They also know firsthand that everyone's experience of adoption will be different. Russo, now raising a younger son, has respected Kaepernick's wish not to meet. The Colemans are actively involved in the lives of their children's birthmoms. And Hundley, parenting three sons at home with her husband, is also part of the open adoption of her second son, born when she was in the grips of an abusive relationship.
And the Three Strands model is arriving at an opportune cultural moment, when open adoption "is fast becoming the norm within the United States," reported the Evan B. Donaldson Institute in 2012. Bethany Christian Services president Bill Blacquiere says about two-thirds of its adoption are now open—which is, historically speaking, a return to normal. For centuries, children being raised by extended family or a community member knew their biological parents.
But after World War II, when the birth certificates of the babies of single mothers were being stamped "illegitimate," advocates were concerned the children were being marked with the stigma of illegitimacy. This is when birth certificates and adoption records were first legally "sealed." Today, as more and more adoptions are "open," there are more families that look like the Coleman's, joyfully navigating relationships with their children's birthmoms.
Encouraging more openness in adoption may be one way the church will purpose to "rebrand" the way birthmothers are viewed today. We'll do it as we choose language that respects the gift birthmoms have given. We'll do it as we nurture friendships with birthmoms, as Birthmother Ministries is doing through mentoring friendships. We will honor birthmoms as givers of life as we include them in our congregational prayers on Mother's Day.
And if the burgeoning ministry of Three Strands has anything to do with it, the stale stereotype of the "bad" birthmother will slowly fade away. Instead, she'll be celebrated for making the choice to provide the best life possible for her child.
"The birthmom is the real hero in the adoption triad," says Coleman. "It's time we moved the spotlight."
Margot Starbuck is an adoptee and a mother by birth and adoption. Her memoir The Girl in the Orange Dress tells the story of her reunion with her birthmother.