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:
Do what’s best for your kid and for yourself, because if you didn’t take care of yourself, you’re definitely not going to be able to take care of that kid and that’s not fair.

Speaker 3:
And I know that my daughter would be well taken care of with them.

Speaker 4:
Don’t have an abortion, give this child a chance.

Speaker 5:
All I could think about was needing to save my son.

Kelly Rourke S:
My name is Kelly Rourke Scarry. I’m the executive director, president and co founder of Building Arizona Families adoption agency, the Donna K. Evans foundation and creator of the You Before Me campaign. 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. I was adopted at the age of three days, born to a teen birth mother, raised in a closed adoption and reunited with my birth mother in 2007. I have worked in the adoption field for over 15 years.

Ron Reigns:
And I’m Ron Reigns. I’ve worked in radio since 1999. I was the cohost of two successful morning shows in Prescott, Arizona. Now I work for my wife who’s an adoption attorney, and I’m able to combine these two great passions and share them on this podcast. So we’re talking about Adoption Powerful today.

Kelly Rourke S:
Yes.

Ron Reigns:
What is that?

Kelly Rourke S:
Adoption Powerful. The concept came to me. I think adoption is an extremely important subject, hence the podcast, why we do these. Knowledge is power. So let’s become Adoption Powerful. Because as a society, the more we understand adoption, the more we can help normalize the adoption process.

Ron Reigns:
And we definitely want to normalize it because we want that to be the choice people make.

Kelly Rourke S:
Absolutely. We want it to be the choice that people make and we want to be able to support those people who make that choice.

Ron Reigns:
Very good.

Kelly Rourke S:
And we want to be able to celebrate it with them, and so I think that becoming Adoption Powerful is really important. Let’s jump in.

Ron Reigns:
By all means.

Kelly Rourke S:
I often describe adoption, especially domestic adoption as a roller coaster. There are a lot of ups and downs. There are ups and downs for the birth mother. There are ups and downs for the adoptive family, and throughout the adopted child’s life there will also be ups and downs regarding the adoption process.

Ron Reigns:
And you know this firsthand, being adopted.

Kelly Rourke S:
I do.

Ron Reigns:
Absolutely.

Kelly Rourke S:
Absolutely/ Yeah, I do. And not only have I experienced the roller coaster, I’ve watched my adoptive parents experience the roller coaster and in working with the birth moms for so long, I’ve watched them get on and off the roller coaster. The best advice I can give is, adoption is a journey. It’s like getting on a roller coaster. You get into your seat, don’t close your eyes because you don’t want to miss anything. Strap on your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, it’s not about the destination or where now get to, it’s about, oh my God, all these experiences that I’ve gone through have made this amazing. Just like-

Kelly Rourke S:
Right. Have led me up to today, and I think as a society we’re not living in the present moment. We’re always thinking about the next thing, you know. The next bill we have to pay. What we have to do when we’re done eating lunch, what we have to do tomorrow. What time do we have to pick up the kids, rather than just living in that moment and being present. When you’re going through something as significant and as memorable as an adoption journey, it’s important to really be in the moment and experience the highs and experience the lows, because this is the story that you’re going to tell your child. These are the memories that you’re going to have. I think that if you just rush to the finish line, you’re going to miss the beauty of what the adoption journey really is.

Ron Reigns:
Right. And I have a huge problem with that myself, because I’m goal oriented. It’s like, “Okay, how do I get to that point?” But instead I’m missing a lot of my life that I should be experiencing and enjoying and remembering. So.

Kelly Rourke S:
I think it’s a habit that a lot of us can fall into, and I think if you can just take a moment, take a step back, and really focus on the important things in life and where you are. You know, when you’re talking with somebody and you’re having a conversation, try to shut out the other thoughts and just really be present, be in that moment with that person.

Ron Reigns:
That’s another thing. When you look back on your life, you’re 70 years old and you’re going, “Wow, okay…”

Kelly Rourke S:
Well, I’m not 70 years old, Ron.

Ron Reigns:
You’re not?

Kelly Rourke S:
No.

Ron Reigns:
Almost?

Kelly Rourke S:
Not even close.

Ron Reigns:
Not even close. Okay. No, but I’m saying when you get to that point, you want to be able to look back and remember the ride, not just, “Oh, well I was, you know, I ran a adoption agency and I created the You Before …” But you want to remember the experience of all of it, not just the reward part.

Kelly Rourke S:
As an adoption professional. You don’t want to just say at the end of your career, “I helped X amount of women go through the adoption process.” You want to remember their names and their faces and their highs and their lows and-

Ron Reigns:
And that was the girl that had that weird nervous tic, or you know, things that are personal. Yeah, so very cool.

Kelly Rourke S:
Absolutely. I think in becoming Adoption Powerful, and we really focus on all aspects of the triad. The adoptive family, the adoptive parents, the adopted child and the birth mother. We really need to look at the whole equation, because you can’t understand a fraction if you just focus solely on the fraction without really seeing everything that is present. By breaking down the adoption aspects, I think that we can better understand the process as a whole. So that’s the goal in becoming Adoption Powerful.

Kelly Rourke S:
One of the big issues, and this is going to be a podcast in and of itself in the future, is drug use in adoption. It’s something that’s talked about all the time. Adoptive families have great concerns. “Will my baby be drug exposed? Is there going to be any long-term effects?” And just to put it out there, I’m not a medical professional. I can’t give medical advice. I can just state what I have seen from my experience. I can tell you that a lot of birth moms are using drugs. There is a reason that when women come to us and they are using drugs, that they don’t stop using drugs, and there’s more than one reason actually. One of the reasons is is they are addicted. Another reason is they’re self-medicating. And adoption choice isn’t an easy choice, and it’s not an easy journey.

Ron Reigns:
And it’s very emotional.

Kelly Rourke S:
Absolutely. The other reason is when they have made a decision to place their child for adoption, they’re not as vested in the pregnancy journey as somebody who wasn’t placing their baby for adoption. That doesn’t mean they love their baby any less. That doesn’t mean that they don’t care what happens. It means that it’s not something they want to think about 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They want to escape, and unfortunately drugs offer an escape. And so what we do when we talk about drug use is we always recommend to adoptive families to become educated about drugs. What is out there? What is popular in the community the birth mother’s living in, and understand the medical risks. I always say, “Don’t go on Google because you’ll scare yourself.”

Ron Reigns:
Web MD will make you realize that everything’s out to kill you.

Kelly Rourke S:
Right. And I do believe I have a PhD in Google MD. The other thing is, is make sure you choose to speak with a pediatrician that has a specialty in drug exposed babies. I think that adoptive families need to go and speak with a medical professional who specializes in utero drug exposure. I think that if they are able to get the firsthand knowledge that will help them decide what they are comfortable with and what they’re not comfortable with. Another really good recommendation would be to speak with adoptive families who have adopted a child that has had in utero drug exposure.

Ron Reigns:
Would Building Arizona Families be able to get these type of people in contact with each other?

Kelly Rourke S:
Oh, absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke S:
Yes. We have many, many families that have adopted drug exposed babies. They’re more than happy to provide information about their experience. Again, they may not be medical professionals, however, they can just share their experience. I think that that really gives a perspective, adoptive parent some knowledge and some power over understanding what it really is and what it really looks like. We’re always afraid of the unknown, and that’s why adoption’s key, because if you have the knowledge and the education, then you’re able to make a decision without fear. That’s the goal.

Ron Reigns:
Excellent.

Kelly Rourke S:
Mental illness is another topic that is prevalent in adoption. Mental illness can be genetic. It can also not be genetic. There are components that are, and there are components that are not. We have birth mothers that are diagnosed with a mental illness, and adoptive families sometimes have concerns and sometimes they don’t. And again, what we do is we recommend to speak with a professional in that field and make sure that they are matched with a birth mother of their comfort level. So in other words, if a birth mother has, let’s say, bipolar disorder, and they’re concerned that that may be passed down to the child and that’s a real fear or concern for them, then maybe that’s not going to be a good match for them in the future. That is another category where I would recommend that they speak with another adoptive family that has had experience with a mom with mental illness.

Kelly Rourke S:
When adoptive families come into our program, they do fill out a preference sheet, and in that preference sheet it really states everything that they feel would be a good match for their family. Sometimes adoptive families are hesitant to put things down because they’re afraid of offending an adoption agency or they’re afraid they’re going to come across as a certain way. Whereas the preference sheet is really so that we can understand what is going to work best in your family.

Ron Reigns:
Right. You want the best match possible for-

Kelly Rourke S:
Absolutely. On all ends, because you want-

Ron Reigns:
On all ends. On the whole triad.

Kelly Rourke S:
Yeah. You want to make sure that the adoptive family is ready and prepared to deal with whatever issues that may or may not occur with the adopted child, and you want to make sure that the birth mother is reassured that this family is ready and prepared to accept and deal with anything that occurs along those lines. The other piece is when an adoptive family comes to us and talks about concerns. Whether you’re adopting or whether you’re having a biological child, things happen during pregnancy. Regardless of whether or not you’re using substances or whether or not you have a mental illness, there are disorders and non-genetic issues that can arise and do. There’s no guarantee of a perfect outcome medically whether you adopt a child or whether you have one biologically.

Ron Reigns:
Absolutely. That’s just life.

Kelly Rourke S:
That’s nature.

Ron Reigns:
There’s no guarantees in life.

Kelly Rourke S:
Down syndrome is one that we don’t see very often. There are waiting lists for people, for adoptive families who would like to adopt a child with Down syndrome.

Ron Reigns:
Really?

Kelly Rourke S:
Yes, and I think that that’s amazing.

Ron Reigns:
I do too. Because when I think of somebody who can care for children with Down syndrome or similar problems, I just think that’s something I could never do. That’s why you hire a plumber for instance, because they have the tools and the skillset to do the job. Whereas if I’m looking on Google to try and figure it out, you know what I’m saying?

Kelly Rourke S:
I do.

Ron Reigns:
Does that make sense?

Kelly Rourke S:
It does, it does. However, I think that again-

Ron Reigns:
I just think it’s commendable.

Kelly Rourke S:
The fear of the unknown is really all it is. In other words, when I was pregnant with my youngest son, he just turned eight a couple months ago, I was over the age of 35. My doctor said to me …

Ron Reigns:
“There is a risk.”

Kelly Rourke S:
“There is a risk. What do you want to do if the baby tests positive for having Down syndrome?” And I looked at him and for some reason my mind went blank and I didn’t understand. I said, “What do you mean what do I want to do?” And he said, “Would you want to continue with the pregnancy?” And my thought was, “Of course I do. This is my child. I’m going to love my child, whether my child comes out with Down syndrome, whether my child comes out with three arms and five legs. It’s not going to matter. But I still wanted to take the test because I just wanted to be prepared. I wanted to be educated. So if my child did have Down syndrome, which gratefully he didn’t, I would be able to be ready and prepared and knowledgeable.

Ron Reigns:
That’s fair enough, and I think that’s what you do you. If that situation presents itself, like we said, there’s no guarantees in life, then you handle it or, but I just … I’m blown away by people who can, because I’m afraid I couldn’t. I just don’t have that confidence in myself.

Kelly Rourke S:
I think you’re underestimating yourself.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, I hope so.

Kelly Rourke S:
I do. I think you’re underestimating yourself. Another aspect is birth defects. Sometimes even if you have regular ultrasounds and you have all the prenatal testing done, sometimes birth defects happen and we don’t see them very often. We do see them … Again, it can happen whether you have a biological child or whether you’re adopting. Those things just happen. But there are many, many, many adoptive families that are very excited, happy and wanting and willing to adopt a special needs child or a child that has a birth defect.

Ron Reigns:
Certainly.

Kelly Rourke S:
Another issue that comes up frequently with adoption is multiple birth fathers. When a woman comes into our agency and she fills out the forms for adoption and she’s talking about the birth father of her unborn baby, she may or may not know the names of all of the birth fathers. Sometimes there’s one. I’ve seen up to six or seven.

Ron Reigns:
Wow.

Kelly Rourke S:
Yes.

Ron Reigns:
And no judgment, I think.

Kelly Rourke S:
Nope. No judgment at all. We see it all day, every day. There’s nothing at this point that surprises me. I believe that women are survivors, and they will do what they have to do. That being said, sometimes they may not know the name of all the birth fathers and how they got there. It doesn’t matter. They’re in the right place surrounded by the right people, and they’re making the right choice. So you can still place your baby for adoption even if you don’t know the names of all the birth fathers. There’s a process we go through with a private investigator and a process server, and we as an agency can take care of that. That is something that birth mothers don’t need to worry about whatsoever, and that is also something that the adoptive families can rest assured that we know how to handle.

Ron Reigns:
Okay. But along the same lines, now, doesn’t that create a problem for the adopting parents in that they won’t know the entire medical history of the child?

Kelly Rourke S:
Yes and no. It could create. It could definitely create the ambiguity of not knowing a full medical history. However, the only thing in life we know is what, death and taxes, so there you go.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke S:
With smoking, a question I get frequently also from adoptive families is, does the birth mother smoke? A lot of our birth mothers smoke. A lot of people in the United States smoke. Again, we don’t judge, and with smoking, a lot of people use it as a stress reliever and to help calm them down. A birth mother is going through a lot when she’s placing her baby for adoption. Smoking isn’t something that we focus on.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah. You don’t want to add on top of that by nagging.

Kelly Rourke S:
No, no.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke S:
No, no. Our goal and our role is to produce a positive adoption outcome. Our goal is not to be a drug rehabilitation center. It’s not to be a smoking cessation center. It’s not to ask the birth mother to conform to what we want her to be. It’s to help her find herself and to help her place her baby for adoption.

Ron Reigns:
And in the end, the adoptive parents a lot of the times are like, “Okay, I want this child no matter what the hindrances and problems might be. I want this child.”

Kelly Rourke S:
Absolutely. And at the end of the day, the adoptive parents can look at the situation and state, “Do we want to be parents?” Because a lot comes with being a mom and a dad, as you know. I will tell you, a lot comes. A lot of unexpected situations arise. Children don’t always do what they’re told … What? They … I know, right? They will surprise you. Things occur. Again, another roller coaster.

Kelly Rourke S:
We do also get birth mothers that come to us that are either incarcerated or have been incarcerated, or are headed to be incarcerated, and birth mothers can also rest assured that they can still place their baby, whether they’re in jail or prison or a halfway house. We often will get calls directly from the prison or the jail and they’re women are looking to place their baby for adoption. They really want to make sure that their child can go to an adoptive family and straight to a home, rather than into foster care if they don’t have a family member that can take the child. Ron, I know you have some questions about adoption that you wanted me to answer, so let’s go over some of those.

Ron Reigns:
Now, there’s a lot of adoptions across the country who are adopting from Arizona. Is there a reason for that?

Kelly Rourke S:
Yes. We do have a lot of adoptive families from other states that adopt domestically out of our agency. We actually adopt more to the state of Kentucky than we do Arizona, and the reason for that is because of our consent laws. Arizona is very adoption friendly. Our consent laws are such that a birth mother can sign consent for adoption at 72 hours after delivery. In some other states, they have consent laws where they are revocable up to three weeks where they can’t sign for up to 10 days, and that’s very difficult on not only the adoptive family but also on the birth mother because everything’s in limbo for that time.

Ron Reigns:
Okay. Now, how about baby showers? Is this a good idea?

Kelly Rourke S:
When there’s an adoption situation, we don’t recommend a baby shower prior to the baby being placed with a family. What a lot of adoptive families are doing now is called a sip and see, and a sip and see is where they will have tea and little hors d’oeuvres and they can see the baby after the baby’s been born. They always recommend you wait a while, because again, the baby’s very young and you don’t want to expose and hand around a baby that has just been born.

Ron Reigns:
Lot of germs.

Kelly Rourke S:
Right. But having a baby shower is really twofold for an adoptive family. There’s two reasons why we don’t recommend it. One, if the adoption does not have a good outcome and the birth mother does not place the baby for adoption, the adoptive family is left with not only all of the gifts and the items that were purchased, but all of the memories of the baby shower and it’s very traumatic. It’s traumatic enough when an adoption doesn’t have a good outcome, but to have that added layer I think just makes it much harder. We have had situations where the birth mother and the adoptive mother want to do a gender reveal together. We’ve had this done over FaceTime with each other, and that’s darling and that’s cute, when it’s just the two of them doing it together and they find out at the same time. Or we’ll have the family on FaceTime and the birth mother is getting an ultrasound done and again, that’s amazing.

Ron Reigns:
Cool. How about the baby’s name? Who gets to pick that? Is that the birth mother? The adoptive parents?

Kelly Rourke S:
That’s a really big one. So both.

Ron Reigns:
Both?

Kelly Rourke S:
The short answer, both. There are situations where the birth mother will choose a name, and in that name she will put it on the original birth certificate. If the adoptive family has a different name, they are legally allowed to change the name when the adoption becomes finalized and there’ll be a new birth certificate that was issued. When I was born, my first original birth certificate states [Baby Girl Evans 00:21:30]. Okay. So my mother didn’t name me. They just put at that point baby girl, which I think is kind of cute.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, absolutely.

Kelly Rourke S:
The other thing is is that sometimes birth mothers and adoptive families will unanimously agree on a name, and that’s always our favorite situation. We’ve had situations where the adoptive family will take the name that the birth mother chooses and they get the middle name, or they’ll take the birth mother’s name and make it the middle name. We also get ones that are different. There was a birth mother who named her baby Samara, after the girl from the horror movie The Ring.

Ron Reigns:
I’m sorry. Really?

Kelly Rourke S:
Yes. And the adoptive-

Ron Reigns:
Love that movie.

Kelly Rourke S:
Yeah, it was a good movie. The adoptive family really wasn’t comfortable keeping that, and so they did go ahead and change that.

Ron Reigns:
I can understand that.

Kelly Rourke S:
Yeah, so.

Ron Reigns:
Now, what does the agency and you in particular think about decorating, for instance, the baby’s room?

Kelly Rourke S:
Again, it’s not something we recommend.

Ron Reigns:
Kind of the same reason as before?

Kelly Rourke S:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
You don’t want to pile another part right on top.

Kelly Rourke S:
It’s so exciting to learn you’re going to be a parent. There’s, in my mind, nothing more exciting. However, again, it’s a constant reminder, and when an adoption doesn’t go through it is again, very traumatic. And having a room that’s already been decorated is really hard, because if you go on and you choose to try to adopt again, then in your mind you’re thinking, “Okay, well do I change that room because it’s going to remind me of the baby that I didn’t get to bring home? Or am I going to just alter it a little bit?” And while you’re waiting to become a parent at that point, there’s a room that you want to avoid. I had a situation where a family had completely decorated the room and the adoption didn’t go through, and the adopted mother was so upset she actually couldn’t even go into the house until her husband went in and a couple of friends I think helped him-

Ron Reigns:
And renovated.

Kelly Rourke S:
And he removed everything.

Ron Reigns:
Got it all out.

Kelly Rourke S:
Everything. She couldn’t see anything. Yeah, it was really hard. It was really traumatic.

Ron Reigns:
I’ve heard you talk, you know, outside the podcast about intensive birth mother case management. What exactly is that?

Kelly Rourke S:
So our agency takes the approach of using an intensive form of case management for birth mothers. What that means is that we go the extra mile with our birth mothers. We keep our caseloads low, so a birth mother case manager will have a lower case load than the average adoption case worker, and that gives us the opportunity to bond with the birth mother. To attend all of the doctor’s appointments, to drive her to her counseling appointments, to help her get an ID if she doesn’t have one. They’re able to stay in communication and build a relationship. I’ve had our caseworkers be invited into the labor and delivery room so that they can help coach the birth mother through.

Kelly Rourke S:
A lot of the women that come to us don’t have somebody that is in a supportive role for them. They don’t have somebody to lean on, to call, to say good morning, to say good night, to reach out when they’re having a hard day. When you’re going through the adoption process and you’re taking this journey, it’s so much easier to walk it with somebody else than to walk it by yourself. So, as an agency, that’s what we focus on providing.

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 Don’t Know as our theme song. 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 they have a program on site to provide continued support through the Donna K. Evans foundation. You can contact us 24/7 at (623) 695-4112. That’s (623) 695-4112, or our toll free number 1-800-340-9665. You can also check out our blogs and website at azpregnancyhelp.com. Next time we’ll be discussing myths about adoption on Birth Mother Matters and Adoption for Kelly Rourke Scarry. I’m Ron Reigns. We’ll see you then.

 

 

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