Stephanie Villegas had to make a difficult decision. The young mother became pregnant when she was just 13, then decided to give up her daughter, Nani Bertino, to child services when the child was 2 years old.
Nani was never adopted, and by the time she was 12 she began to act out. Without the love of a family or a stable home, she held onto one thing: the giant scrapbook her mother left her with.
In the scrapbook were Bible verses, photographs, and a letter that explained Stephanie’s difficult choice.
An excerpt from the letter, as reported by KETV’s Alex Hoffman in 2014, read: “I never wanted you to go without anything you wanted or what you need like clothes, food, and a home. It is not as if I don’t want you but I was too young, I was only 13. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there when you started school and graduated or even go to college but you are my whole heart and I’ll never forget you.”
When Nani was feeling down, she would take out the tracing of her mother’s hand and place her hand on top of it to feel like the two were together.
Lindy Rottenbucher of Lutheran Family Services noticed that Nani was down and out, so she decided to find a way to reunite her with Stephanie.
Using clues from the scrapbook, she used social media to bring them together. Within 10 minutes of starting her search, Lindy was able to plan a reunion. Nani is now living with her aunt and uncle, who have filed the paperwork to become her foster parents. In the meantime, Stephanie is working with family services to find a way for Nani to live with her again.
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