funds set aside also enable her elder sister to go back to school; and Eline is saving money to send it to her birth mother.

It wasn’t really Ricki who wanted to search for her birth parents in China in the first place. On a return trip to the orphanage several years after adoption, her adoptive parents, Wendy and Bill Mudd of Seattle, WA were offered this information: Ricki had been in the foster care of a Madame Fan. Ensuing communications with Fan led to inconsistent accounts of Ricki’s past, including a heart-breaking story about a young, gullible woman seduced by a sophisticated man. Madame Fan would later reveal that the woman was her own daughter and that Ricki was her grand daughter. Insinuating that they now were one extended family, Fan requested financial support from the Mudds. As the Mudds grew suspicious, they received an unexpected letter from a couple claiming to be Ricki’s birth parents!

Shortly after, Wendy and Bill took Ricki to China to meet the couple. Living and knowing Ricki’s birth parents proved to be bittersweet. It turns out that Ricki had been seized by government officials and funneled to an orphanage for international adoption. Her biological father, pretending to be a relative, had managed to visit Ricki several times in the orphanage and even tried to take her out… As Bill and Wendy take Ricki away from her sobbing biological mother, they ponder: Even if they have the right, is it right thing to do?

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