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.
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.
I know that my daughter would be well taken care of with them.
Don’t have an abortion, give this child a chance.
All I could think about was needing to save my son.
My name is Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I’m the Executive Director, President, and Co-Founder of one of the infant adoption agencies in the state of Arizona, Building Arizona Families Adoption Agency. In addition to 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.
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.
So today’s podcast, we are going to revisit the incredibly important, and I would say one of the biggest hesitation to adoptive families, choosing adoption as their method to becoming a family. And that is the possibility of a disruption or a disruptive match. So that being said, we have Becky is our adoptive family case manager. She is the supervisor over all of the adoptive family case managers. She is also the hospital supervisor over all the case managers, both birth mother case managers and adoptive family case managers. So she is on the front and center. She has seen a ton during the span of her working with our infant adoption agency, Building Arizona Families, which she’s been with us for years and years and years. She is an adoptive mom of two boys. And she really comes at this from a very professional perspective, but yet has the added asset of being able to interject a personal experience as well.
She can relate to many, many of the adoptive families searching for infant adoption agencies and coming into the program because she has walked in their shoes prior to adopting her boys. She is somebody that I get call after call, on telling me what a joy she was to work with during their experience that they really feel that she is one of the main reasons that they now have the child that they have, and they often send her pictures, and she is really a light in the agency. So we are so blessed to have her. And I’m so excited that she’s going to join us today. So with no further ado, let’s bring Becky on.
First of all, Becky, thank you for coming and joining us on our podcast. And we are following up on a series that we started last week while we were talking about disruptions that can happen when dealing with infant adoption agencies and the effect that it has on adoptive families and the role that we as an agency play, as well as the role that you, as an adoptive parent case manager and supervisor play. So what does it look like for you when a match disrupts or an actual placement disrupts?
As a case manager at an infant adoption agency, we do everything that we can to be the support to adopting families. Sometimes being that support is actually giving the adoptive parent’s permission to grieve. I know that sounds a little odd to say giving permission to grieve, but sometimes just stating that it’s okay, it’s not a business transaction. This is an emotional road traveling, going through domestic adoption. And grief is part of that road when you have a disruption at one of these infant adoption agencies when a family goes through that. So walking through those steps of grief, there is anger, frustration, just disappointment, and that feeling of loss, the loss of that child. And being able to just go through that step-by-step and walking potential adoptive parents through that, those steps of grief and offering that support through that and resources to help through that.
As a supervisor I know in working with you at our infant adoption agency for a long time, it is something that you absolutely, as we all do, probably the worst part of the job, is having to make that phone call or in-person go and talk with the adoptive family. When you’re working with the other adoptive family case managers, and you’re coaching them through this, what are some things that you tell them to kind of take the sting away as you’re saying this to the adoptive families?
We want to be real with the family. Being there emotionally with them, trying to give them every bit of support that we can. I tell my case managers that work with me, to be there emotionally. And if that means… We’re feeling the sting of it too, as you said, that phone call of making that call or being there with the family. It is the worst phone call to have to make. What’s emotional for us as well, it’s a loss for us. Just being real and there’s times that we just have to sit and cry with a family. Then try to turn it around to help reevaluate and turn things more positive because we want to give hope, because this is a horrible place that they are right now, but there is hope for their baby and their baby is out there. Just turning that to let’s get busy and let’s go through the process of grief, but then not sit back. And while in this pain right here, but move forward.
I know that you are an adoptive mom and another one of your adoptive parent case managers is an adoptive mom as well.
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yes.
How do you think that your adoption experience plays into your ability to connect with these adoptive families when working at an infant adoption agency, , especially during the hard times?
I think it’s an unfortunate advantage, but it is an advantage to be able to say, I know what you’re going through, I know what that feeling is of all of my hope is in someone else making the hardest choice of their life and my greatest joy comes from someone else’s greatest heartache. Being able to give examples of what my husband and I went through to become adoptive parents is giving a different perspective because they can feel that I have been there. I know, I know those ups and downs, and I feel that, that helps me to relate to the families because I know that pain. I know that excitement. I know the anticipation, and the sorrow because I have been there. And being able to relate to someone, when you have been in their shoes, you’re able to connect on a different level. And I feel that that helps me to be able to relate to my family. I call them my families at our infant adoption agency.. The clients, our clients, at a different level than some other case managers are able to.
Now, when you’re dealing with a family who is going through a disruption, do you have any… I mean, not like it’s just a standard thing, but do you have any stories that you tell them to help them understand and get through this horrible situation?
I think every situation is very unique because everyone’s coming at it with different emotions and where they are in that grief. The initial shock. I think that the first thing that I always do is remind them, let’s take a moment to grieve and let’s work through these steps of grief, understanding that right now, we’re in a shock. Let’s talk about that shock. Let’s talk about the fact that there’s going to be anger. There’s going to be sadness. There’s going to be a feeling of, I can’t even go forward. It’s not that I have any specific story, but just telling them, yes, we are going to get through this. It’s going to take a little bit of time and it’s going to be a process, but let’s work through the process of grief together.
Do you watch the families as they go through the stages of grief and do you explain to them step over step, what you see happening. And when they get to the anger stage, how do you deal with that?
The anger stage is one thing I tell them, you know what, first of all, I guess this goes back to the other question. I tell them, get away, get away from everybody. Take a weekend. If you possibly can, to take a weekend, because when that anger hits, you’re going to need to just be together and rely on each other to get through that stage. Whatever you need to do to work through that anger. Don’t take it out on each other, but find a way to express that anger without going at each other, because sometimes couples will turn and they will be so angry that they just start bickering at each other, but that doesn’t help us to come to a positive outcome.
So I could tell them if you need to call and you need to scream at me, then you call and you scream at me. If you need it, just yell, that’s fine. Even if you don’t even know what you need to say. If you need to just call and sob on the phone, then you absolutely call and I will listen and offer some resources for counseling to go through that as well.
It sounds like a great approach. I know that we’ve had many families that have unfortunately experienced a disruption in their match or worse within the adoption situations. And I think that when the families get really angry, they’re looking to blame somebody. It’s somebody’s fault. And getting them to understand that it is part of the process is really difficult. Is that aspect of a disruption, hard to train your co-workers on?
It is, but we also, just remind each other continually that, just to be the support at. Whatever way we can be the support to them at our infant adoption agency,, whether it’s offering articles to read or offering counseling for the family. It’s something that’s not easily taught. There are many times that we, as the adoptive parent case manager team, we have to just get on the phone and work through it together, ourselves. And we support each other through that because sometimes we don’t have the answer and we have to say, you know what, let me call you back. And we will call each other and say, “Hey, this is what’s going on. Can you help me?” And we are support to each other through that so that we are able to be the best support to the adoptive parents through it.
You said that you offer counseling and we’ve talked many times before on this podcast about how a disrupted adoption is very much like a death. What does that counseling look like for a family or for a couple?
We do have a counselor that works with infant adoption agencies and she will meet with the family or do a phone counseling with them. What she goes over with them is more of a grief counseling, and then working with them to get back on track to not give up, and to turn their grief into hope and focus on the future, instead of dwelling right there and their grief, and just working through the stages of the grief. If a family is not wanting to utilize the counseling sessions, counseling session with the counselor that we refer, there is many times that we will reach out with the family to every local agency that they may be working with, if they’re out of town or out of state, and they’re not working with us, face-to-face. We’ll reach out and get some support for them through their local agency or consultant.
One aspect that we had discussed in a previous podcast was, in my opinion, when you have maybe a string of disruptions or you have more than one, it is the number one factor, in my opinion, for social worker burnout. That becomes the tipping point where social workers just can’t continue because there’s, it can be so emotionally taxing working for infant adoption agencies. What do you do for self-care to when you’ve had one or two disruptions in a row? And I mean, it’s really hard to be the bearer of bad tidings and to look back and say, okay, you know everybody always looks back and says, okay, what could we as a team done differently? Where did this go wrong? Where is there some…is there a red flag? Is there just collectively trying to make sure that whatever went wrong, and we don’t have a crystal ball, but whatever went wrong, we can try to prevent in the future. So for self-care, what do you do to pick yourself back up?
Often I will call and ask for help because it is difficult to go through that. And especially when you have one or two in a row, it is very emotionally taxing because we do go through that. All of those questions. I will many times just take some time to myself, just to ground myself, and refocus. I will reach out to counseling. It’s nice. I have reached out to you Kelly many, many times, just to help me refocus on the positive because we do have a lot of placements every year, but it doesn’t take away the pain and the grief from that family, but it helps me to get my hope back and to focus back on the positives. And it helps me to be able to help the families to start focusing on the positives and hope for the future.
Make sure to listen to the next episode of Birth Mother Matters in adoption. We’ll be continuing our conversation with Becky and getting her insights on the financial aspects of disruption at infant adoption agencies, as well as what’s meant to be, and trying to find peace and hope through a disruption.
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 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. You can also find out more information about Building Arizona families on their website at, AZpregnancyhelp.com.
Thanks also go out to Grapes, for allowing us to use their for allowing us to use their song, I Don’t Know as our theme song. Birth Mother Matters in 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, birthmothermatterspodcast.com. Tune in next time on Birth Mother Matters in adoption for Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I’m Ron Reigns.