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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Q&A {birth family search and contact}

Over on the Q&A, Christie asked,

Since you know Tess's Vietnam mama's name and where she is, do you think you guys will ever go back to Vietnam to visit her?

Christie, that is a huge question, and actually the answer has evolved over the years.  We've put a lot of thought into this one and had several discussions about it.  But let me start with a little background information to make sure that we're on the same page.

The VietNam adoption program is different from China's program in several ways.  And one of the big ways it differs is the amount of information adoptees can receive.  Unlike Mimi's China adoption, both Tess and Jude received some vital information re their first families.  

Tess and Jude were both born in a hospital, and we assume that their first mother's had to present identification to be admitted into the hospital.  Both children were "abandoned" in the hospital shortly after birth.  We were told that this is not an uncommon way for first mothers to purposefully surrender their baby for adoption.  So when it came time for Vietnamese authorities to investigate the children's abandonment, yes, there was already paper trail that included the birth mother's and birth father's name, age and marital status, and the birth mother's address.  On the surface it sounds easy peasy enough to contact their first moms.  And Vietnamese authorities attempted to do exactly that; to investigated the abandonment and locate the mothers.  But the Viet authorities found that the information provided about the birth moms was "inaccurate."  
And that's ALL it says on the paperwork we received.  
No explanation.  
Just "inaccurate.
Yep, that's it!  
We have no idea if the name is incorrect.  Or if the address is incorrect.  Or both.  We don't know it the birth father information was ever investigated.  Or what happened at all.  We only know that as indicated on their documents, Vietnamese officials using some unidentified method, determined that all (or some of?) the information was "inaccurate" and they were unable to locate their first mothers.  
And the investigation stopped.  

So... let me finally get around to your question, Christie.  
Yes, as the children grow we will definitely be traveling back to VeitNam (more than once) to visit the country, culture and help our children discover more about their homeland.  But whether or not we pursue finding their birth families, is not a decision that we feel we as parents should make.  We feel that this is a decision that only Tess and Jude (and Mimi) can make for themselves.  And the timing of such a decision should be theirs alone.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm a curious as all get out to find out who these women are, and would love love love to find and contact them to show them how absolutely amazing our children are!  I mean have you seen 'em?!  Their stinkin' gorgeous and have personalities that you wouldn't believe!  Not to mention that I'd give anything to say thank you for allowing me the privilege to raise them as my own.  But my curiosity can not trump Tess and Jude's right to their own story and journey on their path of self discovery.  We are absolutely here for our children to help and support their dreams any way we can.  But any search and contact with their first families needs to be initiated by them and not merely to satiate our own curiosity.  And for now, neither Tess or Jude has expressed an interest.  Seeing as how they are only 6 years old, it's not surprising.  Even though their first moms and families come into conversation regularly, Tess or Jude have never expressed any desire to have more information then we already have.  There may come a day that they do ask questions that require more searching to answer.  The great news is that (unlike the vast majority of China adoptions including Mimi's) we do have information to start researching.  We are amazingly lucky to have names and addresses to start our search, and if they do decide to look for their birth families, hopefully they can learn for themselves what information is "inaccurate" and what is not.  

And whether or not Papa and I would even be invited on their journey will be up entirely up to Tess and Jude.  As an adult adoptee, this is a decision Papa made for himself too, and he chose to wait until his 30's and not to involve anyone in his search.  

So there you have it.  I guess the short answer is yes, if they want us to.  And no if they don't.  It's up to them.  And until they express an interest in such a search, we'll just keep going about raising them, luvin' on them, and offering them all the options.  


  1. I think this is a really good plan. We plan to do the genetic testing for our daughter, so that if she wants to at least know medically what lays ahead for her she has that information. Whether it every helps her to find her birth parents we do not know. This week we were given pretty good answers to who her birth parents may be in terms of jobs and approximately where they may live, but yet this could be false if they traveled really far to disguise their idenity.

    1. Based on the addresses provided, we're pretty sure the their first moms traveled quite a distance to deliver their children. Again, we were told this was common, especially in cases when a baby was going to be surrendered. Every little puzzle piece helps though.

  2. I like your plan and I think I will do the same with our Vietnamese daughter Amanda. Have you ever google mapped their addresses before?

    1. Ummmm, no. The town yes, but not the address. pardon me now while I do it NOW. Such a great idea! Thank you!

  3. But if you don't search now, while the trail is still recent, you (may) take away their future options...

    1. Brandine, this exact point has been discussed between Papa and I. and we haven't always seen eye-to-eye about it. But in the end, at least for now, we really feel this is a decision the Tess and Jude need to make, not us. So made choices were taken away from them, and we want them to have this one at least. AND VietNam is a poor country and people usually don't move around. We've been told, it's especially difficult to move there, communism being a part of the reason why. Permits and $ are required. So that helps us make the decision as well. Thank you for the input!

    2. Hi Nancy,

      Thanks, the point about choice is very interesting, I had never seen it under this angle. Although you could probably twist it around and say that non adopted Kids know their first parents, so if knowing them has to be a choice, you single them out (that's probably à very unclear sentence, sorry!).
      I guess that, at the end of the day, I don t really see the benefits of NOT searching - for thé children, but also for their first parents. There is no pleasant way of saying this, but it's heartbreaking to think that parents should spend years -for most of them, the rest of their lives- wondering about their children.

    3. Blandine,
      Both you and Nancy have some very good points, but I agree with Nancy on this one. The one point you forgot is that this is NOT Nancy and Papa's story. This is Tess and Jude's. The only real reason they would do that is to satiate their own curiosity. If Tess and Jude haven't expressed any interest, I don't find it appropriate for Nancy and Papa to go searching for their birth parents.
      Can you imagine Tess and Jude, 30 years from now, having to write on their testimonies and life stories that their adoptive parents searched for their birth parents without them asking first?
      And suppose they searched right now and found nothing? Can you imaging the heart break of Nancy and Papa having to say, "I'm sorry. We have no idea where they are."
      This way, they still have the hope of having a place to start.
      This is Tess and Jude's story. Not Nancy and Papa's.
      Just my opinion.

    4. Brandaline, as much as I can say I care about their first mothers and families, our commitment are very first with Tess and Jude. Our children are our primary concern, and any concern about others comes second. Thus is the nature of being a parent.

      I think there are many benefits to not searching. It gives Tess and Jude power, power that was stripped away and tells them that the ball is in their court. It also buys us time for them to grow and reveal their true feelings about the process and discover who they are. We don't want their lives and themselves to be defined by being adopted. It is a part of the story but it isn't who they are.

  4. Nancy, supposing one of your children were to express interest and find their parents at a young age (before adulthood). How much contact would you allow them to have?

    1. Interesting question, Megan. Hmmmm... since we haven't crossed that bridge yet, I'm not saying any of this for sure. But I think it depends on a lot things. Like how old they are. There's a big difference between a 17 year old and and 7 year old asking to find their first family. And how that child was doing with attachment. And why that child wanted to search. And of course starting a birth family search and the actual amount and type of "contact" are quite different things too. That being said, if they wanted search or have contact and really expressed a longer term interest and were committed and really meant it rather than just a passing fancy, even now at this young age, we'd help them. (saying this of course knowing that they are too young now to actually have this type of commitment.) I think it would be a huge blessing and could lead to some wonderful healing to be able to exchange a letter (or more) for starters. And then take it from there as they age. Relationships are built not found.

  5. Hi Nancy,

    yeah, I thought about afterwards and considered editing my post but I went grocery shopping and forgot about it. I guess it's just unfair that no one is really advocating for the first parents. Megan's point is really interesting too.
    Thanks for your insights!


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