Birth Mother Matters in Adoption, Season 2 – Episode #106 – Questions / Answers

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 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 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.

Ron Reigns:

Today on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption, we’re going to do something a little different, and I’m going to try and find out things that I don’t know about adoption. That of course, Kelly being in the adoption industry, not to mention being adopted, she knows these things a lot more than I do. So I’m going to go ahead and kick this off with the idea of the 72 hour wait period, because between the birth of the child and signing of the adoption consent I know that there’s a 72 hour period, and that makes sense. I mean, especially from the birth mother’s standpoint, you want to make sure that she’s in the right frame of mind. She’s had enough time to think about it and that’s a law in Arizona. I don’t think it’s nationwide, right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Actually each state has their own individual laws. So some states have a longer wait period in some states have a shorter wait period.

Ron Reigns:

Okay. And what do you think the average is? Do you think about 72 is the average across the country?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I think 72 hours is considered an adoption friendly state. I think it is actually a fantastic law on behalf of Arizona because it gives the mom enough time without having to rush her decision if she’s had an adoption plan in place and this is something that she’s been building up to. Sometimes moms want to sign sooner than 72 hours, but in the state of Arizona we’re not allowed to let them do that. So I think 72 hours is a really good median timeframe. It doesn’t mean that a mom has to sign at 72 hours though. Sometimes if a mom is taking medication from her delivery, we may have to extend the timeframe to which she can sign because she cannot be under the influence of medication.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

When she signs those papers.

Ron Reigns:

Or like when a baby is born at 10 o’clock at night, for instance, they’re not going to do it exactly three days after. They’re going to wait till the next morning for it.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Well, actually, sometimes we have done them at 10 o’clock at night.

Ron Reigns:

Really?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes. It really depends on the mind frame of the birth mother. So let’s say that you have a birth mother that really wants to put this adoption to bed. She’s really anxious to get the papers signed and put this behind her and move on with her life and know that her baby’s going to a beautiful and safe adoptive family. At that point, I would the executive decision that if this was in her best interest, that we would sign at 10 o’clock at night. Now we wouldn’t sign at two o’clock in the morning, but 10 o’clock at night I would say is not outside the realm of what we have done in the past.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So then it would depend on the frame of mind of the birth mother and what her request is. Now, again, adoption, we work 24/7, 365 a year. I mean we’ve talked about it in the past that we’ve had birth mothers that sign on Christmas Day or sign on New Year’s Day, holidays. And that is one sacrifice that an adoption case manager or a social worker has to make because these are people’s lives. And just like working in the medical field, it doesn’t stop when there’s a holiday.

Ron Reigns:

Right. When it comes to that 72 hours, like you said, I agree with you a hundred percent. That that’s a pretty good… That gives enough time for consideration of what the impacts of this are even after the birth, but how are those 72 hours handled by and large by the adopting family?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

The 72 hour timeframe is obviously a difficult time for everybody. And when I say everybody, I mean the birth mother, the adoptive family, the case managers. So let’s kind of back up a little bit.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So in the state of Arizona, when an adoption agency is doing an adoption, we have something called pre-consents. So we don’t just do post adoption consent. We do what’s called pre consents, and pre is a time where we sit down and we have a pre-consent conference with a birth mother. When we are going over consents, prior to the delivery of a baby, with a birth mother, we’re preparing her for that time when we are going to be executing consents at 72 hours. So this will not be the first time that she has seen the paperwork or the documentation. And again, this is to prepare her so that she has time to think about what she’s signing. Consents are irrevocable, and so it’s really important that she understands all of the language and the documentation that she is going to be executing.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And again, these are irrevocable documents. These documents are the most important part of the adoption process. So it’s really imperative that we do a good job explaining it. We have this conference with her. If for some reason she has come into doing an adoption after the baby has been born, we do have to do a post-birth pre-consent conference prior to doing those consents as well. There is also a timeframe that we honor so that she has enough time to really understand what she is signing.

Ron Reigns:

Definitely. Now the pre-consent conference and the pre-consent documents as well, is that a state law or is that just something that your company does, the Building Arizona Families?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

In the state of Arizona, that is something that all agencies have to do.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Attorneys do a pre-consent conference.

Ron Reigns:

Okay. I’m going to switch gears here a little bit and talk about international adoptions. Because as I work with Lisa, my wife, we mainly focus on domestic adoptions here in the United States, whether the birth parents are in Arizona and then the adopting family is in another state, or whether they’re in the same state, but I don’t know a whole lot about international adoptions. And you guys do international adoptions as well. So what would bring, say an adopting family to the conclusion that they want to adopt from another country?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I think it’s really where somebody’s heart is. Sometimes we’ll have families that’ll have gone on maybe a mission trip to another country, or they have grown up their whole life around maybe having a friend that was adopted from another country, or maybe they have a special liking for another country, or they just feel that that’s where they’re led. We do have employees that have adopted internationally, and so that’s really neat. But I think it’s really where your heart is. You know, some people want an older child adoption. When you’re adopting overseas, really the youngest child at this point that would come home is about 18 months.

Ron Reigns:

Really?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes.

Ron Reigns:

Okay. I didn’t know that as well. Do the adoptive parents, do they usually look for a particular country or is it kind of like what do you have that’s international and then they choose?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right. So certain countries are open for adoption where others are not open for adoption and sometimes a country will open for adoption and then close. They’ll go into like a moratorium or they’ll completely shut down. And we’ve seen that with Guatemala, with Russia. Countries again will open, Romania is another one, and then close. And so if somebody’s interested in international, what they would need to do is go to the US State Department website and see what countries are open. The other thing that you would want to do is you would want to look at the numbers of adoptions that had been done from that country last year. So in other words, if you’re looking at the state department website and you’re seeing a country that you’re very interested in, and there was only three adoptions last year through that country, you may want to focus on a country that has had more adoptions.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Oftentimes in the past I would get a call from a family who is interested in adopting from a specific country that I had never even heard of. And when they went to the website, they discovered that you know what, that country, although it may be open for adoption, one child came home. And so you really want to find, first start with a country that is open for adoption and has had a lot of children coming home. Another thing is that once you determine or decide on which country you want to adopt from then you would pick an agency that has a contract with that country and does adoptions through that country. With Building Arizona Families, we do Haiti, and that is the country that we do right now.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Another thing-

Ron Reigns:

So that’s the only country you do right now? Okay. Interesting.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right now. We’ve had a lot of other countries in the past, but again, what happens is like we were working with Ethiopia and they had an open program. And then there were some things that went on in Ethiopia that were not good. And so at that point we stopped using the program because we felt that it was not in the best interest of the agency and the families. And then Ethiopia went through some changes and they shut down and then they opened back up and they shut down. And so there’s a lot of movement as to the countries when they open and close.

Ron Reigns:

Do international adoptions go the other way? Is there ever a case where say somebody from Europe wants to adopt an American baby?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes.

Ron Reigns:

Really? That surprises me.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. But that’s not something that our agency does. We don’t export children out of the country.

Ron Reigns:

Now has anybody who has listened to our podcast before probably knows you yourself are adopted. And actually I mentioned it earlier, so they would definitely know if they’ve even been listening to this podcast. You were adopted back right around the time that Roe vs. Wade changed. And it’s really impacted your life in so many ways. Obviously you probably wouldn’t have even gotten into the adoption field, had it not been for that. But is there anything about your personal adoption that you wish was different?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes.

Ron Reigns:

Something that you would change?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes, actually there is. I wish that I, a couple things, actually. I wish that back in the seventies, that open adoption was more of a thing. It was not at all. And so my adoption was totally closed. I think it would have been amazing to have an open adoption. And I also think that it would’ve been, knowing what I know now, having my biological mother passing away at 59, I would’ve liked to have found her sooner so that I would’ve had more time with her.

Ron Reigns:

That’s completely fair. Now when you look back on that time and knowing your mother the way you got to know her in those few years that you had, do you think that if open adoptions were more a thing back in the sixties, seventies, all that time, do you think that maybe she would’ve gone with an open adoption?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes.

Ron Reigns:

Really? Did she ever tell you that?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

She never really understood the scope of adoptions. When she found out what I did as a career choice, she was not well versed in adoptions at all. She didn’t understand what an open adoption was even at her age. I mean, she was around 48 when I met her. 48, 49. She did not really understand how they worked. Her adoption was very, very different from today. I mean, her adoption really consisted of her finding out she was pregnant three weeks before I was born. Her adoption choice was really her mother and the family doctor going in another room and coming back and telling her that’s what was going to happen. And then the three weeks go on that she’s not allow to talk about it with anybody in the family or anybody else. And then they knocked her out. I was delivered. They woke her back up and she never saw me. So there wasn’t really an adoption experience for her. There was no counseling afterwards. There was no, really, speak of me.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And so it was this, in her mind, shameful secret that she carried around that turned into a source of guilt and depression. And that’s one of the reasons that we started the Donna K. Evans Foundation is because we didn’t want anyone to experience what she had gone through. Because I do have two biological brothers that were born after me, and they lived in the wake of what had happened to her with me.

Ron Reigns:

Emotionally.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right. And so, it’s very common when you have a teen pregnancy to then have a second teen pregnancy. So my mother got pregnant with me when she was 15 and had me four to five months after she turned 16. She then had my brother on her 18th birthday. So she turned around and got pregnant again pretty quickly.

Ron Reigns:

Fairly soon. Hmm.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And so it was, what happened to her, I think, had she understood really what adoption entailed? She didn’t understand that what she had done was a beautiful and loving choice. She had thought she had done something very wrong. I have discussed, I think on the podcast, I know I’ve talked about it when I do public speaking, about the second time that she came to visit me. At that time I was going to a megachurch and we were walking into church and she grabbed my arm and stopped me as we were walking in. And she said, “I can’t go in there.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And I asked her why. And she said that they were all going to judge her for what she did. And she was terrified that they were going to think that she had done something horrible and she was so ashamed of it. And so I spent so much time and effort and energy trying to explain to her that she did something that was amazing and beautiful, and I was grateful for the choice that she made. And she just really struggled to see it like that.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And so I think that adoption has a very different connotation now. I mean, back in that day they were sending women away to these maternity homes and they were delivering and coming back like nothing ever happened.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And those babies placed for adoption. So she hid her pregnancy and nobody knew. I was born in January so there was that Christmas break to where those last couple weeks she was able to kind pretty much hide that she was pregnant. And back in that day, they were wearing those kind of like flowy shirts and coats. It was in Ohio so it was cold. So she was able to hide her stomach. And she said that she left the hospital. And back in that day you actually had to go and make a court appearance and say that you wanted to do the adoption. And she said that she went to court by herself. Her mom waited in the car and she went in and she had to go up in front of the judge and say that this is what she wanted to do. And then she walked back out and got in the car and went to school the next day.

Ron Reigns:

Wow. You had over 10 years to actually get to know her and find out who she was, and she found out who you were. And I know you developed a lot of love in that time and a lot of respect for her and between each other. Is there anything looking back now? Because I think of people who, even people who haven’t passed away, but that I haven’t seen in years and I think I really wish I had told them something. Is there anything you wish you had said to your mom while you had the chance that you can maybe kind of say to her now?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes. I wish that I would’ve taken more time and really explained to her and maybe flown her out again so she could see that adoption is something amazing. I tried to take as much time as I could. I mean, I bought her a book and I tried to get her into a counseling program and I tried to really educate her, but she didn’t really want to talk about that.

Ron Reigns:

Hmm.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

She didn’t want to focus on her adoption choice. She wanted to focus on how much I, she felt like I favored her in appearance and how beautiful her grandchildren were. I’d buy her a book on adoption trying to help her understand and she’d read the first page and she’d toss the book aside. She just wasn’t… So I wish that I had really taken the time and kind of forced her a little bit to see the good, because I’m not sure that she really ever reached a level of acceptance in her grief.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And I know that her being from the south and in West Virginia, it’s not common, especially back then, to place your child for adoption and for people to know that. And so when I found her, the majority of her family didn’t know I existed. And so that forced her to come out in a way. And then there was the judgment that she faced from that. And so that was hard. That was the main reason that when I wrote her eulogy at the funeral, that I made sure to include that what she’d done was beautiful. And because of that, I’ve been able to help hundreds and hundreds of women and their children and families all come together. And without her making the choice that she did that wouldn’t have happened. And so I hope that I was able to raise the opinions of those that judged her before after.

Ron Reigns:

Kelly, I really appreciate you, first of all, explaining some things that I didn’t know, and also opening up a little bit about your personal story. And I know that can be kind of difficult, but also uplifting at the same time. I know that it’s been edifying for everybody listening because it helps them to understand more deeply about what adoption is. And I just want to thank you for answering questions and sharing with us just honestly.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Absolutely. I hope everybody takes away from it and learns a little bit more and embraces adoption tenfold.

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. You can also find out more information about Building Arizona Families on their website at azpregnancyhelp.com.

Ron Reigns:

Thanks also go out to Grapes for allowing us to use their song. I Dunno 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.

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