Searching for Zoe’s birth family

Christian and I have had so many feelings and thoughts swirling around in our heads since we learned about the corruption in Phu Tho, the province where Zoe was born. We feel conflicted because we are so happy to have her, but that happiness is inevitably at her birth family’s expense (whether there was corruption involved or not – that is the nature of adoption). She is our daughter and we truly believe that she is supposed to be with us, but we just wish we knew more about her history. We wish we knew for sure that the adoption that has brought us so much joy was not tainted by the corruption in her province.

In the back of my mind I always thought we would search for Zoe’s birth family at some point. Before we even started the process, I began reading blogs of adult adoptees and talking to some friends who are adult adoptees. Some of them had an intense desire to search for their birth families. Others had no desire at all. Because it is such a personal decision, many adoptees and adoptive parents argue that it should be the child that decides to initiate the search for birth parents. For this reason, I thought it was something we would do later, if Zoe was interested.

When we learned about what was going on in Phu Tho, it made the birth parent search seem more urgent. Since Zoe was abandoned (I still hate that word), the only real chance of finding out anything would be to interview the policeman who found her, and ask if he really knew more than he wrote in his report (sometimes police know to be looking for a baby at a certain time or place because the abandonment has been arranged).

We’ve contacted three searchers so far, but we have not been successful. The first did not respond at all. The second responded but said that there was not enough information. The third said there was probably not enough information, but that now would not be the time to initiate a search anyhow. With the current investigations in Phu Tho, officials are not welcoming any additional inquiries. This person did say, however, that we could discuss it again after some time has passed. At least the door is not closed.

The ironic part is that not having birth parent contact was one reason we were attracted to international adoption. It wasn’t the only reason, but it is certainly one we discussed. It’s amazing how your perspective can change. That feels so selfish now. We realize now that it’s not about us. It’s about Zoe.

It wasn’t necessarily that we didn’t want to know about our child’s birth family, it was just that we knew we would not have the same kinds of fears abut the birth family wanting her back as we might have in a domestic adoption. I now know that some of our fears about domestic adoption may have been unfounded, but we were terrified to invest emotion into a child and then lose him/ her. While we were in the process of Zoe’s adoption, a friend contacted us about a possible domestic adoption. A young woman in southern Indiana was not married and was five months along an unplanned pregnancy. It was a girl, and it would be her second child. The grandmother was already caring for the first child, and did not think she could handle another. We spent a few days discussing it and even talked to an attorney, but the birth mother changed her mind and decided not to place the child for adoption before we could meet her. Having that birth mother change her mind after a few days was hard, so we could not imagine what it would be like to have a birth mother change her mind after being in process for many months or after a child had been born.

Some people have told us that we just need to let it go, and that we “shouldn’t worry about it,” but I just cannot do that and feel right about it. Do not get me wrong; Zoe is our daughter and that will never change. I would not be remotely interested in searching if I ever thought that I was putting her relationship with us in danger. There is no legal precedent for returning a legally adopted child to a foreign country. And, if her birth family decided to mount a campaign to get her back, we would fight that with every resource available (and we would win – it is sad but true that we probably have more money and resources).

Some people say that we don’t ever need to tell her about our concerns, but I don’t think I could do that either. I just don’t think that is the right thing for us to do as adoptive parents. I’m not planning to tell her when she’s five that there are documented cases of baby-selling in her province or anything, but I do think we will share information with her as it is age-appropriate. The information is out there, and it is likely that she will hear about it when she is older. With so much available on the web today, it would be ignorant to think that there won’t be even more information available in ten, fifteen, or twenty years. I think we owe it to her to tell her ourselves, rather than letting her stumble across it later in life. I will never tell her that there was anything wrong with her adoption, because I do not know that to be the case, but I will eventually tell her about our concerns. That is why I think it is so important to attempt this birth family search. When we tell her about our concerns, we also want to be able to tell her that we tried to look into it. Even if we don’t find anything, we want to be able to tell her that we did everything we could.

Perhaps Zoe will never want to learn anything about her birth parents. Maybe she will be happy, well-adjusted, care free, and never think about the fact that she was an adopted child. That will be OK with us. However, it is also possible that she will want to know more about her birth family, her native culture, and her “roots.” We want her to know that that is OK with us too, so we will teach her what we can about Vietnam and try to expose her to the culture. We will go back to Vietnam to visit. We will try to stay in touch with other Vietnam adoptees and other families who have adopted from Phu Tho. We will help her try to search for her birth parents again if that’s what she wants to do.

10 thoughts on “Searching for Zoe’s birth family

  1. Wow…that’s pretty deep stuff right there. I hope you’re able to find what you’re looking for.

    Are you able to find anything about Zoe’s abandonment site online? I’ve been researching and researching the pagoda listed in Jocelyn’s papers and I can’t find it anywhere online, in any Vietnamese books, etc. That makes me sad that there are things in her paperwork that I can’t find a single word about in any other resources…

    I hope you’re able to find out more about Zoe’s past. You guys are an amazing family….

  2. Wow, Tracy- Awesome post. As both an adoptee and an adoptive mom, I am touched by the amount of love and concern you have for your daughter, and the amount of thought you’re obviously putting into this. It’s very clear that you have her best interests at heart, so I know you’ll figure out the right way to proceed. Zoe has a good mama. God bless. I wish you all the best!

    Happy New Year,


  3. As an adoptee from Viet Nam and AP to a child from Phu Tho in 2007, I would tread lightly upon this subject matter with your daughter. Do not assume that just because your daughter is from a province where corruption took place that her adoption was corrupt or suspect and introducing that without proof to her seems a very cruel thing to do to her psyche. Many, many adoptions have taken place in Phu Tho and if your adoption did not raise red flags with the US Embassy then (as scrupulous as they are) I would assume your adoption has a much greater probability of being legitimate rather than illegitimate. Please think about that before telling your daughter (at whatever age) that you think she may have been bought. Although well meaning, you may do more damage than good.

  4. Allison-

    I have tried to find info about Zoe’s commune, Tien Phu, on the web with no luck. I think it’s really just because it’s such a rural area and there’s not much information available. Hopefully as more and more people in VN have access to the Internet we will be able to learn more. I have a Google alert set up for Tien Phu so that I will be notified if any information is shared on the web, but so far I’ve had no luck. We definitely plan to go back to VN to visit, and I hope to be able to spend more time in Phu Tho and to find Highway #2 in Tien Phu.

  5. Kathy-I said in the post that “I will never tell her that there was anything wrong with her adoption, because I do not know that to be the case, but I will eventually tell her about our concerns.” I will tell her some of the things that were going on in her province, but also that we have no evidence that ther was anything wrong with her adoption.

  6. Tracy, I think it is wonderful that you are attempting to learn what you can now about Zoe’s origins. These are thoughts that I believe more adoptive parents should be open to. Good luck.

  7. I think it is truly wonderful and brave that you want to fuind out whatever you can, good oor bad. We may, one day, look for more info too but our son’s abandonment story has a lot less info available. There may never be more to tell him, but we need to try. It is his story and it will be impportant to learn all we can. We owe it to him.

  8. Hello Tracy. I´m Naireth from Spain and I have a girl from Tuyên Quag. I would like try to find muy daugther´s birth family. Could you give me the email of the searcher?
    Thank you and sorry for my english

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