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Birth Mother Matters in Adoption Episode #55 – Choosing the Right Adoption Agency

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 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.

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 the You Before Me campaign creator. 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:
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, an adoption attorney, and I’m able to combine these two great passions and share them on this podcast.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and considering adoption, it’s essential to choose the right adoption agency. You need to find an agency that is a good match for you, your personality, what type of adoption you want to do. There are alternatives to abortion, and adoption agencies can help. We do get phone calls from pregnant women, who are calling, wanting information about abortion, and we promote adoption. And so we talked to them about all of the advantages of adoption so that they can become more educated than they were before they picked up the phone.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Some things as a birth mother that are important to consider are the following; is the agency you’re considering local? Will you be able to have that face-to-face meeting? It is excellent to pick up the phone and call somebody if they’re in the same time zone as you. That’s something to think about. The other thing is, is that who’s going to hold your hand in those challenging moments? How are you going to put all of your trust into an entity that you can’t look at face to face?

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
How will you have somebody go with you to the doctor and build a rapport? Because you can only go so far over the phone. It’s like having a long-distance relationship. Everything’s great because it’s not real life. It’s not real. You’re not dealing with day to day struggles,

Ron Reigns:
That’s when it’s going to test whether that relationship will span.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It will. So when you meet the adopted family for the first time, if you’re working with an out-of-state agency, are they going to have a fill-in, is somebody going to be there, are you going to be alone? So that’s something to think about is to have somebody local so that you can work side-by-side with the

Ron Reigns:
I don’t even know how this works. Say a birth mother in Arizona wants to be represented by an agency. Can she choose an out-of-state agency to do that?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yes.

Ron Reigns:
I didn’t know that because I’ve only dealt with birth mothers dealing with either Building Arizona Families or my wife, right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right, absolutely. Yes, they can. They can choose an out-of-state agency.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Again, it’s something to evaluate.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
What happens is outside agencies of the State of Arizona will advertise in Arizona. And so, a birth mother may not realize that they’re out of state until they’re already in the program.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
So you’ll want to know too if the agency has an office or they’re telling you they want to meet in a public location about placing a baby for adoption. It would help if you had the confidentiality of being in an office. I know that our licensing the Department of Children’s Safety permits us. They have said over and over again that it needs to be in the confines of your office because this is confidential information that you’re discussing.

Ron Reigns:
You don’t want it out in public. You don’t want to meet at a Circle K parking lot.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
You don’t want to meet at McDonald’s. Right. You also want to know how long the agency has been in practice. An agency that just opened its doors last year may not be as experienced as an agency that has been in practice for 15 years. There’s a difference in working with a seasoned professional versus somebody just starting. Let me give you an example. So when you go to a doctor, if you have a new doctor who just graduated and got her license and you go in with an ailment, what I have found personally is that new doctors will start ordering tons of tests because they don’t have the medical experience to rely upon. Whereas if you go to a seasoned doctor, they do an exam, gauge from there, and then order the necessary tests versus the whole battery.

Ron Reigns:
Right. So you’re only getting two or three tests possibly.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Versus 10.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah. So having dealt with somebody confident in their ability to understand what’s going on and be able to execute what needs to happen, I think is vital in something as important as your health or an adoption. Do you want to know if you will have your case manager or share one with the adoptive parents? It is my opinion and my opinion only that I believe that’s a conflict of interest.

Ron Reigns:
To not represent, but to case management for both sides of it.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Now that doesn’t mean, like Sarah, one of our workers, had talked about in the past, does that mean that she can never take a birth mother to the doctor? That’s not what I’m referring to—the ultimate case management responsibilities. So in the hospital situation where the case manager for the birth mother is there, the case manager for the adoptive parents is also there. That way, they each have their advocate. Again, that doesn’t mean they can’t jump sides and help out. But as a whole, the practice is that a different case manager represents each side.

Ron Reigns:
Right. And again, that makes a lot of sense. It does.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
I always say if there’s ever an issue like the birth mother wants something that the adoptive family isn’t in favor of or vice versa. There’s a conflict between the two workers; I love that because that shows me that they’re advocating for their clients.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And then, I can step in and help resolve the issue.

Ron Reigns:
Right, kind of mediate between the two.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
But I want them to stand up, and I encourage that. Our aftercare service is available. That’s something, again, our agency does offer. I think it’s imperative. I think that just because a birth mother has had a baby in place for adoption, having that service is critical because you never know when you’re going to need it. Like our moms can deliver, place your baby for adoption, they can take a break, go on sabbatical, take a vacation and come back when they’re ready to deal with any issues that arise. Not having that leaves you kind of out there floundering, not having a natural resource to go to. We will also provide counseling services with the same counselor that they saw during their pregnancy at no cost to them. So if they come back and they say, “You know what, I’m struggling, I need some help,” we’ll pay for them to go in and have some sessions with Chris. So I think that’s important as well.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Also, you can ask the agency if they can provide references from previous clients. When you come into our office, we have a TV playing and its testimonials of women who have gone through the program. And so a lot of times I’ll meet with one of our new clients, and she’ll ask a question about, she’s like, “Oh, I saw it on the video. I didn’t know that,” or, “Oh, wow, that really made me feel better.” So we always have that playing to see what this is really like.

Ron Reigns:
And what other people who have been with you. Now, will you connect them directly if they’d like to speak to somebody, or is that not something that’s a good idea?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Not directly. We have had a birth mother who has placed with us, and we haven’t had her sometimes come in and talk with a case manager there about her experience if she chooses to do so.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah. Another question that I would ask is how quickly can you make an appointment? When you decide you are ready to do an adoption plan, you’re often willing to start then. You’re doing it; you may be homeless. You’ve made a tough decision, and when you’re ready to move forward, you’re prepared to move forward.

Ron Reigns:
Right. You don’t want to be put on a waiting list and say, “We might show up at Tuesday between 2:00 AM and 6:00 PM.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. So yes.

Ron Reigns:
Like the cable company.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Exactly. So, for instance, with us, when you call, sometimes we make same-day appointments, sometimes we make next-day appointments, depending on what’s going on.

Ron Reigns:
Maybe what time of day it is when they call, indeed.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah. And that way, you’re able to get right in, and you won’t be getting off the phone without having your appointment.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
You want to ask what type of services will be provided. So whether or not you’ll be able to receive counseling services, whether you’ll be receiving transportation to and from your medical appointments, if the agency is going to help you get on access or whatever state medical insurance you’re eligible for, what type of financial assistance that they can provide, if they offer both open and closed adoptions. There was a considerable movement about ten years ago, where some agencies said, we are only doing open adoptions now; we only do open adoptions.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And I don’t believe in that stance.

Ron Reigns:
Right. You’re pro-open adoptions.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
100%.

Ron Reigns:
But there are those situations.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
There are circumstances where I don’t think that a woman should be forced to choose only an open adoption.

Ron Reigns:
And if she’s not comfortable with that, then she has that right to make that choice, indeed.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. So again, I am a huge proponent. And when I have a woman who wants a closed adoption, I absolutely will honor her wishes. She and I usually talk about it, and I make sure she understands what an open and a semi-open adoption is. And then, after listening to her story, when she wants to do the closed, and that’s fine, we’ll support that, and we’ll empower her to make that decision. And that’s a big deal. Another question you may want to ask is if they have adoptive families, both in-state and out-of-state, for them to choose. We have found that some agencies only work with out-of-state entities, whereas our agency does both. We have both in-state families that are waiting and out-of-state families.

Ron Reigns:
From a birth mother’s perspective, why would, first of all, an in-state be preferable to some, and then I’m going to ask, obviously, why would out of state be something they would prefer?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
They may want an open adoption, but they have this fear of bumping into them at the grocery store, which has never happened to my knowledge.

Ron Reigns:
Right. I grew up in Glendale, and still to this day; I think I’ve seen one person on the streets since high school, which was many years ago. Once.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. And so that doesn’t happen. The other reason is they may not like the State of Arizona. They may not think it’s a place where they would enjoy the child raised.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
We have a lot of families from Kentucky and if you’ve ever been to Kentucky, it’s beautiful. Rolling greens, the white picket fences with the horses. It’s gorgeous.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And they may just want a different climate.

Ron Reigns:
For their child.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yes. They may want their child to grow up in a place that actually has four seasons. And so, yeah, we get it all the time.

Ron Reigns:
And so maybe in the state, they would see the actual adoptive family and the child a little more personal and maybe arrange visits and stuff.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Sure. And you can still do visits with out-of-state families.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
They’re not as frequent. They’re usually maybe once a year for the first three years. And after three years, they determine where it goes from there.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
But just because they’re out of state doesn’t mean they can’t do visits.
Ron Reigns:
Okay. It’s just easier if they’re in-state.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Correct.

Ron Reigns:
Okay, fair enough.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It is easier. And so, I would say the birth mothers who want that close bond that tight-knit relationship will be more apt to choose an in-state family.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
How does the agency handle communication after placement? We do get this question quite a bit. We have a situation where the birth mother is not happy with the follow-through of the adoptive parents regarding the after placement communication. And that is something that we do stand behind. As an agency, we jump in and try to remedy the situation; we bring in our agency attorney, who happens to be your wife.

Ron Reigns:
I know her.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And a great lady. And together, we work with her and the adoptive family to remedy the situation, get everybody back on the same page, understand what has been agreed upon, and fix that situation. I think that the agency needs to meet the needs of the birth mothers first and foremost, as an agency, to believe in the women and their right to choose the type of adoption journey that’s best for them and their unborn baby. So for those of you that have questions about our agency, we are located in Phoenix, Arizona. We have an office located off the Black Canyon Access Road in Phoenix. And we currently have been doing adoptions for just about 15 years.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.


Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
We separate birth mother case managers from adoptive family case managers. Our aftercare program is the Donna K. Evans Foundation, located in the same block of buildings right next to our office. We do provide references, and we do make same-day and next-day appointments. We also are available 24/7, including me. And yes, I do get calls 24/7.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, even while we’re trying to do a podcast.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Exactly. We do offer living expenses for those who qualify. We have both in-state and out-of-state families. And we use a program called ChildConnect for letters, pictures, and communication after placement, which is its entity that you can log onto a computer and communicate with the adoptive family that way.

Ron Reigns:
See pictures, the whole nine yards.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
The whole bit.

Ron Reigns:
You can get updates.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
That’s awesome.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Our job is to help a birth mother throughout her adoption journey in every aspect relating to her pregnancy and her adoption choice. And this can take on a global approach because adoption and pregnancy can affect every area of her life. So when you’re looking to choose an agency, I think the most important thing is to look at these factors, talk to the agency, and then go with your gut instinct, see where you make the connection. And ultimately, know that adoption is a beautiful choice, and you’re doing something unique.

Olivia:
My name is Olivia. I’m a birth mom. I gave my baby up for adoption about two weeks ago, and I feel like it’s the best decision for me and my baby. It was hard to make that decision, but I found this excellent agency, Building Arizona Families, and they have been a godsend. They are good people and do good things for people who need help. And I’m glad that God sent me to them because this would have been a terrifying, lonely journey if I hadn’t had them with me. They’ve helped me get back on my feet. They helped me find myself and know that I made the best choice for my baby. And the adoptive parents are fantastic; they’re good people. I’m glad that God put them in my life for my son. And I know that he will be loved and taken care of, and that’s peace of mind for me.

Olivia:
What I like best about my adoptive family because they’re Christian and so loving. I have a good rapport with them. I know we only met each other two weeks ago, but we tell each other we love each other when we say bye. And I know that I’m going to have a relationship with them and my son in the future. And that makes me feel excellent. When you place your baby for adoption, it extends your family because it’s open adoption, and you get two more beautiful people in your family. And I don’t know; it’s neat how it works out. And I’m very happy for making that choice because I knew I couldn’t do for my child right from the beginning what I needed to be doing for him. So these people are a good thing.

Olivia:
I learned about Building Arizona Families by looking at Catholic social services, and their number popped up right at the top of the search. And it’s the first number I called, and they said, “We’ll come to pick you up today. We’ll do the intake right now.” And they picked me up. They brought me in. That meant a lot. I feel very safe with the agency there. They make you feel perfect about your choice because it’s a hard choice. The thing I would tell a pregnant woman about adoption is that it’s not a selfish decision, that it’s a selfless decision. And that if you know that you can’t do for your child what you want to do for your child when you have them, that’s the best thing you can do for them is give them to a loving family.

Olivia:
When I started the program, yeah, I did feel when I first came in; I felt alone and felt very unsure about what I would be doing after coming in and doing my intake. And with Building Arizona Families, no, I didn’t feel alone. I felt very taken care of in a sense. I felt like everything would be okay, and I still think that way. I believe that these are people that I’m going to have a relationship with for the rest of my life because of the gift that they gave me.

Ron Reigns:
We have a pregnancy crisis hotline available 24/7 by phone or text at (623) 695-4112, or you can call our toll-free number, 1-800-340-9665. We can make an immediate appointment with you to get you to a safe place, provide food and clothing and start on creating an Arizona adoption plan or give you more information. You can check out our blogs on our website at azpregnancyhelp.com. Thank you for joining us on Birth Mother Matters in Adoption, written and produced by Kelly Rourke-Scarry and edited by Ron Reigns. Rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts if you enjoy this podcast. And as always, thanks to Grapes for letting us use their song, I Don’t Know, like our theme song. Join us next time for Birth Mother Matters in Adoption. For Kelly Rourke-Scarry, I’m Ron Reigns, and we’ll see you then.

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