Trey Kay, Samantha Gattsek Published

Finding Your Family

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Laurie Stern and with her adopted son Aa Tiko Rujux Xicay (formerly Diego Xicay Luke).
Morgan Feigal-Stickles

International adoption helped many Americans build families, but a dark side victimized poor people in developing countries.

The practice began in the 1950s to help Korean War orphans, and more than 70 years later hundreds of thousands of children born in other countries are part of a complex cultural legacy. By the early 2000s, corruption scandals scaled back or shut down programs in some of the most popular countries for adoption — South Korea, Romania, Russia, and Guatemala.

On this Us & Them episode, host Trey Kay talks with Laurie Stern and her 24-year-old son about their adoption journey. Their podcast called “Defining Diego” chronicles Diego’s growing understanding of his Guatemalan legacy and family.

Changing social and geopolitical attitudes have made for a dramatic drop in the number of international adoptions — from more than 20,000 in 2004 to just about 3,000 in 2019. We’ll hear about that shift and how one young man finds his new name and his future, by looking back.

To listen to the complete podcast series, click on the hyperlinked title Defining Diego.

This episode of Us & Them is presented with support from the West Virginia Humanities Council and the CRC Foundation.

Subscribe to Us & Them on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher and beyond.

Laurie Stern and Aa Tiko Rujux Xicay


Laurie Stern (who has produced for Us & Them since the show started in 2015) with her adopted son Aa Tiko Rujux Xicay (formerly Diego Luke Xicay).
Aa Tiko Rujux Xicay with his family


Aa Tiko Rujux Xicay (formerly Diego Xicay Luke) with his birth family, adoptive parents, niece and nephew.


Rujuk-Xicay - Hockey


Dan Luke
Aa Tiko Rujux Xicay (formerly Diego Xicay Luke) has adopted a new name which reflects Guatemalan heritage. He proudly displays his new name on his hockey jersey.