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 and share how families can learn more about adoption and how birth mother matters in adoption.
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 6: And I know that my daughter would be well taken care of with them.
Speaker 3: Don’t have an abortion; give this child a chance.
Speaker 4: All I could think about was needing to save my son.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: 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 in 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 and provide valuable information for birth mothers and why birth mothers matter.
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 Rourke-Scarry: Doing part two today regarding adoption and siblings. And today, we’re going to talk about siblings with different adoption stories. And again, I want to start off with a quote, “The greatest gift our parents ever gave us was each other.” And that again is by somebody called, unknown. This Mr., Mrs. Unknown has some great quotes-
Ron Reigns: Amazing library of quotes from Unknown. In the handbook of socialization. When talking about sibling relationships, it says, “usually formed in childhood, they tend to last longer than other key relationships such as those with parents and partners and ordinarily children will spend more time in interactions with siblings than with close others.” And Wendi Sturgis, Judy Dunn, and Lisa Davies, when talking about young children’s perceptions of their relationships with family members said, “Research indicates that biological relatedness was not associated with young children’s perception of closeness to siblings. Being a full half or step sibling did not influence their perception of closeness.”
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: So the second quote that you gave is really interesting to me because the fact that the research indicates that biological relatedness was not associated with young children’s perception of closeness to siblings, being half, full, step, did not influence their perception of closeness, just like adoption would be in that category as well. It’s not listed, but in my opinion, it would be listed as well.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: And so I think that that’s very interesting. I think that we, as a society, put up barriers with words and categories. And if you remove the categories and you remove some of the words as we’re going to talk about, you will see a lot more cohesiveness. We very much like to compartmentalize as a society. And if we stop doing that, I think we’re going to see a different community. So, that being said, it is very common for adopted siblings to have different adoption stories.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: My brother and I were both adopted. Our birth mothers both placed us for adoption at the time that we were born. And we have very different adoption stories. And yet, it didn’t change our relationship because there was no alternative. There was no sense of, oh, well we should have the same or it should be different. We both grew up knowing our adoption story. And it wasn’t ever a competition or something that was really discussed between us. It was just probably the same as, I have this color eyes and you have this color eyes, you know what I mean? It wasn’t any better or worse, just different.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: Adoptive parents can use the opportunity of, with their children, having different adoption stories to impress upon your children, how individual and special they are, but not to an extreme that they’re going to feel different or outcast or like an outsider. You can focus on it and talk about it. But again, don’t make it isolated. Don’t make them feel like they’re so different, even though you keep saying how special they are and how lucky they are. That’s really not how a lot of children would perceive it. So, really focus on how, in every situation, you are comparing and contrasting. In most cases, you can find some commonalities and some similarities. I would start there. And then, I would focus on asking questions on the differences.
Ron Reigns: And that makes a lot of sense. And I think that’s a way we can approach life in general. Like I think of discussing politics for instance. And there’s so much of a division, especially right now in politics, and I’m not going to get into that in particular, but I think one way to approach somebody whose opinion or life is different than yours is, like you say, to point out the things that we have in common about our beliefs. I mean, there’s so many of them. Granted, there’s some drastic differences in our beliefs or our lives or whatever it is, but there’s also so many similarities that we have in common and we should focus on that when we approach somebody else’s life or their opinions or whatever it is. So I think that’s vastly important, not just in adoption, but just in life. Look at the things we have in common.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: Our world will be a lot different. The only real way two adopted children can have the same adoption story is if the same biological parents place a second baby for adoption, with the same adoptive family, with the same post-placement communication agreement. And even then, you could still have a different set of circumstances. So, although there may be lots and lots and lots of similarities, there still may be some differences. And again, start with focusing on the commonalities and then go from there.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: Children, really, and I can’t enforce this enough, don’t like to be singled out. They don’t want to be different. They want to blend in. Children generally don’t like to be, as we’ve been stating, to be different. So the traditional family, the ones that, thank goodness, we can see different ones now on TV. But back when we were growing up, other than the Gary Coleman Show-
Ron Reigns: Different Strokes.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: And The Facts of Life. There were very few shows that deviated from the traditional biological nuclear family. There just weren’t very many.
Ron Reigns: I think it’s interesting that you bring that up though, because at least when I was growing up, it seemed like the ones that did deviate. I mean, of course there was the happy days and stuff, which was your traditional nuclear family, but when they did deviate, some of those shows were really popular and interesting. Eight is Enough, like you said, Different Strokes, with Gary Coleman, Facts of Life was obviously at a girl school. So it was a different dynamic too than your traditional. So some of those shows really did stand out even at that time, and I think I learned a lot about the difference, even the Brady Bunch was a mixed family. So there was-
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: Sure, when I think back, I mean, you look at Little House on the Prairie, the Waltons, those families that were nuclear. Now, again, you’re right. There were ones that weren’t. And maybe it was my perception as an adopted child, is the ones that were different were kind of my norm. I mean, I didn’t know any better, but yet I knew that I wasn’t in a biological nuclear family.
Ron Reigns: Right. Okay.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: But I loved Different Strokes, and I loved all of the shows. My favorite was Little House in the Prairie.
Ron Reigns: Okay.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: So when you have the nontraditional nuclear family, you look at, well, what’s the opposite of that? Well, not really opposite, but what’s outside of the nontraditional nuclear family. There are adopted siblings, foster siblings, step-siblings, half-siblings. Again, we’ve created so many categories, and some people would say, “well, it’s organization and it’s definitive, and we can look at the, the picture like this.” But again, I think it just puts up walls and barriers. And I actually don’t like titles before names. I like sisters and brothers and siblings.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: We have a blended family, and I don’t like the term step. I don’t like the term stepmom, stepdad, stepsister, or stepbrother. And in our household, it is guided to not use those terms. Obviously, when they’re outside our home or at school or whatever, they can choose to refer to whatever they would like to, but in our home, it’s something that we discourage. Because, again, I think it just puts up barriers. And it lets people know that you’re my sister, but not really. Because I’m going to put this, this word in front of sister to put my hand out and keep you at bay. And I don’t want that. I want our children to look at each other as siblings. So I think that when we add words in front of sibling, sister, brother, it gives a shout out that it’s not a traditional relationship. And even though it’s just a word or a precursor, it doesn’t give the same vibe. It lets somebody know, “Hey, this isn’t, not really.” And who’s to say it’s not really?
Ron Reigns: Right, and it really does put somebody, or maybe both of them, in that outsider box. My stepsister or my stepbrother. And I agree with you a hundred percent. They should be my, “oh, this is sister and this is my brother.” Whether they’re step or adopted or whatever, like you say, the precursor is, they should just be your sister or brother or mom, dad, son, daughter.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: In developing a close family bond, it means shedding those barriers and stop feeling the need to explain the origination of your family and how you came together. When you walk up to somebody and you talk about your family, you don’t grab your spouse by the hand and feel like you need to explain how you two got together and when you first met each other, every single time you introduced them to somebody. And so why do that when you’re talking about your children, or they’re talking about each other?
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: What’s really important is the stability and permanence children experience and parenting them to the best of your ability. Not categorizing them and defining by how they came into the family, whether, again, they were adopted or whether they’re foster, everybody wants to belong. And putting a precursor in front of their title in a relationship is just causing division. Even if it’s just in their head.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: An important difference is that adoption stories can be handled with care to not overinflate or segregate a child’s personal history. So what I mean by this is, the focus can be how much the child means to the family and how their life journey will be very similar to his or her siblings because they’re being raised together.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: So changing the focus on how they came into the family, to who they are in the family, and who they’re going to become, I think gives the child a sense of empowerment and control. When you are adopted, or you have a disability, there is a feeling of a loss of control and power over certain things. And when somebody experiences a lack of control or power, they don’t feel safe. And in order for someone to feel safe, they have to be able to feel in control. That’s why some people don’t like to drink alcohol. Because they don’t want that sense of feeling out of control. They want to be able to stay in control of themselves, and their thoughts, and their feelings.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: And if you are comparing birth stories from one child to another, within earshot, or even with the children, they may feel like, well, I had no control over that. My mom chose what she chose, and it’s not my fault. And so that being said, it’s a lack of control. And children very much want to be in control. And that gives them a little bit to talk about who they are now and what amazing things they can accomplish.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: You focus on what a family is and what makes a family. Relating the creation of a family to the creation of our country is another way to explain the positives and beauty of creating a nation, but doing it in such a way that you’re not separating or making the child feel like they’re the outsider coming in.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: So in other words, if your child wants to discuss their adoption story and they have a different adoption story than their sibling, then focus on, “yes, this is your story, but that doesn’t mean that you’re better or worse or even really different than your sister. Your story just changes a little bit.” Maybe in her adoption story, this is how her birth mother decided on adoption. And this is the way that your birth mother decided on adoption. And they’re both beautiful stories. They just have a lot of similarities and a lot of commonalities, but there are a few differences. But really, let’s focus on how similar the two of you are. And that’s going to create a higher source and sense of self-esteem. And that’s really important, especially with children, if they’re having adoption-related issues and they’re feeling insecure. This last quote that, Ron, I’d love for you to read, is something that I actually don’t want to end with. I’d like to just discuss it before we close out the podcast today.
Ron Reigns: “Sibling relationships, outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after corals, that would sink any friendship. They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty, and distrust.” And that’s by Erica E Goode.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: I found this quote so amazing because it really does talk about the ups and downs of sibling relationships. And like you, my relationship with my adopted brother growing up, it went from us not getting along to us very much getting along, but it wasn’t an up and down thing. It was pretty consistent in both areas.
Kelly Rourke-Scarry: And I would say that as an adult, my relationship with all my siblings is very positive. But that’s not always the case. And it’s so interesting to me how, regardless if we’re talking about adopted siblings, foster siblings, step-siblings, half-siblings, it really doesn’t matter. It really just depends on those people. At that point, forget all of the precursors and acronyms and anything else you want to put in there, it’s just the relationships. But they do outlast some marriages and survive the death of some parents. And resurface after corals, that would sink any friendship. You always hear people say, “yeah, I had this knockdown drag out with my sibling and if it was anybody else, I’d never speak to them again.” And it’s so interesting that that is truly your lifelong relationship. Good or bad. For better or for worse. And I mean, to this day, do you have a close relationship with your siblings?
Ron Reigns: It’s odd. We have a very close bond with each other, like on an emotional level. But we rarely talk. I mean, I’ll talk to my brother, maybe a couple times a month, maybe. My sisters about the same. But there is a bond and a love that distance and time don’t matter. I mean, once we start talking again or hanging out or whatever it is, whether I go out to see my brother in South Carolina, it’s like no time has passed. It’s amazing, and I am very blessed for my siblings and these last two podcasts, if they do nothing else, maybe it’ll remind somebody to call their brother or their sister or their mom or their dad. Somebody that they haven’t told how much they love him in a long time and get that done.
Ron Reigns: Thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption. If you’re listening and you’re dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and want more information about adoption, Building Arizona Families is a local Arizona adoption agency and available 24/7 by phone or text at (623)-695-4112 that’s (623)-695-4112. We can make an immediate appointment with you to get started on creating an Arizona adoption plan, or just get you more information about birth mother matters. You can also find out more information about Building Arizona Families on their website at www.AZpregnancyhelp.com. Thanks also go out to Grapes for allowing us to use their song, “I Don’t Know,” as our theme song.
Ron Reigns: Birth Mother Matters and Adoption was written and produced by Kelly Rourke-Scarry and edited by me. Please rate and review this podcast wherever you’re listening to us. We’d really appreciate it. We also now have a website at www.birthmothermatterspodcast.com. Tune in next time on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption for Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I’m Ron Reigns.