Although we were not successful in finding Zoe’s birthparents, we are still happy that we were able to gain some additional information. Because of the allegations of corruption in Phu Tho adoptions, we have had serious concerns about Zoe’s origins.
The fact that the policeman who found her is a real person, and that he and the police chief in the district where she was found were cooperative, gives us some relief. The searchers have told us that they believe these two men to be genuine and truthful. We were comforted to find that many of the details in Zoe’s official paperwork can be confirmed.
The searchers have shared with us that this is not always so. They have seen other cases that definitely seem suspicious. They have had encounters in certain districts where the police were combative and the policeman who supposedly found the child could ony provide vague information. In our case, both men say Zoe was the only baby found in this district and they remembered her case specifically and in detail. It was once reported that a policeman in another area of the province was just walking through a cemetary one night when he discovered seven babies, so it was comforting that Zoe was the only case in her district.
Also, the searchers are suspicious of the woman who was the orphanage director at the main orphanage and at the smaller orphanage were Zoe was. They said that she was not very forthcoming. She has since retired, at an early age, and they said that she lives in an unusually large house for someone who was on an administrator’s salary. (The searchers were careful though to point out that these are only their impressions and that they can’t confirm these suspicions.)
Further, it seems that the adoption business is no longer booming now that Vietnam adoptions have been closed to the US and several other countries. The small orphanage where Zoe was, once filled with babies, has been closed. The larger orphanage, also filled with babies three years ago, now houses only ten or so babies and some school-aged children. (Interesting, isn’t it, that fewer babies are abandoned now that the adoption money isn’t flowing?)
Though Christian and I can feel more confident now that Zoe was truly abandoned (and that her birthparents were not tricked or paid to relinquish her), we still believe that our agency, the former orphanage director, and perhaps some provincial officials, were involved in corrupt activities and/or received improper payments (our agency owners told us themselves that they bought the orphanage director a car, for example). Our belief that babies came into the orphanage via improper channels is also reinforced by the knowledge that police in some areas have not been cooperative.
However, while we have some sense of happiness and relief from the search, there is sadness, too. Now that we know Zoe was truly abandoned and that the policeman did not know to be looking for a baby at that place and time, we have to wonder what would have happened if he had not found her that day. We have to wonder how long she was there. Was she cold? Was she hungry? Was she scared?
There is also sadness in knowing that November 24th is not really Zoe’s birthday. We already knew that it probably wasn’t. We knew that it was common for the “finding date” to be listed as the birthdate. When we had Zoe examined by a developmental specialist when she came home, he told us her birthdate could be off by two to four weeks. Knowing that the policeman who found her believes she could have been up to six weeks old confirms that. We will still celebrate her birthday on November 24th, but there is some sorry that we will never really know. I have a book called The Secret Language of Birthdays that talks about the characteristics of people born on each day of the year. Christian and I have looked through that book together before, comparing Zoe’s personality traits to the days around November 24th, trying to find a match. It is sad for Zoe that she will never know, and it is sad for us that when we celebrate her birthday, we are actually celebrating the day of her abandonment.
Finally, there is sadness in knowing that we probably will never know Zoe’s birthparents. This search lets us know that door is pretty much closed. We may try again some day to ask more questions in the district. I don’t know. We will probably wait to see if Zoe is ever interested in doing so. While the chances of finding more are not great, we would support her if she ever wanted to try.