Jane tells this poignantly sad story about her time helping young people find their birth parents.  I was involved with Jane for a short time looking for a family in Sri Lanka.  I gained first hand experience of the frustrations in such a search.  The information was complete except for the whereabouts of the young women’s mother.  The Salvation Army records had been eaten by pests and the last piece in the jigsaw was missing!

Our feature image shows Jane Todd with Emma and a Vietnamese film crew in Tien Mai.


In 2016 The Federal Government of Australia decided to fund a service to assist people who were adopted from overseas to find their families in their country of origin.

Emma with Jane in Vietnam

Over the next two years International Social Service Australia had over 200 people from countries including South Korea, China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Romania, Colombia, Ethiopia, Chile and Philippines seeking help. Some were abandoned babies left on Police station doorsteps and adopted from orphanages, some were war babies airlifted to Australia and handed out to hopeful parents. Some had named mothers and full sets of documents and biological parents.

We were fortunate enough to initiate about 40 reunions and find evidence of birth and other records for 100 more. There are still many where there is no evidence at all of their existence before their adoption but the search itself helps them carve out a path towards their own identity and fill in the blanks of “who am i really?” “Where am i from?” and “Why am i here”

Emma at Bien Hau Orphanage Tien Mien

Emma was a baby abandoned at an orphanage in Vietnam in 1969. She was born with a genetic visual impairment and by the time she was 4 years old she was totally blind. The Sisters in the Tien Mai Orphanage managed to have her airlifted to Australia weak and sick and blind in the hope of some medical intervention.

Sadly for Emma there was no cure for her sight and there was no family waiting at the other end.

She boarded at St Lucy’s School for the Blind in Wahroonga and after 13 foster families she was eventually adopted as a young adult.

Emma returned to Vietnam and to Tien Mai Orphanage last January with me. We met one of the nuns who had looked after her and some of the orphans who had remained and were never adopted. We found her baptismal certificate and a different birth date than the one she had always celebrated. She had her story told on VN TV and we processed the DNA for a few people who came forward who may have been related to her but sadly there were no matches.

It was for Emma a wonderful experience to return to Vietnam with the professional support of ISS Australia and to revisit her youth. She feels profoundly connected to Vietnam and wants to spend more time there in the future.

Sadly the Government has decided not to continue with his important funding and the service is now closed just when we have established many important links in home countries.

With funds raised we have been able to continue to provide a Korean worker to assist the Korean adoptees with their complicated search process. You can donate here

To see Emma’s story