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 can’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 R.S.:
My name is Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I am the Executive Director, President and Co-founder of Building Arizona Families Adoption Agency, the Donna Kay 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 co-host 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.

Kelly R.S.:
We are going to be talking about adopted children, learning about being adopted. A common question is, when do I tell my child that they’re adopted?

Ron Reigns:
18, 19.

Kelly R.S.:
Today is the answer.

Ron Reigns:
Today.

Kelly R.S.:
Today. It is always recommended that children know the truth about adoption. They need to hear it from those that love them and those that they trust. In adoption situations, sometimes adoptive parents would prefer that the child not know that they’re adopted. They don’t want the child to feel like they’re different or that there’s a reason that they were adopted, that they really aren’t their real parents and this is not something that should be focused on. These are the adoptive parent fears.

Ron Reigns:
This is an old school thought, right?

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
This is from back in the sixties and seventies.

Kelly R.S.:
This is an old school thought and oftentimes when adoptions were closed. Now that adoptions are going much more towards open and the trend is going what I believe is the right direction towards open adoption. It is absolutely imperative that the children know that they were adopted. I don’t remember being told I was adopted. I have always known that I was adopted, and it gave me a perception of understanding a little bit about who I was.

Ron Reigns:
Right. We all, especially as young people, we all question who we are.

Kelly R.S.:
Our identities.

Ron Reigns:
And if you have added on top of that something that you don’t understand.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Wow. Yeah, and then you stigmatize it by not talking about it.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
And being out in the open. That’s…

Kelly R.S.:
Correct.

Ron Reigns:
I think that’s imperative.

Kelly R.S.:
And you also have the concern of if I don’t tell my child that my child is adopted, what if they find out and how would they find out? I had a classmate in high school that back in the day when you would prick your finger and you would learn about blood types.

Ron Reigns:
Oh wow.

Kelly R.S.:
And this child had done his blood type and went home and asked his parents with their blood types were and after learning in school that his blood type did not match his adoptive parents’ blood type. That was how he found out he was adopted. And he felt very much lied to.

Ron Reigns:
Betrayed and like, wow, why didn’t you tell me this? Yeah.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
And it’s such a tough thing as it is.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely. And on a funny note, after that situation occurred, years following that, I think the school had to send home a disclaimer before letting them know.

Ron Reigns:
Hey, we’re going to take their blood type.

Kelly R.S.:
Correct. And if there’s anything hidden, you may want to …

Ron Reigns:
You may want to talk to them beforehand.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Or lie about your own blood type just to continue the lie.

Kelly R.S.:
Well, no, no, no, let’s not lie. No, no, no, no. I get what you’re saying. Another funny story about that is sometimes as adoption professionals, we really need to encourage adoptive parents that being open about the child being adopted is really important. Long time ago in the beginning of building the adoption agency, I was meeting with a couple and they were adopting a baby from Guatemala and they were a Caucasian couple and it was a little girl they were adopting. And this is a long time ago significantly because Guatemala is no longer open for international adoptions. But the adoptive mother was saying that she did think that she was probably going to tell her daughter that she was adopted and her husband looked at her and just started belly laughing and said, “Honey, I think she’s already going to know.”

Ron Reigns:
She’ll figure this one out. She doesn’t need blood types.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely. And what was even funnier about it now that I think back on this story, when you were adopting from Guatemala, you would receive a picture of the baby prior to going to bring the baby home. And so they had a picture of their soon to be adopted daughter and it was a black and white photo. And the adoptive mother was looking at the photo, she was looking at her and she was admiring how beautiful she was and she said, “I think she looks just like me. I mean we really look alike.” And her husband goes, “nope, nope.”

Ron Reigns:
Not a bit.

Kelly R.S.:
Not at all. And it was just, it was endearing to see that she was trying to find a connection.

Ron Reigns:
Right. Wow.

Kelly R.S.:
But at the same time, I mean, no, she didn’t look anything alike.

Ron Reigns:
She was in denial, right?

Kelly R.S.:
Her husband’s response was just comical. Just, nope. Not, not at all.

Ron Reigns:
That is great.

Kelly R.S.:
So yeah, it was funny. One thing that I really want to get across is, this is for adoptees and adoptive parents, especially. Adopted people, whether they’re children or adults, like to be around other adopted people.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly R.S.:
It’s kind of like a club. We have an instant connection.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
And I think it’s because when you are adopted, you are told, oh, you’re so special. You’re adopted. You’re so lucky you’re adopted. You’re this, you’re that. And that singles you out.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
In society, people don’t like to be singled out as a general rule. So when they can be around somebody else who is being told those same things, there is a sense of if we stand together, we’re no longer singled out because there’s two of us and not just one.

Ron Reigns:
You’re building a community.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Of people that who can relate to each other. I think it’s fantastic.

Kelly R.S.:
I do too. And going down that road, I think it’s really important for adoptive parents to encourage relationships with other families that have adopted children. So those adopted children can be raised around other adopted children and have that connection. And it’s something that as they get older, adoptive parents can also make a reference to. “Oh do you remember Billy, Billy was adopted?” And so they can build this into their childhood as a normal, which it is, occurring event. Again, there’s no age that’s too young to start talking about adoption.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
There are beautiful picture books. There are amazing stories. There are celebrities that talk about being adopted or adopting or have been adopted or placing a baby for adoption. All aspects of the triad. If you have a child that is into celebrities, you can have them kind of relate to or point them out or show them or maybe they have a sports hero. And when you’re talking about adoption, make sure you’re using age appropriate language. Don’t tell more than the child can understand or really asks for.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly R.S.:
So we often say use, if you’re talking to a toddler, use terminology like your tummy mommy as the birth mother.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly R.S.:
And your part mommy as the adoptive mother. And that way you can start at a very young age explaining that you have two mommies. The other thing is is keep the conversation light, make it a normal topic. Make it as if you’re talking about what you’re going to have for lunch or dinner. Your child is going to read your body language and the inflection and tone in your voice. So make sure that you’re happy and positive when you’re talking about it. If this is something that you’re speaking about in hushed tones and you have a worried look on your face or tears in your eyes, you’re going to make the child concerned and worried.

Ron Reigns:
Right. Make them feel like it’s something shameful.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
To be hidden.

Kelly R.S.:
And it’s so important that this is something that is celebrated. What a beautiful thing their birth mother did. What a beautiful thing because if you tell it in such a way the child may develop a rejection complex. If you say your birth mother gave you up for adoption, the child is going to wonder, well why would somebody give me up? What’s wrong with me? Why would somebody give me up? If you say your birth mother placed you for adoption, right? That’s a whole different connotation.

Ron Reigns:
Right, and especially if it’s a semi-open or open adoption.

Kelly R.S.:
Correct.

Ron Reigns:
Where the child sees the birth mother.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
And that’s part of their actual life.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely, and that’s where the terms tummy mommy or heart mommy or whatever terminology you want to choose.

Ron Reigns:
Whatever you want to use.

Kelly R.S.:
Right.

Ron Reigns:
But again, age appropriate.

Kelly R.S.:
It will help them distinguish between the two. The two mothers again, always use positive language when you were referring to the birth mother and the birth father always. If the adoption had rocky points or there were lows or there were situations that you wished hadn’t occurred that occurred during the adoption journey with your child, please focus on the positives.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
And only discuss those with your adopted child. Celebrating the child’s birth mother is going to be a connection to them. When a child becomes older and as they hit adolescence and older, they understand that they are biologically connected to their birth mother and if you speak negatively about a birth mother, they’re going to internalize that negativity as well. And that’s something that you want to avoid.

Ron Reigns:
Right. It makes me think of, in my circumstances, my ex-wife. I tried to never, I slipped one time, I’ll admit it, but I tried to never speak ill of his mother because that is his mother and it’s the same thing. You don’t want to put that bad emotion in their head about something that’s very, that’s related to them.

Kelly R.S.:
Right, because you don’t want them to internalize it as part of them.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely. Say positive things. Find positive things to say. The fact that their birth mother lovingly placed their baby in your home with your family for adoption says volumes.

Ron Reigns:
Right. It was a gracious gift to no matter your personal feelings or not.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely. Absolutely. The other thing to remember is adopted children don’t want to feel different. Nobody does, adopted or not. Being told you’re special because you’re adopted isn’t really helpful. It’s fine if it’s in the context of a conversation but being told you’re special is not something that’s going to make somebody who’s questioning their identity or trying to understand what adoption means or how to process that feel better. Make sure when your child is in grade school that your school is adoption friendly and your child’s teacher understands adoption. So if they do activities like family trees or ancestry research that you can get a fore warning so that you can make sure that you prepare your child and explain how to react in this situation and talk to them about family trees and how they’d like to do this activity.

Ron Reigns:
That’s very smart.

Kelly R.S.:
Once your child understands that they are adopted and they’ve been given the information that you have and they’re at an age where they can understand what adoption is and what it means. Really let your child dictate when you talk about adoption. If your child is sitting at the dinner table, it doesn’t mean that you need to bring up adoption every three days or once a month. Let them bring it in and you bring it in every now and then.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly R.S.:
So that you kind of keep the flow going.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
Sometimes adopted children are hesitant to bring up adoption because they don’t want to hurt their adopted parents feelings. They want to make sure that they’re protective of their adoptive family just like they would be of their birth family. Again, being age appropriate is key. Using big words and terminology that a three, four or five year old doesn’t understand is just going to confuse them.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
And when little ones get confused, oftentimes they get worried because they don’t understand.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, it’s something that brings fear and anxiety, I guess would be the word.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
Another point to remember is when a child gets older, they may or may not have more questions about their birth family. They may talk about wanting to reunite or find their birth mother if you don’t have an open adoption.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
And this is something that adoptive parents can be very supportive of and they can even offer to help assist them in their search. Another point that I would recommend is not to announce that your child is adopted to people when you first meet them.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly R.S.:
That is singling out your child and it’s going to make them feel different and as we talked about, children don’t want to feel different. If you’re standing in line at Walmart and you’ve got your child in the grocery cart and the lady in front of you turns around and says, “Oh, is this your little girl?” And the adoptive mother would say, “Yes, this is Sally and she’s adopted.”

Ron Reigns:
Why did you have to add that?

Kelly R.S.:
Right.

Ron Reigns:
This is Sally, that’s all you need.

Kelly R.S.:
This is Sally. This is my daughter Sally.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly R.S.:
Every time you point that out, your child may wonder why is that being stated over and over again. Why are we referring to that if it’s not a big deal and it’s loving and I’m just like everybody else, my birth mother made a beautiful choice. Why are we still announcing it to everybody? And again, we want to keep those internal questions in their head to a minimum. Statements that I would recommend not be made by society or family members or friends or coworkers to an adopted child would include, “I can’t believe you’re adopted. You look just like your mom or dad.” That really can be taken as rejection.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
That adoption is rejection. And that’s not something I would ever recommend. Another statement would be, “You really fit in with our family.” Well, the response would be, “Well, why wouldn’t I?”

Ron Reigns:
Why wouldn’t I? Certainly.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely. Another one would be, “Don’t you feel special?” And we’re talking about newborn adoption.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
So this child doesn’t know any different.

Ron Reigns:
This is all they’ve known.

Kelly R.S.:
This is all they’ve known. And so if you ask them, “Don’t you feel special?” I mean, that would be like me saying, “Don’t you feel special that you are 5’10.” Or however tall you are.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, that’s close enough.

Kelly R.S.:
Okay. But don’t you feel special that you’re 5’10?

Ron Reigns:
I kind of do.

Kelly R.S.:
Okay. Well you know where I’m going.

Ron Reigns:
No, I exactly know where you’re going.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, you’re right.

Kelly R.S.:
Another really hurtful question and I don’t think people mean to come across hurtful when they’re making these statements or questions.

Ron Reigns:
They’re just not thinking about it.

Kelly R.S.:
Right. They’re not thinking of how it can be internalized. “Why were you adopted?” Why were you born? There’s no real solid answer sometimes. They may not know. When I, before I met my birth mother, I was asked this question a lot.

Ron Reigns:
Really?

Kelly R.S.:
For the few people that knew.

Ron Reigns:
Why were you adopted?

Kelly R.S.:
And I would always state because my mom was 16 because again, I only had three facts. And so that was …

Ron Reigns:
And because my mom liked P.E. didn’t fit.

Kelly R.S.:
Right.

Ron Reigns:
Right, I understand.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely. Right. And she came from a big family and I guess I was one too many. So immediately it puts, when you ask somebody why were you adopted, it immediately kicks into …

Ron Reigns:
What’s wrong with you?

Kelly R.S.:
And then you can see where a child will pick up a rejection complex.

Ron Reigns:
Yep.

Kelly R.S.:
This is why open adoption is so important and so critical that we keep as a society moving towards open adoption because so many of these questions can be eliminated. There is not even this, these wouldn’t even enter into people’s minds.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
“Why didn’t your mom want you?”

Ron Reigns:
Oh.

Kelly R.S.:
Well, considering the child was a newborn, they probably have no idea. And it wasn’t that their mother didn’t want them. It’s their mother lovingly chose to place them.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
Another question would be, what does it feel like to be adopted? Well, a baby that was adopted like I was at three days old…

Ron Reigns:
Would have no idea.

Kelly R.S.:
No clue. Another one that is not in any way condescending is what nationality are you. I remember as a child, people would always ask what nationality I was. And in my mind I was thinking, well, take your pick.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly R.S.:
And I would think, okay, well my adoptive parents are Scottish and Irish. So sometimes I would say that.

Ron Reigns:
Now isn’t that a question though, that somebody would ask anybody?

Kelly R.S.:
Yes, absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Whether or not do you think that’s offensive or it’s curiosity.

Kelly R.S.:
No, it’s not offensive intentionally whatsoever.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
But as an adopted child, it’s uncomfortable to answer.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly R.S.:
So if you know somebody who’s adopted…

Ron Reigns:
Just kind of avoid that.

Kelly R.S.:
If they don’t have an open adoption and they haven’t closed adoption.

Ron Reigns:
Right. Thankfully that’s going away. But no. So that’s good.

Kelly R.S.:
Right. Especially with all of the ancestry.

Ron Reigns:
23andMe and all that.

Kelly R.S.:
Yes, I’ve done that one and the ancestry.com and I can tell you…

Ron Reigns:
So what nationality are you?

Kelly R.S.:
Primarily Welsh.

Ron Reigns:
Okay, good.

Kelly R.S.:
The other thing is you’re so lucky.

Ron Reigns:
It’s sounds like it wouldn’t be hurtful but…

Kelly R.S.:
But why am I so lucky? Again, you’re pointing out that I’m different.

Ron Reigns:
Right. I’m not different.

Kelly R.S.:
Right. I’m just like everybody else.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly R.S.:
Anybody who has a disability or something that is not the same as everybody else does not want to be singled out.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly R.S.:
They want to be the same. They don’t want to stand out.

Ron Reigns:
I know this more than most. Yes.

Kelly R.S.:
So you can absolutely relate.

Ron Reigns:
I can relate.

Kelly R.S.:
I think the most important thing to remember is share your child’s adoption story with them lovingly, as early as you can.

Ron Reigns:
And as often as you can without being pushy about it.

Kelly R.S.:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Let them guide it like you said. Yeah, no, I think this is great information.

Kelly R.S.:
And just remember that this is a beautiful thing and if we all look at it as a beautiful thing and understand what a selfless sacrifice a woman made to make your family whole, then we can celebrate that.

Ron Reigns:
Thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption, written and produced by Kelly Rourke-Scarry and edited by Ron Reigns. We also want to thank Building Arizona Families, the Donna Kay Evans Foundation and the You Before Me Campaign. A special thanks goes out to grapes for letting us use their songs, I don’t know as our theme song. You can check out our blogs on our website at azpregnancyhelp.com. For Kelly Rourke-Scarry, I’m Ron Reigns. We’ll see you then.

 

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