On December 18, 1987, Heidi Russo slipped out of a Milwaukee social worker's office with a sticky terrycloth bib in her purse. The bib was one of the few mementos from her brief time with her son—the nine months she carried him and the six sweet weeks they had shared before the legal process for his adoption was complete.
Russo, 19, had selected a wonderful family for her son, Colin. The couple was loving, the siblings, eager to welcome another one. Even still, Russo walked away empty-armed with a weight of shame, knowing that she wasn't equipped to lend support.
Now Russo is working to ensure that other birthmoms walk away with a lighter, more hopeful load.
In recent years, adoption/orphan care has become something of a darling cause of Western Christians. Advocacy groups like the Christian Alliance for Orphans, Project 1:27, and Bethany Christian Services partner with churches and families to support in-country and overseas adoptions, and conferences like Together for Adoption connect a theology of adoption to practical outreach. The Christian Alliance for Orphans reports that in the past decade, about 180,000 children from around the world were welcomed into U.S. families through inter-country adoption.
But in the push to provide for vulnerable children, one member of the adoption triangle sometimes remains in the shadows.
In the Shadows
In her 2006 groundbreaking book, The Girls Who Went Away, researcher and filmmaker Ann Fessler shared the untold stories of birthmothers who relinquished children in the decades before Roe v. Wade. Without moral or practical support from families or communities, these young women were assured by well-meaning social workers that they would forget their children ...1