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Birth Mother Matters in Adoption Episode #66 – Covid 19 / Coronavirus & Adoption, Part 1 of 2

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 adoption issues from every angle of the adoption triad.

Speaker 2:

Do what’s best for your kid and 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:

I know that my daughter would be well taken care of with them.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

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 on school counseling. I was adopted at 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:

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, an adoption attorney, and I can combine these two great passions and share them on this podcast.

Ron Reigns:

Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, Coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that can be mild, such as some cases of the common cold and others that can be lethal such as SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. Symptoms in other species vary. In chickens, they cause an upper respiratory tract disease, while in cows and pigs, they cause diarrhea. There are yet vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent or treat human Coronavirus infections. According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, OSHA’s website states that Chinese authorities identified the new Coronavirus, which has resulted in confirmed human infections in China and a growing number of other countries, including the United States. Infected patients have also spread the virus to healthcare workers.

Ron Reigns:

According to the world health organization. COVID 19 is now a pandemic meaning a global outbreak of disease. On March 13th, 2020, the President of the United States declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency. The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading in the community in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means that people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some unsure how or where they became infected. The WHO states on their website that coronavirus disease COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered Coronavirus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop severe illnesses. The best way to prevent and slow down the transmission is to be well-informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes, and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol-based rub frequently and not touching your face.

Ron Reigns:

The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. So it is essential that you also practice respiratory etiquette, for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow. At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments. The WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings become available. So the main question is how COVID-19 will impact domestic adoptions. Today on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption, we’re going to jump right into these questions. Please understand that we’re solely speaking on behalf of Building Arizona families Adoption Agency and AZ Pregnancy Help located here in Arizona. We can’t speak for how other agencies handle adoptions or state regulations and guidelines concerning COVID-19.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So because of the stay-at-home order or sheltering in place, Ron, this is the first time we have done a podcast where we are not in the same room.

Ron Reigns:

Yes, it is. And it’s been a while since we actually recorded. Thankfully we had some in the bank, and we could just kind of plug those in. But yeah, so this is the first time we’re doing a podcast since the coronavirus outbreak.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It is, and it’s a new experience for us, so I hope our listeners will kind of wade through the waters with us in terms of sound and quality. I know that we both have a lot to say about this and how it’s impacting our lives and adoptions and I guess the whole nation, the whole world really.

Ron Reigns:

Absolutely.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

We’ve made it clear repeatedly that we’re in Arizona, and we are just going to be talking about the specifics of Building Arizona Families. We can’t attest to what other agencies are doing or their protocols because they know that the governors stipulate certain things in certain states.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And in Arizona, obviously, Doug Ducey has made his list, and I’m actually going to upload that document, the order that he has issued, to our new website. So that way, anybody who is not from Arizona and is going to be coming to Arizona to do an adoption can read through the order just so they understand what’s going on and what our laws and restrictions are.

Ron Reigns:

Okay, and so that does bring up a question. As far as people that are doing interstate adoptions with Arizona and building Arizona families, how does that affect… Because are they able to travel from state to state, for instance?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

For right now? Yes, that is not… That hasn’t been an issue. So let’s go back to the, let’s go back to the start and let’s address all of these because these are critical tasks and concerns. We’re getting a lot of phone calls from families in our program. We are an important business, so we are still open. Just a quick background of how we are running things. Our workers are obviously at some point out in the field. The ones that don’t have to be in the field are working from home. We are having our office sanitized every day by a cleaning crew that comes in. We are keeping everybody as far apart as possible. Again, when our workers don’t need to be at the office, they are not working from home. That way, they can shelter in place and keep everybody as separated as possible.

Ron Reigns:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

They’re… We’re also, unfortunately, not able to attend doctor’s appointments with our birth mothers any longer. The doctor’s offices are not allowing a support person to go back. And again, they’re just trying to minimize exposure, and they want everybody to stay apart and stay safe.

Ron Reigns:

Certainly.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So that being said, it’s really impacted how we case manage. We have found some excellent tools we’re using, and we will talk about that. We have provided the same level of support, but just through a different means. This has really impacted so many lives. And I know that it started back in January, but I guess I just wasn’t up on the news. I’m so busy in the world of adoption that to me, it felt like COVID came out of the middle of nowhere.

Ron Reigns:

When did you start really noticing it? Just the beginning of March?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yes. Unfortunately, I would love to say that I had been tracking it and following it, but again, I… We have been busy with so many babies being born and birth mothers coming into the program. My focus has always been on my family and adoption. And so, I wasn’t tracking the potential of what this could occur. Not that it would have changed anything. I wouldn’t go back and do anything differently. I think I would have just liked more of a heads up.

Ron Reigns:

Be a little more prepared for what was coming. I don’t think anybody really was, though. I mean, we saw it from another country, and they were saying, oh, it’s terrible there, but it can’t really hit home until it literally hits home. You know? I mean, it doesn’t; it doesn’t sink in until whoa. This is starting to spread and fast.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Absolutely. And I think what’s so frightening to me is it seems like it’s almost this, this silent… I mean, you can’t see it coming. And if you read one website they’re recommending this, wash your hands, it can live on cardboard for a day, and then another website will say four days and then… It’s so it’s yeah. Everything is just, it’s a lot of the unknown, and I guess that’s the scary part. Right. How long is this going to last? How many people are we going to lose? Is it going to come into our homes? Is it going to ever go away? Those things just go through my mind, and I’m sure going through everyone’s mind.

Ron Reigns:

And you watch how it’s affecting the economy and people’s lives in that way as well. And people are suffering in so many different ways from this. So yeah, this is our Great Depression, and World War II kind of rolled into one.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right.

Ron Reigns:

This will change our lives.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I think it will. And I think it will for a long, long time in some aspects. I wonder if, in some ways, maybe the silver lining will be that it makes us all slow down just a little bit. Maybe it’ll help our country come together more and solidify.

Ron Reigns:

That would be nice.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It will be a move towards world peace. Who knows what positive things will come at the end of this?

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I guess I’m really trying to find the lemonade at this point.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Because there’s a lot of lemons, there really is. And it… We, meaning the Building Arizona Families trained team, a lot of us have children, and they’ve closed the schools down now. So our children are not being really homeschooled because it’s kind of an online school, yet you’re still a teacher per se. And so then you’re wearing another hat, but yet you’re still working full time. And I’ll be working at my computer. And my eight-year-old is standing over me with his laptop, asking me how to Zoom actually. And that was how I learned how to Zoom, Ron, that just clicked.

Ron Reigns:

Which is how we’re doing our podcast this time. Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

That is, yes. He’s been zooming with his teacher and his classmates.

Ron Reigns:

So you should have had him teach you.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I should have. So he has been Zooming. So I’m trying to help him log in. And I’m working at the same time, and I’m thinking, this is our new reality for now.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And it feels like it just changed overnight.

Ron Reigns:

It’s just unprecedented for all of us.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Has it impacted you, your life a lot?

Ron Reigns:

In a weird way, it hasn’t because, as you know, Lisa and I kind of live in a more rural area, and we don’t get out much. We usually don’t even go grocery shopping for a couple of weeks at a time anyway. So we’re trying to even slim that down, but we’ve been working from our homes for years now. And so, no, it hasn’t impacted us as much as it has others. And that’s just kind of a blessing for us, but still, we see it going on all around us. And I’m trying to keep people from coming to our house,

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:

Whether it’s family members or anybody else, it’s like, you know what, stay at home. If you need to bring us something, leave it outside the door; we’ll leave it out there for a couple of hours and kind of sanitize it when we get to it. And, but by and large, we have been minimally impacted ourselves. Fortunately.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

What a blessing.

Ron Reigns:

Yeah, it really is.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

We have been impacted more than not; again, six of our children, out of seven, live at home. And so all six of them are at home. They’re all going to school, and all of their activities have been cut. All their athletics have been cut. They can’t see their friends. They can’t go out, and they’re really struggling.

Ron Reigns:

Yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Four of them are teenagers, which is one of their worst nightmares.

Ron Reigns:

Oh absolutely. I can’t even imagine being a teenager in this time with all these immediate changes that are so drastic, and it’s like, stay in your house, don’t hang out with your friends. Don’t go and do anything. And yeah, that’s got to be horrible for them.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah, definitely.

Ron Reigns:

And for you, as a matter of fact.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

I’m at some levels at some points during the day. Yes.

Ron Reigns:

Here’s a brief timeline on what’s happening here in Arizona so that you can understand how Building Arizona Families is handling this pandemic. On March 11th, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. March 12th, Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey declared a public health emergency. It gave staff officials more leeway and tools to deal with the Coronavirus outbreak. On March 15th, Governor Ducey and the Arizona superintendent of public instruction, Kathy Hoffman, announced all Arizona schools will remain closed through March 27th. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that no gatherings of 50 people or more take place for the next eight weeks to slow the spread of Coronavirus. On March 21st, all non-essential or elective surgeries, including dental surgeries that use personal protective equipment or ventilators, should not be performed at any licensed health care facility or by any licensed healthcare provider in the state of Arizona.

Ron Reigns:

Also, the state is delaying the requirements to renew driver’s license and driver’s permits that have an expiration date between March 1st, 2020 and September 1st, 2020, by six months from the expiration date. And on March 30th, governor Ducey mandated a stay-at-home order that went into effect on Tuesday, March 31st at 5:00 PM and will last through April 30th. According to the order, Arizonans should limit time away from home, except for essential activities. Essential activities are broadly defined to include working in essential jobs and exercising outside.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So I think that when we look at adoptions and how we are structuring this, we definitely wanted to make sure that we adhere to all of the state regulations and our licensing regulations. So we are absolutely keeping in tow with both. And so what we’re doing our protocols, and we have sent out letters to the adoptive families that we’re working with when a family is matching with us. We’re letting them know the changes, which are not permanent. They’re just as long as this pandemic continues. And then, when we get the all-clear, we will transition back to the more face-to-face intensive case management approach.

Ron Reigns:

Right. Now, what do you do about transferring money to these girls when they need it? How does that work?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So the way it’s working now is we are having a lot of our birth mothers sign up for different avenues for a direct deposit because if we ever get to a point where we’re not allowed to go out… Now we do, we can deliver their weekly funds. We can do that at this point. And so, right now, it’s not an issue. Still, in preparation, if that ever becomes a point to where we can’t physically get to them because there are barriers or something, we are getting them all signed up so that we can just deposit right into their accounts. So that’s what we’ve been working on.

Ron Reigns:

Has that been difficult because I know that some of these women are homeless or don’t have a permanent residence or bank accounts or things like that? Has that been an obstacle that’s been easy to overcome or not?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

There are avenues like the Green Dot card and Chime and things like that that you don’t have to have a credit rating per se, in most cases, to qualify for one of those.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

So that being said, we are trying to utilize all the resources. And a lot of that is just preparation so that we can make sure that in the event, again, we get to the point.

Ron Reigns:

Totally shut down, right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Where they don’t want any transportation, we can still get their funds. We are still having to have them obviously sign documents. I don’t know if we will ever have to sign an online document. I’m hoping that’s not the case because we would have to do… Obviously, that would only work for some documents rather than all of them.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

We can still do face-to-face intakes when a birth mother comes into the program, but we’ve had to make any drastic changes. Like when, when a mom goes to get an ultrasound, we’re having her Skype with us because we can’t go back with her. Whereas we usually go back and hold her hand, talk to her through it, and make sure she’s doing okay. And we’re not able to do that right now.

Ron Reigns:

Right right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And it’s terrifying because they look to us as their support structure. And when we used to be able to go and take them to lunch and spend time with them and really get to bond, now we’re using Skype and Zoom and not able to spend that one-on-one time like we used to.

Ron Reigns:

Right. Now, how are they taking it as far… Obviously, they can’t be; I mean, they’ve got to be understanding of the situation?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Oh absolutely. I have to say that they’re… That all of our birth mothers have been incredible troopers.

Ron Reigns:

Good.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

They understand completely. They do not want to get sick. They do not want to contract the virus either, and so…

Ron Reigns:

Or spread it to other people in their families and right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Agreed. And so they are sheltering in place as well. And they are holding, they’re holding it together. They’re doing a fantastic job, but they’re scared, and they’re struggling just like everybody else.

Ron Reigns:

Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

The adoptive families, when we explained to them that we’ve had to do a shift in case management just to keep everybody as safe as possible because as a director and looking at the whole scope, there’s really a triad here as well, where we’ve got the birth mothers and the adopted families, and then the agency staff. And I’ve got to make sure that all three entities are as safe as possible. And yet we still want adoptions to be successful as possible. But at the same time, safety has to come first. And so we are doing everything from, as I said before, sanitizing the offices daily to making sure that we… When we go into the hospitals, we’re not allowed to be there anymore for labor and delivery. That’s a big question that we get. They’re not allowing a support person to come in at this time. They’ve changed the protocol a few times, but they’re not allowing anybody else in right now.

Ron Reigns:

Not even one other person in the room, even family.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

In some hospitals, they’re allowing it. In others, it’s not really uniform.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It depends on the hospital. But what we are allowed to do is when we have documents that need to be signed like a power of attorney, they are letting us go in and get that paperwork signed as long as there’s not another support person already in there. But I mean, they’re taking our temperature before we’re going in and we’re gloving up and wearing masks. And we’re even wearing masks and gloves in the office.

Ron Reigns:

I was going to ask about that. So you have those on supply for your staff and their work mothers that come in, for instance?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

We do. Yep. Everybody who’s coming into the office has to wear gloves and a mask, regardless of whether or not they’re feeling ill or not.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Even though the office is sanitized, we want to promote safety again. We’re dealing with pregnant women, and there’s so much unknown about COVID-19. We don’t know so much yet that we’re still learning. As a world, we don’t know enough about this. I have to say that it is; it was scary. And we… When the pandemic first broke out, you couldn’t get groceries at the grocery store because everybody was rushing the grocery store and buying everything off the shelves, and that’s still happening. We had actually reached out on Facebook and asked for any extra donations of non-perishable goods that people may be willing to depart with. And it actually made it onto one of the news websites where we were looking for donations. So that was really nice.

Ron Reigns:

That is very nice. Now, how is your office doing as far as, I mean, this is the question that everybody’s been asking each other online? How are you doing on toilet paper?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Right now? We are, we’re okay.

Ron Reigns:

Okay, good.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

We also don’t have the influx of people like we used to because, again, we’re doing so much more of it from home.

Ron Reigns:

Okay. So it’s not getting used as much.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Correct.

Ron Reigns:

Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

It’s not getting used as much, and we are part of a business park. And so that’s what… That’s their obligation to provide it. But at the same time, we have a backup if we need it. So we’re okay on toilet paper.

Ron Reigns:

Good. I’m glad to hear that.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Our birth mothers were more concerned about our food pantry and ensuring we had food for them. And we do.

Ron Reigns:

But donations are always necessary for this.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

We do, but it’s not what it used to be. It’s thinning out. I know that everybody out there is really concerned about food and toilet paper and all that, but anything that anybody is willing to donate, as long as it’s not perishable, we would be really grateful for it.

Ron Reigns:

Okay. And where do they send that?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

What they can do is they can either send it to our office at the 8433 North Black Canyon Highway, Suite 152, Phoenix, Arizona, 85021, or they can ding-dong ditch at the office.

Ron Reigns:

I haven’t heard that term in a long time.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

Yeah. They could drop it off at the office, and our receptionist is there, and she won’t open the door, obviously, but when you’re there, she will take it. And we would be very grateful. So it’s always a concern for the birth moms because our food pantry is something that not any other agency that I know of even has or hosts. St. Mary’s Food Bank is one of our significant contributors to food. Still, they haven’t been able to donate like they used to because of what’s been happening.

Ron Reigns:

Right. Indeed, there’s a community need to take care of first and right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:

And we totally understand and are grateful for everything that we’ve received and will receive in the future. And that’s totally understandable, but it does put us in a little bit of a predicament. So we’ve done everything from ordering on Amazon and Walmart in bulk as best we can. I know some of our staff members have donated food. I know we’ve donated food just to try to keep things going.

Ron Reigns:

Remember that those donations can be dropped off or sent to 8433 North Black Canyon Highway, Suite 152 in Phoenix, Arizona, 85021. Visit the Building Arizona Families website at azpregnancyhelp.com and for information go Here.

We have a new website for the podcast. BirthMotherMatterspodcast.com. And as always, remember to rate and review us wherever you are getting this podcast. We really, really appreciate it. Join us next time on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption for Kelly Rourke-Scarry, I’m Ron Reigns, and we’ll see you then.

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