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.

Deborah:
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 will 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:
My name is Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I am 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.

Kelly Rourke:
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 Rourke:
Good afternoon or good morning whenever you are listening to this. Today we’re going to be discussing the lives of birth mothers, what they really look like, why it’s important to understand where they’re coming from, why these women are choosing adoption, and what adoption really means to birth mothers.

Kelly Rourke:
This is a topic that I am very passionate about. When I talk about the life of a birth mother, I get to incorporate the life of my own birth mother. I think this is a platform that I get to share personal experience. And when we lost my birth mother at the age of 59, and my husband promised her that her life’s meaning wasn’t over. And this was just the beginning, this is an opportunity to make good on those words. And working with birth mothers over the past 15 years, I can say that they are all different.

Kelly Rourke:
Every birth mother is special, unique, very much like a snowflake. They all have different reasons. They come, they have different life stories. Nobody’s adoption walk or journey is the same as another woman’s. There are commonalities among birth mothers and we will discuss some of those commonalities, but I really want to emphasize that every single human that walks into our agency with the choice of adoption is different.

Ron Reigns:
They’re all individuals.

Kelly Rourke:
They’re all individuals.

Ron Reigns:
There’s no two that are exactly alike ever.

Kelly Rourke:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Even twins.

Kelly Rourke:
They all have their own fingerprint, and that’s what we need to remember. When we stereotype or group them together as a whole, it takes away from their individuality, and I think we need to celebrate that aspect.

Kelly Rourke:
Some of the commonalities among birth mothers that we see as an agency are the lack of financial stability, and that’s a big factor when a woman is facing an unplanned pregnancy and is making an adoption choice.

Kelly Rourke:
Some of the women are homeless, and we’ve had women who come into our agency who have been sleeping in the park. They’ve been sleeping behind a air conditioning unit or in the alcove of an apartment complex stairs. Other reasons for choosing adoption rather than parenting are domestic violence. Some of them are involved with Child Protective Services. In Arizona, we now refer to Child Protective Services as the Department of Child Safety.

Kelly Rourke:
And they are choosing to place their baby in a home with a loving adoptive family rather than into the foster care system. Other reasons for choosing adoption would include the inability to parent the way that they want their child parented, drug use.

Ron Reigns:
That’s a huge factor.

Kelly Rourke:
It’s a huge factor.

Ron Reigns:
Drug abuse and addiction and yeah.

Kelly Rourke:
Those are tough ones.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly Rourke:
And they want to break the negative cycle that they’re experiencing in their own lives by placing their daughter or son with a family that can provide the lifestyle that they want to choose for their child. And again, we’ve talked over and over again what a selfless choice that is because that’s not an easy choice on a biological mother.

Ron Reigns:
But I think in the long-term as they watch that child, especially if it’s a semi-open or open adoption, as they watch that child achieve and grow, I think they look back on that decision with pride, and I would hope with just a wonderful feeling.

Kelly Rourke:
Absolutely. And in a semi-open or open adoption that gives them that reassurance of the amazing choice that they made.

Ron Reigns:
They get to see that progress. That’s fantastic.

Kelly Rourke:
The ages of birth mothers that come to our agency are between 13 and 45. The average age, if you were to take all of the ages of the birth mothers I would say are between 22 and 32.

Ron Reigns:
Okay. That’s average.

Kelly Rourke:
That’s average.

Ron Reigns:
That 10-year span. Okay.

Kelly Rourke:
Right. And again, we see them at any age between 13 and 45 but the majority range between 22 and 32. Some of the birth mothers that come to us have placed a baby for adoption prior. Some of them have had an abortion or multiple abortions prior to coming to the agency.

Kelly Rourke:
When we speak with those women that have had abortions, and it could be a singular abortion or multiple abortions, they often will state that they didn’t know about adoption resources and where to go and how to start the adoption process. And so that is something that we do address in other podcasts about the You Before Me Campaign.

Ron Reigns:
Right. And I’ve talked about this before, and I kind of think that’s where I was when I was young, and at the time she was my girlfriend, but my first wife had actually two abortions, and I didn’t search it out and we didn’t have the internet, but that’s not an excuse. It’s not right. I didn’t search out adoption, I didn’t even consider it. I knew that adoption existed, but I didn’t think that that was what you did when you’re 20 years old and facing this decision, the only choices that I thought were there in my mind were abortion or raising the child, which we weren’t prepared for. And so it’s heartbreaking to look back on now.

Kelly Rourke:
When you do look back on that now, do you mind sharing the difference in your thoughts then versus now? And I know you did that a little bit, but is it a loss?

Ron Reigns:
When I look back on it?

Kelly Rourke:
Is there somebody in your mind that’s missing? Like when you look at-

Ron Reigns:
Yes.

Kelly Rourke:
… the picture, is somebody missing?

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, I was talking about it just this morning, and it was weird in my mind because that’s always a baby. And I said that John could have had a little brother, but no, honestly John would have had an older brother to help guide him like an older brother does or an older sister, look out for him and take care of him. But I still in my head always think of it as younger than John because it had the potential, but it was never realized. And so yeah, I look back a lot about that. It’s affected my life.

Kelly Rourke:
And had-

Ron Reigns:
It’s not just a short-term thing.

Kelly Rourke:
Right. It wasn’t a short term thing.

Ron Reigns:
It was expedient at the time, but it’s not.

Kelly Rourke:
And had you had the information and the knowledge about adoption, even if the child had been a girl or a boy, and they hadn’t been raised together, they could have had a relationship later in life-

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke:
… like I do with my biological siblings-

Ron Reigns:
Certainly.

Kelly Rourke:
… and I reunited with them and have a relationship with them to this day. And so I think that’s really hard. And I think that you sharing your story is brave. And I think that you are helping not only our listeners who are hearing the story, but oftentimes birth fathers go unrecognized, and their value is not, it’s not given the importance and the attention that it deserves.

Ron Reigns:
Right. And we often hear about the woman’s choice, the woman. And I’m not degrading that at all, I think that both of the people involved as the birth parents are effected in the long-term. It’s not only the mother who’s affected, it’s not only the father, it’s both of them. And obviously, a life potential that’s not realized is affected.

Ron Reigns:
And yeah, I hope that what we’re doing now is getting the information out there about adoption to people who are in the situation. I just really want them to know there are three choices, and I think two of them are more proper than one. I’m not trying to push my views on anybody, but I truly think that this has affected me-

Kelly Rourke:
Well, I think because you’ve-

Ron Reigns:
… a lot.

Kelly Rourke:
… had the experience, I think that it is fair for you to be able to state your opinion-

Ron Reigns:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Thank you.

Kelly Rourke:
… because both of us, I think I can say believe that it’s a baby at conception, and that in essence makes you a birth father to that child. And so with you being open and willing to share your feelings, you are in essence reaching back your hand to other birth fathers who are faced with the predicament that you were in. You’re giving them the long-term feelings because right now they’re in short-term.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah. They’re like, “Okay, this is a quick fix,” but that’s not all it is. There’s more to it, and there are longer-term consequences to decisions.

Kelly Rourke:
And you are somebody who can speak from experience and that’s what’s so powerful and that’s why your voice is so important when we’re talking about adoption and abortion. I can’t look somebody in the face and say, “I can experience those feelings.” I can say that, “I have held my birth mother’s hand and have had her talk to me about what adoption was like for her. I have held other birth mothers’ hands and have walked with them through their adoption journey, and I’ve held birth mothers’ hands as they described what an abortion was like, and how hard it was on them.” But you are able to, as a birth father, describe the aftermath.

Ron Reigns:
I think it’s interesting to compare, for instance, your story. I think your birth mother through the years, especially when you got to know her and she got to see what you’ve become, I think she has good feelings about the decision she made.

Kelly Rourke:
I wish I could-

Ron Reigns:
Whereas, as I look back, I regret what we did and yeah, so-

Kelly Rourke:
It’s hard.

Ron Reigns:
It is very hard. But when you contrast the two long-term effects, I think it’s a drastic difference, and it’s important to look at.

Kelly Rourke:
I absolutely agree, and I do think it’s a drastic difference. And I want to state publicly that my birth mother, I don’t think really looked back during her lifetime at adoption as a positive experience as a whole.

Ron Reigns:
Really?

Kelly Rourke:
… aspects.

Ron Reigns:
Oh, okay.

Kelly Rourke:
… that she was very proud of. She was very proud of who I became and who I was and what I’ve done with my life. But because she had a closed adoption and she didn’t have aftercare services, she was never able to recover from the traumatic experience of never been able to see her baby. Never being able to say goodbye, not understanding where her baby went, who was raising her baby. Back in 1973, those were not options that were common.

Ron Reigns:
It was closed adoption and she didn’t get to, unfortunately, take advantage of the Donna K. Evans Foundation, and many of the other things that are available now.

Kelly Rourke:
Absolutely. She wasn’t provided with counseling; she wasn’t provided with a support system. In that day and age, women were sent away to homes to have babies and come back and she wasn’t sent away to a home to come back because again, there wasn’t knowledge that I existed until three weeks before I was born.

Kelly Rourke:
A funny story on that note is she was a 15-year-old that had me at 16. She was 15 when she was pregnant. The majority of her pregnancy was at-

Ron Reigns:
When she was 15 years old.

Kelly Rourke:
… at the age of 15.

Ron Reigns:
Correct.

Kelly Rourke:
And when they found out that she was pregnant with me, they had thought that I may be born on Christmas day.

Ron Reigns:
Oh.

Kelly Rourke:
And she told me years later, she said, “As proud as could be, had you been born on Christmas day, I was going to name you Jesus,” and I didn’t really know what to think when she said that. I think-

Ron Reigns:
I’m a little taken back.

Kelly Rourke:
… I only smiled.

Ron Reigns:
I could be doing a podcast with Jesus.

Kelly Rourke:
You could, yeah. And it’s no disrespect, it was-

Ron Reigns:
Heartfelt.

Kelly Rourke:
… in the mind… It was. It was definitely something that I found endearing.

Ron Reigns:
You lightened it up a little bit in here because I was getting a little misty. I’m doing better now. Thank you.

Kelly Rourke:
But again, and I’m not trying to preach anything. I think if you weren’t teared up or you weren’t misty about it, then I think that you wouldn’t really be honest with yourself. And you wouldn’t be honest with our listeners because that’s where you are. I think embracing it and being true to who you are and true to what you believe in, that’s where you have to be.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah. And I got to say, I thank you for this podcast because I’ve never been this open about that. I’ve just kept it in.

Kelly Rourke:
It gives you a forum, and I hope it gives you an opportunity to say, “Hey, I did something that I regret. Don’t do-”

Ron Reigns:
And hopefully, somebody will listen.

Kelly Rourke:
Right, “Listen to me, don’t walk the walk that I walked because this is where I am now.” And we’ve talked about Maya Angelou, she says, “Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself, and then stand up for somebody else.” I think you’re doing that in sharing your story because you’re standing up for all the men that don’t have a voice on a podcast.

Ron Reigns:
Well, thank you.

Kelly Rourke:
And they get to hear you and hear your story. I think you should be proud of yourself because you have bravely stepped forward and owned something that you look back at as a mistake, and you’re able to share that.

Ron Reigns:
Well, thank you.

Kelly Rourke:
So I think that’s incredible. Because every birth mother who comes into our program is like a snowflake, I make sure I meet with each and every one of them. I want them to see that I am a real person just like them. They’re not a number when they come to our agency. I have a title in the agency that can be deemed by some as intimidating, and I want them to see that I am me, I’m not my title.

Ron Reigns:
You’re not the man.

Kelly Rourke:
No.

Ron Reigns:
As it is. Right, right, right.

Kelly Rourke:
Or the woman. No, I’m not. I’m just a girl that was the product of a domestic adoption and-

Ron Reigns:
And you’re the positive outcome that they need to see as, “Wow-“

Kelly Rourke:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
“… this child can achieve.”

Kelly Rourke:
Exactly.

Ron Reigns:
Good.

Kelly Rourke:
And I explained that I very well may be sitting on the opposite side of the desk had I not been adopted, we don’t know. I want them to understand that adoption brings hope. I had a great childhood, I had a loving adoptive family and my experience was such that I want to reach out to other women that are being given the choice of adoption.

Kelly Rourke:
I also want every woman that comes into our agency to know that I do care about them, and I want to walk this journey with them. And I am somebody that they can call if they choose to. I still answer the Birth Mother line after 15 years. And I do that because I want to be the first person that talks to them when they are making that incredibly hard phone call and that just makes me real.

Deborah:
My name is Deborah, and I placed my son up for adoption in 2015, and it was with Building Arizona Families. They were amazing. The staff was friendly. They helped me a lot through the transition of going through all this, and I didn’t feel forced ever. They’ve always been beside me, not judgmental, and they helped me a lot because I was ready to turn around and go out the door.

Deborah:
I chose adoption because I was stressed out and wondering what I was going to do, what step I was going to take next because I was in a bad situation. At the time, my son was nine months. I was facing losing him or not being able to care for both the way they needed to be cared for, and I didn’t feel it was fair to take from my son who was already there and not think about how it was going to affect everyone.

Deborah:
If you step out of the box and look at it from an outsider’s view or people walking up and seeing your kids or you in a situation that you’re not ready for or that you’re just not capable of having at that point in time in your life. Just reach out and talk to somebody. Even just talking, coming in and talking to any of the staff here, whatever you’re needing at the time.

Deborah:
And then you have time to think about it if you aren’t really sure but 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. What I like best about Building Arizona Families is I was able to relate with my case manager who she was just amazing, and I still love her to this day. That’s what I like best.

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 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. 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.

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.

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.