Openness after adoption

Thirteen years ago, China Darrington decided to give her infant son up for adoption rather than let him go into foster care. Today, Darrington provides recovery support services to parents in Ohio struggling with addiction and is a member of the Birth Parent National Network. Here she describes how she managed to stay in her son’s life after adoption.

Q: What was your experience with adoption?

A: when I was 32, I was at the end of 16 years of chronically relapsing substance addiction and I lost custody of my 4-year-old daughter for seven months. I ended up with a second crisis pregnancy. Despite the love I had for my son, I was not in any shape to expand my household for him. I had failed at drug treatment six times, and I was not convinced I was going to make it this time. I also had no money, no insurance, no resources. In 2004, I delivered a baby boy and went from being mother to birth mother.

Q: How did adoption impact you?

A: I felt like I understood my choice intellectually but emotionally that was very different. There was nothing I could do to prepare for that.

The first twelve months there was a lot of openness; several visits. But right after my birth son’s 1st birthday, the adoptive family pulled back and I did not see him for two and a half years. I freaked out because I knew I had no power.

I started writing postcards once a month. I sent a copy to the family.

I felt that I was maintaining that relationship, just to let my son know what was going on in my life and his half-sister’s life and that anything that he needs we’re always present for.

Eventually, the adoptive family resumed contact with me and I learned that my son got those communications and loved them.

Today I see my son face to face one or two times a year and I receive more regular updates and photos through Facebook.

But it’s not easy being that part of the family that doesn’t have any legal rights. That’s been the biggest struggle. I have this immense bond and feeling for both my children and yet I have very different roles in their lives.

Q: How has openness in your adoption impacted your children’s relationship?

A: my daughter is 18, and my birth son also has a sister through adoption.

My daughter and my son’s adoptive sister have become really good friends. They feel as close as sisters. my birth son feels like the little brother.

One of the most healing things I ever saw was on my birth son’s 10th birthday. he pointed to his adoptive sister and said, “This is my sister who I’m not related to by blood, but I live with.” He then pointed to my daughter and said, “This is my sister who I am related to by blood but I don’t live with.” That simple.

These three kids who have grown up with the love, resources, and openness to have their questions answered, they have processed this and made it very simple.

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