Ron Reigns:
Welcome and thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption with Kelly Rourke-Scarry and me, Ron Reigns, where we delve into the issues of adoption from every angle of the adoption triad.

Speaker 2:
I’m not ready. You know, and it wouldn’t be fair. It’s selfish for me to keep a baby that I can’t take care of.

Speaker 3:
This is my first child. All I can think about was needing to save my son.

Speaker 2:
And maybe this will be an opportunity for you to change your life, get off the street, and turn your life around and help somebody else in the process.

Kelly R.S.:
I’m Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I am the co-founder of Building Arizona Families, the Donna Kay Evans Foundation, and the developer of the You Before Me campaign.

Kelly R.S.:
I have been in the adoption field for 15 years. I have both personal and professional experience and adoption. I was adopted myself and I also have been a social worker my entire career. I have a bachelor’s degree in family studies and human development and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in school counseling.

Kelly R.S.:
When I talk with people who are not in the adoption world, one of the main questions I always get is what would even be the first step? What do you do if you decide, “Okay, I’m pregnant, I’m not ready to parent. I don’t want to do an abortion, what do I do?” What I have found out is adoption, it’s not as talked about in society …

Ron Reigns:
Certainly.

Kelly R.S.:
… and the information isn’t as easy to find.

Ron Reigns:
Although it is a lot easier now with the internet, for instance.

Kelly R.S.:
Oh, absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Can you imagine in the sixties and seventies and eighties?

Kelly R.S.:
No. As I’ve stated before, my mom found out that she was pregnant with me three weeks before I was born. This is a really funny story, and I’m sure she’d love that I am sharing it with the world. She was getting bigger and bigger. Her stomach was getting bigger, but at that time in late 1972, the peacoats were really a big deal and like the real baggy shirts, so she was able to cover …

Ron Reigns:
You can hide it.

Kelly R.S.:
Her belly, yeah.

Ron Reigns:
Definitely.

Kelly R.S.:
But she was getting bigger and bigger and her mother said, “We’re going to the doctor, something’s wrong.” But my grandmother at the time was a single mom. My mom was the third youngest of nine. When you have that many kids — trust me, we have seven — you can kind of miss if somebody’s getting a little bigger and that’s not on the forefront of your mind.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
So they go to the family doctor and he lifts up my mom’s blouse and says, “Ma’am, she’s about to have a baby any moment.” My grandmother, no lie, passes out. My mother starts absolutely panicking saying, “Oh my gosh, she’s going to kill me. She’s going to kill me. You can’t tell her that I had sex. You can’t tell her that I had sex.” She’s so worried that her mother is going to wake up and just kill her when she came to. Then my grandmother and the doctor went into the other room and when they came back in, they told my mother, “You’re going to do an adoption.”

Kelly R.S.:
At that time, again, she was 37 weeks pregnant. She had just turned 16. You know, in her mind she’s thinking, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t really know I was pregnant, for sure …”

Ron Reigns:
Right. She may have had indicators, but she probably didn’t want to believe it either.

Kelly R.S.:
Well, sure. A lot of women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy go through a denial phase. That is why the first step is so important is because you’ve got to take that test. And when you see those two lines or the positive sign, that’s when it becomes real, and when it becomes real, you don’t have to be alone. That is what adoption offers. Not only do you get to form an incredible bond with your adoption worker, but you get to form a bond, ultimately, with the adoptive family as well. So you don’t have to face this alone. You can be surrounded by people that will support you.

Ron Reigns:
Right, so that’s the triad we talked about before.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely. Yes. That is the triad. Some of the things that I tell women who have just found out they’re pregnant and they’re going through a wide range of emotions, is look at your options. Adoption is a great option and if you look into it, that’s all you’re starting with. You don’t have to make a decision at that moment like, “This is the plan I want to make,” but get some information. Make that call.

Kelly R.S.:
What happens is, is if you take that first step and you make that phone call, you come into our office, we talk to you about all of the choices you have within the adoption realm — open adoption, close adoption, semi-open adoption; we are able to help you with living expenses and financial resources if you decide that adoption is the route that you want to go. And you can get all that help in the same day. You can go from this state of absolute panic and feeling alone and scared and not sure of where to go in life and what to do, to having complete and total support, not feeling that awful sting of being lonely. You can really start focusing on your future and you may be at a place in life where you can’t parent.

Kelly R.S.:
I can tell you that in the 15 years that I’ve done this, I have seen people who have placed a baby for adoption because they weren’t in a place they could parent. Then they come back later to say hi and let us know how they’re doing and they’re carrying a child that they were able to parent afterwards.

Ron Reigns:
Wow.

Kelly R.S.:
So it’s amazing. Watching those success stories is what we strive for. When a woman comes into our agency, one of the things that we really promote is adoption counseling. Our agency uses an independent adoption counselor that has a specialty in adoption so that she can really walk the walk alongside of us with the birth mother and really dive into those issues that may be surrounding the adoption choice.

Kelly R.S.:
Also, an adoption counselor as well as an adoption specialist through our agency can help disclose this to family and friends about your adoption choice. Sometimes women have other children in the home and they’re afraid of what the other children are going to say or how to tell them or when to tell them, and that’s something that we as an agency can help with.

 

 

Kelly R.S.:
One other aspect that is really important is the stigma behind adoption. When I was born, adoption was not really talked about. At that time, women were often sent away to go live in a home, to have the baby, place the baby for adoption, and then they would return to their family afterwards. That didn’t happen in my mother’s case, probably because nobody knew that she was pregnant, but after I was born, my adoption wasn’t spoken about. Out of her siblings, only three of them knew that I even existed. Her father didn’t even know that she had ever had me or had an adoption.

Ron Reigns:
Really?

Kelly R.S.:
Really, yeah. In some cultures today, we have found that some women are afraid to tell their family members because they’re afraid of judgment and condemnation. Again, certain areas in society are very into the bloodline and don’t understand why you can’t parent. By doing these podcasts, it’s my goal, again, education will promote less of these stigmas and less of these stereotypes and dispel any myths that people are believing that just aren’t true.

Kelly R.S.:
My mother actually went through the majority of her life with me as a secret, and boy, did I come out of the closet when I met her. Everybody in the family showed up.

Ron Reigns:
All of a sudden.

Kelly R.S.:
Yeah, surprise.

Ron Reigns:
By the way, I have another daughter.

Kelly R.S.:
Yeah. So it was incredible for her because again, she had to keep this secret and in keeping the secret, that takes a toll on you. That takes a toll.

Ron Reigns:
Oh, absolutely. I mean, keeping anything secret, but let alone for, you know, 30 plus years.

Kelly R.S.:
Right, absolutely. That is why some women are afraid to take that first step because they are concerned that somebody may think, well, why are you doing this? And you don’t want to explain your life story to a stranger or to an aunt or an uncle, or even if your mom doesn’t understand. That’s why it’s so important that we reach out and say, you know, “I’m doing this because I need to make the best choice for my child. It’s the best choice for me, for my child, and for the adoptive family.”

Ron Reigns:
Absolutely.

Kelly R.S.:
And it’s our choice. Some of the complex emotions that birth mothers experience throughout the adoption process are grief loss, guilt and shame, identity issues, trust issues, rejection, and a loss of control over our lives. Our goal is to combat that. We work diligently to address it rather than ignore these feelings and emotions because if you don’t address them, then you can’t fix them. It’s like keeping a closet full of dirty clothes. Eventually you’re going to smell them, right? You’re going to smell them, you can’t hide it forever. You’ve got to open the door and deal with it.

Ron Reigns:
And you have resources that help them deal with that.

Kelly R.S.:
We have them.

Ron Reigns:
Such as the counselors and the case managers …

Kelly R.S.:
And the aftercare program.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
And so again, when you’re pregnant and you’re facing this enormous choice, the biggest choice you’ll probably ever make, in adoption, you want to make sure that you have that support because without that support, it can really take a toll. It took a really incredible toll on my mother. When I found my mother, and I was 34, I will say it was almost like walking into a war zone after a war 20 years later. Because you could see the depression and anxiety that it had taken on her. We lost her at 59. I think her body was just so … keeping that secret and keeping those feelings and not being able to deal with them really takes a toll on you.

Kelly R.S.:
That’s why adoption needs to be something you talk about at the dinner table. It needs to be something that kids are proud of. You know, when I was younger, I didn’t really tell people I was adopted. My parents did, but it wasn’t something I shared. I had a lot of friends-

Ron Reigns:
Okay, so you felt the stigma of it even as a child.

Kelly R.S.:
I did. I did.

Ron Reigns:
I think a lot of that, so much of that’s going away and that’s all a lot due to companies like Building Arizona Families and what you guys do. So, you’re doing a great job of bringing light to it, shining a light on this actually very gracious gift that people are giving and …

Kelly R.S.:
Right.

Ron Reigns:
So good for you.

Kelly R.S.:
Thanks. When women come to us, we help them, like I said before, with the adoption paperwork. We also transport our clients to all of their prenatal doctor’s appointments. We help them financially if they qualify. There’s no fees for birth mothers whatsoever. We also help them with choosing an adoptive family and that’s our role, is to help provide adoptive families for them to choose from. We are there at the hospital. A lot of our caseworkers do coach the mothers if they choose, if they would like them, through labor and delivery.

Kelly R.S.:
The most important piece though, and I tell this to all of our workers and all of our clients, is our role is to help guide you through your adoption journey. This is your journey. We’re just there to help you through it.

Kelly R.S.:
Over the years in working with hundreds and hundreds of birth mothers, I always ask when I meet them the very first time, why adoption? What led you to choose adoption? The stories I’ve heard, I’ve laughed with them, I’ve cried with them. There are clients that I’ll never forget and some of their statements I think can resonate with some of our audience.

Ron Reigns:
I hope so. Yeah.

Kelly R.S.:
I think that when I meet a birth mother, I see a little bit of my own mom in all of them, so I’m going to go through and share some of the statements that I’ve heard because if I can relate because of my own birth mother, then maybe somebody out there can relate to some of these women as well.

Ron Reigns:
Right. Maybe they’re going through exactly this situation right now

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely. I think the number one thing is nobody wants to feel like they’re different and it’s not normal. So you know, reassuring that what you’re feeling and what you’re thinking and what you’re going through, it’s totally normal.

Kelly R.S.:
I had a woman once come in and say, “I decided on adoption because I don’t want my baby to grow up like me. I aged out of the system and when I turned 18, my state case worker drove me to the nearby shelter and dropped me off and that was my 18th birthday present.”

Ron Reigns:
Wow.

Kelly R.S.:
When she came to us … I have chills again … she was 18 and a half.

Ron Reigns:
Really? Oh. She must’ve been just terrified.

Kelly R.S.:
Lost, alone.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly R.S.:
Yeah. Another one that I remember stated that she decided on adoption because she couldn’t bring her baby home from the hospital and have her baby around her boyfriend. He was too mean, and last night he actually bit her because he wanted the dollar that was in her purse. She had $1 left and she didn’t want to give it to him. At that moment, she knew, “I can’t do this.”

Ron Reigns:
I can’t bring a baby into this.

Kelly R.S.:
I can’t. I can’t do it. That was a really hard one. I’d had more than one woman say that their boyfriend’s getting out of prison and this isn’t his baby and so they wanted, yeah, they wanted to make sure that the baby went on and lived their own life and …

Ron Reigns:
And thrive.

Kelly R.S.:
I understand, yeah, absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Good.

Kelly R.S.:
Some women feel that they’re not stable and that’s why they choose adoption. Some women who come to us have warrants and we’re a social service agency and so we don’t have to, obviously, report their warrants. And so a lot of them are pending prison time and they know that and they want their baby to have a life outside of the prison life. They don’t want their baby to go into the state system. They want to make sure that their baby is safe and secure with an adoptive family.

Kelly R.S.:
I’ve had women that come in and say, “I really like my life. I don’t want my life to change. That may sound selfish, but it’s true, and I’m finally okay with where I am.” I tell women, not everybody has to be a mother and parent. You’re still going to be a mother because you gave birth to a baby but that doesn’t mean you have to parent. Some people aren’t cut out to be a mom.

Ron Reigns:
Absolutely, and you know, it does. On the face of it, it sounds selfish, but it’s actually one of the most selfless acts they could commit.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Let’s give this child a chance with somebody who’s going to have their heart into it.

Kelly R.S.:
Cherish that child, love that child.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, absolutely.

Kelly R.S.:
That child is going to be the center of their universe. I thought that was so brave to say that because it goes against the grain of what society preaches. To be able to be strong enough to say, “Not only is this why, but I’m okay with who I am.” I think that’s really brave.

Ron Reigns:
That’s good.

Kelly R.S.:
Yeah. Another woman, I remember her saying an adoption plan is better than an abortion plan, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Another woman, came and said, “I don’t have time to take care of a baby. I work every day to pay for the hotel room so I don’t have to sleep on the street. How would I do that? We would both be on the street.”

Kelly R.S.:
I have actually seen women come into the agency and they have a baby already. They are working and they take the baby with them. They’re doing everything they can to keep the one child and it’s very difficult. Another child would literally just push them over the ledge and it’s too much.

Kelly R.S.:
Some people come in and say they don’t believe they could be a good mom. They didn’t feel that their mother was a good mom and they don’t want to prolong this negative life cycle and they really want to break it. I think that’s amazing too. You know, my birth mother, in my lineage, I was the first one not to become pregnant at 16, I was the first girl in my mom’s lineage to graduate from high school. So I think that was an amazing choice.

Ron Reigns:
Right, and the amazing thing about that is in them realizing, “I wouldn’t make a good mother,” that actually makes them …

Kelly R.S.:
A better mother.

Ron Reigns:
A better mother.

Kelly R.S.:
Yeah.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly R.S.:
Yeah, it’s incredible. I had a lady come in and say, “I wanted a baby and my boyfriend and I really tried for this baby, but he just got picked up on a warrant and he’s going to do three to five years and I can’t do it alone.” Again, I think that is an act of bravery to be able to stand up and say, “I know my limitations, and I can’t do it.” Again, I absolutely applaud that.

Kelly R.S.:
Another situation, the lady was a single mom and she had a special needs child. The child had autism, and she was barely able to financially, emotionally, physically support this one child and she, she also knew that another child would just be too much.

Ron Reigns:
Just break her.

Kelly R.S.:
Yeah.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
Yeah. I’ve had women come in and say, “I can’t have a baby right now. I just got out of a domestic violence situation, I don’t want my baby around the father. I want to keep this baby safe.” I have seen that happen quite a few times as well.

Kelly R.S.:
Another woman once came in and said, “I lost all my children to the state. Child protective services came in and took them. I don’t want them to come in and take this child as well, so I’m going to make an adoption plan instead.” That is a right, in state of Arizona, that you have, so if child protective services now we call it DCS, Department of Child Safety.

Ron Reigns:
Child Safety?

Kelly R.S.:
Child Safety, yes. If you are currently working with DCS and you are pregnant and you want to place your child for adoption, you actually have that opportunity. As long as you start the plan before you have the baby, you can go ahead and have an active adoption plan and CPS will not get involved. So that is an option that presents itself.

Kelly R.S.:
Lastly, I think the one I would close with is a lady that came in and said, “I really need help. I can’t keep this baby. It doesn’t feel like it’s mine.” I think that’s important because when women come in, sometimes they say in carrying the baby, it almost feels like a surrogacy. Like, “I’m carrying this baby for another family,” and in a way it kind of is.

Ron Reigns:
It absolutely is, yeah.

Kelly R.S.:
I think that that is a way that brings peace to women when they feel the baby kick and they feel the baby move, I think that that brings a sense of, like, it’s going to be okay.

Nicole:
My name is Nicole and I placed my son for adoption three years ago with Building Arizona Families. I was in the middle of a 23-year addiction. I was working the streets. I lived in a motel, lots of them. I was selling drugs, I was doing drugs. I weighed maybe 98 pounds when I came to Building Arizona Families and I was five months pregnant. Going through Building Arizona Families played an integral part in me getting sober and allowing me to turn myself in, do my time in prison, get clean, come out. I’m now a certified peer support specialist and in about two months I’ll actually start working in the field.

Nicole:
I’m in a great relationship and I am a better person today. It has allowed me to be a mother today to my one-month old son, Kian. It’s hard to put to words, it really is, where I was at then. The only thing I could do or care about at that time was making sure that I gave my son a better future and coming to Building Arizona Families allowed me to do that.

Nicole:
I still have a beautiful relationship with the family that adopted him. I get pictures and updates all the time. She actually sent me some of his, my three-year old son’s, old baby blankets for him, so he gets to use the stuff that my three-year old son got to use. You know what I mean? It’s just, it’s a beautiful thing. It really is.

Nicole:
I never thought that I would ever be happy to have given my son up for adoption, but I am. Placing my baby three years ago with Building Arizona Families absolutely enabled me to grow and learn and be the mother that I want to be today and have the support even still from Building Arizona Families to be a good mom today. I have people that I can reach out to that will support me at anytime, at any step along the way with this one. I absolutely love and appreciate them.

Ron Reigns:
Many of our birth mothers are in vulnerable places in their lives and facing chronic homelessness, substance abuse issues, mental health issues, domestic violence, trauma, abuse, and experience chronic food insecurity as well. So if you’re pregnant and considering adoption, we’re here to help. We’re a licensed full service nonprofit Arizona adoption agency. We believe in adoption after care services and have a program on site to provide continued support through the Donna Kay Evans Foundation.

Ron Reigns:
You can contact us anytime at (623) 695-4112 or our toll free number 1-800-340-9665. You can call us with questions about adoption or our podcast at that same number, (623) 695-4112. Check out our blogs and website at azpregnancyhelp.com.

Ron Reigns:
Next time, we’ll be talking about our anti-abortion campaign, You Before Me. Thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption, written and produced by Kelly Rourke-Scarry and edited by Ron Reigns.

Ron Reigns:
We also want to thank Building Arizona Families, the Donna Kay Evans Foundation, and the You Before Me campaign. Special thanks goes out to Grapes for letting us use their song, I Don’t Know as our theme song.

Ron Reigns:
Next time, we’ll be talking about our anti-abortion campaign, You Before Me, on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption. For Kelly Rourke-Scarry, I’m Ron Reigns. We’ll see you then.

 

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