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.

Maria:
I’m not ready, and it wouldn’t be fair. It’s selfish of me to keep a baby that I can’t take care of. This is my first child. All I could think about was needing to save my son. 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 RS:
I’m Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I am the Co-Founder of Building Arizona Families, the Donna K. Evans foundation, and the developer of the You Before Me campaign. I have been in the adoption field for 15 years. I have both personal, and professional experience in 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. So, many choices in adoption.

Ron Reigns:
For instance?

Kelly RS:
Well, one of the most important, if not the most important, I would say would be what type of adoption you choose. So, there’s open, semi-open, and closed.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly RS:
And they’re very loose words with terminology. In other words, people will assign different values to the words. What is an open? What is a semi-open? Some people will think an open is actually only letters and pictures, where open can be letters, and pictures, and visits. Semi-open can be letters and pictures. So, it just depends on how you define-

Ron Reigns:
It’s very interchangeable, except for obviously closed. Closed is closed.

Kelly RS:
Right. Well, even that’s … No. Not even.

Ron Reigns:
Really?

Kelly RS:
No.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly RS:
So, a closed adoption can still be considered a closed adoption and parentheticals if you have contact up until the baby is born with the adoptive family, and then say goodbye at the hospital, and don’t continue contact. Got it. So, again, it’s how you define closed.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly RS:
Some women come into the program, and they don’t ever want to meet the adoptive family, they don’t ever want to see the adoptive family, and they want to totally close adoption. That is rare. That’s very rare.

Ron Reigns:
Right. And oftentimes Building Arizona Families will actually pick the adoptive parents.

Kelly RS:
It’s happened.

Ron Reigns:
Whereas oftentimes, the birth mother will say, “I want this family.”

Kelly RS:
Correct. Yes. It’s rare to have a completely closed adoption, and it’s not something that unless there is a really good reason, I encourage birth mothers to really consider a semi-open or an open because you can always work backwards. So, if you choose to have contact, and after the baby’s born and placed, you decide, “This is too difficult. I can’t do this right now.”

Kelly RS:
Then what happens is your pictures, and letters will just stack up, and then when you’re ready, you have the opportunity to have them. If you choose closed, and you don’t create an agreement afterwards, which is called a post-adoption communication agreement, then you don’t have the option of going back, and getting pictures, and letters. So, I always tell people, “Keep as many doors open as you can, so that you have the ability to walk through them later.” Because if you solely focus on what you feel in the moment, you’re not looking to-

Ron Reigns:
You might have something that you’ll regret later that you think, “You know what? I wasn’t in the spot at that time in my life to communicate with these parents, and with my child,” but later on you can. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense.

Kelly RS:
Absolutely. So, you can always do less, but you can’t do more in that sense. So, that’s why I think keeping as many doors open gives you that opportunity, even if you’re not ready, and we use a program called child connect, which is an online portal that the adoptive family will upload letters and pictures, and the birth mother can actually use the Donna K. Evans Foundations computers or they can use their cell phone, and log on, and see pictures of the baby, and letters, and they can communicate through the portal.

Kelly RS:
This service, they also send them hard copies of pictures, and after the first year they send them a book. Yeah, it’s really nice.

Ron Reigns:
Wow. That is very nice.

Kelly RS:
Yes. Looking at open and closed adoption, I think it really depends on what is right for the birth mother and the birth father at the time. There are reasons that women will choose close adoption if they feel that the child may be in danger with-

Ron Reigns:
The birth father or-

Kelly RS:
… the birth father or somebody in the family, they will make sure that the adoption is closed, so that they feel their child is safer.

Ron Reigns:
So, there are reasonable reasons to have a closed adoption.

Kelly RS:
Yeah. I’ve also seen women choose closed adoptions in rape cases or situations like that, where they really don’t want to move on in life with a constant reminder of what had happened, and yet they still made the right choice. Another situation I remember where somebody chose a closed adoption was a 14 year old. We had a 14 year old birth mom, and she was so young, and her and her mom thought it would be best to let her just go on being a child after she had the baby.

Kelly RS:
And so, that was a choice that they made together, and we honored that.

Ron Reigns:
So, again, there’s no wrong choices when it comes to how you want to conduct your adoption?

Kelly RS:
No, because some agencies feel that they will only do open adoption, and it is their right to make that choice, and I don’t believe that it’s anybody’s right other than the person carrying the baby to make that choice.

Ron Reigns:
Right. And, it’s something that-

Kelly RS:
It’s personal.

Ron Reigns:
… you will discuss with the birth mothers.

Kelly RS:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Okay, cool.

Kelly RS:
The other thing is, is that when a birth mother chooses an adoptive family, and she gets to meet them or talk to them on the phone or Skype, I’ve seen a lot of birth mothers say, “Well, maybe just letters and pictures.” And then when they meet the family, they really them. So, they’re like, “Oh, okay. Well, you know what? Maybe visits wouldn’t be so bad.” And they grow closer and closer through the pregnancy, and sometimes the adoptive family will come out for a visit if they’re out of state or they’ll attend a doctor’s appointment.

Kelly RS:
What’s so cool about that is they get to be a part of the pregnancy, and the birth mom loves it because she’s not alone. Her being around the adoptive mom is a chance for her to see what this adopted mom’s going to be with her baby. It’s really neat. Another thing about open adoption, that I think is really amazing, is in the hospital, when an adoptive mom walks over and picks up the baby out of the bassinet, and holds the baby, you will often see a birth mom just looking at the adoptive mom.

Kelly RS:
Sometimes adoptive moms have come to me and said, “Why is she looking at me? Am I doing something wrong?” And I said, “No. You’re bringing her peace because she wants to see.” It’s kind of trying on shoes. She wants to see how it fits, how it looks, how it feels. So, that’s why it’s so important for an adoptive mom to hold the baby in front of the birth mom because when a birth mom is having a hard day after she places the baby for adoption, and she wakes up at 3:00 in the morning, and the monsters are in her head are going crazy, she can remember that image of her baby being consoled by the adoptive mom, and the baby was okay.

Kelly RS:
That brings so much peace. The beauty of open adoption is constant reassurance. They made the right choice, they did the right thing. And if you have a closed adoption, you really don’t get that option cause you don’t get that picture window whereas an open adoption allows that very thing. It’s like a picture window. You get to see, you can have a special role in the child’s life, and what’s so neat about society today is with technology and Southwest, tickets aren’t as expensive as they used to be even if you have an adoptive family that lives out of state, you can still arrange visits. You can still arrange to have that connection, and it’s just incredible.

Kelly RS:
What we can do today, we couldn’t do this 50 years ago.

Ron Reigns:
Right. Absolutely. And it’s expanding the birth mother’s family. She now has this new extended family including her child, and that’s awesome.

Kelly RS:
Absolutely. It is, and that’s so important that you said that because that is often a question I get from adoptive parents is, “Are we co-parenting?” And I explain, “No, not at all. But this is part of your family. You are forever bonded to not just the baby, but the baby’s birth mother, and the birth father if he’s involved. That is a connection that you will have.”

Kelly RS:
When I found my birth mother, my adoptive mother did something really cool, and we’ll see if I can get through this and not tear up. She mailed her one of my baby’s shoes because she said, “I can’t give them both, but I’m going to give you one.” I thought that was really generous and really sweet, and that way they could each have one of my first shoes, which I thought was-

Ron Reigns:
That is touching, and you’ve made it all the way through.

Kelly RS:
I did. I got through it. I got through it. But I thought that that was really neat, and that was obviously I had a close adoption. My birth mother didn’t get letters or pictures or anything. So, what I tell our clients is if you’re on the fence about what type of adoption you want to do, whether it be open or closed or semi-open, try to keep the doors open, but also meet the adoptive family and see how it goes. Like Skype, talk to them.

Ron Reigns:
Who knows?

Kelly RS:
Yeah. You never know. And when when birth mothers are choosing an adoptive family, it’s really interesting. I have had birth mothers choose, and this’ll be a whole nother podcast that we’ll go into about choosing families, and what that looks like, and what it feels like. It’s so interesting to watch because usually a birth mother will choose a family if she has three or four profiles based on connection. There’s some type of connection. Yeah. So, they may be wearing a sports team, tee shirts.

Ron Reigns:
She orders a jersey or whatever. Right. Gotcha.

Kelly RS:
Shout out to Adam. Yeah.

Ron Reigns:
That was for you, Adam.

Kelly RS:
Yeah because I’m a Saints fan.

Ron Reigns:
Oh. They got into a little trouble at home, huh?

Kelly RS:
Oh, hey. That was great last year. We won. We won. We won. Yeah. With regards to choosing a family, I’ve seen them choose … A lot of times, it’s really interesting. I will see a birth mother choose a family that they think looks them.

Ron Reigns:
Oh, okay. So, kind of a physical similarity?

Kelly RS:
Yes. Yeah, and that’s really neat in my opinion. I have also seen them choose a family because they like their dog. Maybe they’re a dog person, and they see, “Oh, they have a dog.” Sometimes it goes outside of the appearance, and it can be this adoptive mom is going to be a stay at home mom, and that’s really important to the birth mom because she didn’t have a stay at home mom. So, maybe that’s why they choose this one.

Kelly RS:
So, when when they make that connection, and they choose that family, then it can help with what type of contact you want after the baby is born. I always encourage contact prior because after you have the baby, even though you have an adoption plan, it is difficult to hand your child this perfect newborn to somebody that you don’t know at all.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah. A complete stranger for all intents and purposes, even though you know of them, you’ve never met, you’ve never talked.

Kelly RS:
Right.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly RS:
And so, I really encourage, “Hey, at least get to know them a little bit. At least spend a little bit of time with them, so that you will be that much more comfortable.”

Ron Reigns:
You’ll be okay with this decision.

Kelly RS:
Yes, absolutely. And you’ll find peace. I always use the phrase with my kids and with workers, “I never to move forward until I find peace.” And then I never second guess anything. When they meet the adoptive family, and they can find that peace, then they can move forward, and they can not worry or be concerned or second guess themselves. And so, I think that is something that is important.

Kelly RS:
Another question I get about open adoptions is, “Well, how long do I get letters, and pictures, and visits? What does that look like?” The adoption standard is letters and pictures three to four times a year for 18 years, and then if you do visits, in Arizona, we only schedule visits. It’s usually one to three a year for the first three years. What happens after three years? Because up until three years is how long visits are normally scheduled because the child becomes knowledgeable, and can ask questions, and at that point at three, if visits continue, it’s really between the adoptive family and the birth mom.

Kelly RS:
It’s really what’s working. Is it working? Is the child acclimating well? Is this in the best interest of the child? A lot of times, what happens is you have a visit scheduled for one to three times a year for the first three years, and what we see is it’s a lot more than that because the family and the birth mom have just bonded.

Ron Reigns:
Just clicked. Right.

Kelly RS:
And it’s so beautiful to see that. When I mentioned that we had Santa come, and Santa watching the birth mother, and the adoptive mother, and the baby, and the three of them sitting on his lap was just incredible, priceless. It oftentimes forms into that. Sometimes what happens is it’s too difficult on the birth mother. The adoptive family is ready and willing, but sometimes the birth mother just needs to take a step back, and she gets to a place in her life that she’s not ready to resume the visits, and she’ll let you know when she is.

Kelly RS:
And sometimes, that’s hard for adoptive families because they want to make sure she’s okay, and they want to know she’s doing well.

Ron Reigns:
Right. Well, as you had mentioned, they want to be able to tell the child as they grow up, “This is what your mother’s doing, and this is where she’s at.”

Kelly RS:
Yeah, absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
They do want that child to know.

Kelly RS:
They do. They do. And there’s a lot of support for the adoptive family, and there always has been compared to now, I mean, with birth mothers. So, birth mothers are now beginning to get support, and because we hadn’t had support in so long, it’s a new thing.

Ron Reigns:
Kind of of feeling it out a little bit.

Kelly RS:
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Like, “Okay, this works. This sometimes works.”

Kelly RS:
Right. And with the Donna K. Evans Foundation, we were one of the first agencies across the country to do that, and that was why two years ago we went to the National Adoption Conference, and spoke about it, and tried … My goal is to raise the standard level of care because I think that women deserve that support. Now, that that’s coming into play, I think that we will see birth mothers stay around longer, and we will see them be more interactive in the future.

Kelly RS:
But before when they didn’t have that support, it was like ripping off the bandaid every time. Now, that’s not the case because they can have that support afterwards. We do a lot of our visits at our office because we have a room in our office that we’ve kind of developed to look a living room, so it’s not so sterile, and that way it can be more like a homey environment.

Ron Reigns:
Very personal.

Kelly RS:
Yeah. And then we have another room as similar as well in the Donald K. Evans Foundation where there’s a lot of toys. So, if the family has other kids, everybody’s not just staring. They’re able to interact with the toys.

Ron Reigns:
Are we done with this yet, mom?

Kelly RS:
Yeah. Absolutely, right?

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly RS:
Yeah. And there’s of course, the TV.

Ron Reigns:
And then do they have highlights magazines? Because you got to have highlights-

Kelly RS:
No. We don’t have highlights magazines.

Ron Reigns:
Well, you need to get on that.

Kelly RS:
No, we don’t. One thing I do want to say though, in terms of open and closed adoption, and the book I’m about to mention actually doesn’t talk about either, but one thing for families who have either a closed adoption or an open adoption that doesn’t go the way that they had wanted it to go, and the birth mother is not as involved as they would want them to be. My favorite all time children’s book for adoption is titled, Tell Me Again About The Night I Was Born, by Jamie Lee Curtis. Best adoption book for kids ever.

Ron Reigns:
Really?

Kelly RS:
Yes.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly RS:
Best adoption book ever. And that book, I think, will bring a lot of peace.

Maria:
Well, my name is Maria. I am 34, and I placed my son up for adoption. The reason for my placement was because I wasn’t financially stable, and I have a home of my own. I was actually homeless, and I think that it was the best thing for my son, which turned out to be an amazing thing to do because I still see him until this day. He has an amazing family that I love so much, that loves me dearly, and I really appreciate them for all that they’ve done.

Maria:
Then I ended up getting pregnant again with my daughter. I chose a family that had biological kids of their own, which was my first placement, and then my second placement was my daughter, which I chose a family that couldn’t have any kids, and she is actually being pretty good herself, and I’m just happy with the decision that I made because I’m still financially not stable. But I know that my kids are fine, and well taken care of, and I do get pictures and letters every six months, and I think that it will be the best thing for you guys to do it that you decided to do, and Building Arizona Families is a great company to work with because they’re awesome.

Ron Reigns:
Thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters And Adoption, written and produced by Kelly Rourke-Scarry, and edited by Ron Reigns. We also want to thank Building Arizona Families, the Donna K. Evans Foundation, and the You Before Me campaign. A special thanks goes out to Grapes for letting us use their song, I Dunno, as our theme song.

Ron Reigns:
If you’re pregnant and considering adoption, we are 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 K. Evans foundation. You can contact us 24 hours a day at 623-695-4112 or our toll free number 1-800-340-9665. Check out our blogs and website at www.AZPregnancyHelp.Com, and make sure to join us next time on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption. For Kelly Rourke-Scarry, I’m Ron Reigns, we’ll see you then.

 

 

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