International Adoption Ties Three SHS Graduates Together


Sophie Derr, Carly Bolton, and Sarah Weinberg have known each other since they were infants in China

Sarah Villa, Staff Writer

From Chongren County in the Jiangxi Province of China to the Town of Scituate in Massachusetts–the intertwinement of three international adoptions brought together three students whose roots of friendship began while they were infants in the same Chinese orphanage–sometimes even sharing the same crib. Each with their own unique individual experiences, SHS seniors Sophie Derr, Carly Bolton, and Sarah Weinberg have traveled to great lengths, and they continue to cultivate their own stories and carve their own future paths of success. Known and loved by the SHS community, Derr, Bolton, and Weinberg shared further insight into their personal narratives and the compelling connection between them.

While Derr, Bolton, and Weinberg do not remember their infancy in China, they were able to provide explanations based on their parents’ observations of the Chongren Social Welfare Institute orphanage and the overall living experience it provided. Most notably, Derr’s adoption experience was captured by her parents, Greg and Judy Derr, in a three-part series of articles, titled “Adopting Sophie”, published in the Patriot Ledger in 2005. The series thoroughly documents the journey of adopting their daughter and meeting the Weinberg family, with whom they traveled to China to adopt their daughters.

Weinberg explained that “the orphanage was slightly better off than others in the area, but still wasn’t in a great place.” According to Derr, it was “considered nicer than most orphanages while still being in a poorer part of China.” As for the living situations, Derr and Weinberg were able to provide insight into its workings and their parents’ impressions of it. According to Derr, “only women worked in the orphanage, and all we were really fed for the first year of life was congee,” a form of rice porridge. Weinberg explained, “My father and mother were surprised by how nice of a quality some aspects of the orphanage were, with a lot of it being rather clean, but she still noticed a lot of sick children.”

As for the care they received, Derr and Weinberg noted that the number of children heavily outweighed the number of nannies, and each child was taken care of by one primary nanny. Weinberg went on to share the connection she had with her nanny: “I was actually super attached to my nanny, and she cried when she had to give me up.” The orphanage was set up in rows of beds, each child with her own crib mate, “with Carly Bolton being mine,” stated Derr.

“I have no memory of being in the orphanage, but it is unique that we all ended up in the same town,” Bolton expressed. With all three girls spending their infancy in the same orphanage–and with Bolton and Derr being crib mates–the question of the existing connection between them is left to explore. Derr, Bolton, and Weinberg all agreed there is a mutual understanding shared between them: “Yes, we definitely have a mutual understanding for each other, and knowing they’re around is comforting. We obviously don’t know our biological parents, but I’ve known Carly and Sarah for years, which is very comforting in itself. When Carly’s even just in class with me, I recognize that I’ve known her since I was just two weeks old,” Derr explained.

Derr and Weinberg went on to describe how their cultural bond helped them face adversity. “It’s interesting with Scituate already being mostly white and then having the three of us all from the same orphanage. It’s just nice to know that they’re in the building with me,” Derr stated. “We were not at the same elementary schools, which was difficult because I felt singled out even more,” she elaborated. Weinberg reflected a similar feeling, saying, “in being able to talk to them and relate experiences about the shared adversities we have faced, there is very much a sense of mutual understanding.” According to Derr, “It’s been difficult, but the adversity can keep us close.”

With Bolton planning to study economics at Harvard University, Derr planning to study sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Weinberg on a pre-med track at the University of Connecticut, these three members of the graduating class exemplify the powerful story of three adoptions, two crib mates, and one incredible journey from China.