Thoughts on the search for Zoe’s birthparents

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.

14 thoughts on “Thoughts on the search for Zoe’s birthparents

  1. I am sorry that you were not able to find her birthparents. I would be interested in talking to you more about this.
    Also, I know someone (maybe two) who do not know their birthday. Maybe it would be helpful for you to talk to her? She is in her thirties and was given a day by her parents when she was adopted. I think they chose December 25.

    take care, Michele

    • I would be interested Michele. Please send her my e-mail ( and see if she would mind talking about it.

  2. Wow…that is a lot of information to process. I’m not surprised about the woman who retired. I have a few things that I’ve heard from another person who knew her, as well as some things on Jocelyn’s paperwork that were very interesting to me and that would possibly confirm some of the things the searchers suspected.

    It’s interesting that she might have been 6 weeks old when she was found. She seemed so tiny in the pictures of her when you first saw her. Jocelyn was quite a bit larger, and while her paperwork said she was a newborn when she was found (there was no documentation from her paperwork that would support that other than the statement…nothing about an umbillical stump or anything), she was 14 lbs when we met her 3 months later and already sitting. Her pediatrician thinks she was at least 3 months older than what we were told (which would explain some things, like why she was climbing ladders at 9 months old or why she was always at the 95th+ percentile on the Vietnamese weight charts even being lean and why her gymnastics skills are so far ahead of all the other same-aged children in her class…but also means she is truly way far behind in social and language development (meaning since she didn’t talk until close to 2 1/2 years old, her first word was actually just shy of 3 years old).

    This is all very interesting to me. I’m very tempted to at least try to talk DH into researching this option more. There are things in Jocelyn’s history that we have to try to find out…things that may be contributing to her RAD and psychological issues and that may have contributed to some of her other special needs. If you know of anyone else who wants to try to search in the Phu Tho area, please do let me know too, as maybe we can all split travel costs like you did.

    • She was tiny, but she’s still tiny. She only weighs 25 lbs now at 3-1/2. She was wearing a 12-18 month bathing suit in Cabo! The developmental specialist said she may have been 2-4 weeks older, so I’m guessing that’s probably more accurate. I think 6 weeks was just the policeman’s guess.

  3. I, too, am sorry you were unable to find her BPs. I view Duc’s b-day much the same way. I know that his given b-day is pretty close to his actual date of birth, but knowing this day is also his abandonment date really makes his birthday sad (at least for me).

    Thank you for sharing this info with all of us. this is certainly something I have been thinking of for quite some time.

  4. I’m actually impressed with all they were able to find out for you. That’s more than we have for our daughter (from Cambodia). I’ve surmised a lot of things over the years, but I don’t have anything concrete beyond what’s on the paperwork (and I don’t believe much of that).
    BTW… the same thing happened in Cambodia after the shutdown – far fewer children entering the orphanages. Of course there are still kids on the streets and babies abandoned, but not nearly the numbers as when adoptions were going full tilt.

    • Chris – I suspected there would be fewer babies there. I specifically asked the searcher that question to confirm it. I was suspicious when we traveled and the facilitator told me that 17 agencies were working with that orphanage and there were so many babies, all the same age. It’s amazing that when adoptions were in full swing they had the main orphanage filled and even opened another. Now the second location is closed and this one only has a few kids. Amazing coincidence, huh?

  5. I’m glad you were able to find out some information and confirm with the policeman some important details.

    Unfortunately for our adopted ones their birthdays can be a complicated day, especially when you don’t even know the day, week or month of your birth. Sigh.

    Thanks for providing info about your search and giving some insight into the process.

    Jill C.

  6. Thanks for sharing your story.
    I wanted to talk about birthdays in Vietnam so that you can try to not pass on your sadness about not knowing her exact birthdate to your daughter.
    From this website:
    “Not only is Tet the beginning of a New Year, it is also everyone’s birthday. The Vietnamese do not celebrate the exact day they were born. A baby turns one on Tet no matter when he or she was born that year. Children say they were born in the year of the symbol of the lunar calendar for that year. On the first morning of Tet, adults congratulate children on becoming a year older by presenting them with red envelopes that contain “Lucky Money,” or li xi. These envelopes are given to the children by parents, siblings, relatives and close friends.”
    If you are interested in Astrology you can look into Vietnamese Horoscopes based on the year of birth. My kids are proud to be a horse and a rooster!

  7. This is fascinating. An amazing opportunity to learn more about your daughter’s story. I’m sorry it didn’t give you more answers…but am happy you have some peace of mind that she was placed in the orphanage under legitimate circumstances.

  8. I know how concerned you were about the circumstances surrounding Zoe’s adoption and I’m so glad that you have found some cloisure in the findings. We haven’t yet started our search but we plan to in the next year. I’m sorry you couldn’t get more info though I’m glad you had a positive experience with the company.

  9. Pingback: Vietnam: Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis « My Minivan Rocks!

  10. Pingback: 2011 didn’t suck (or blow) | My Minivan Rocks!

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