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Birth Mother Matters in Adoption Episode #57 – Adoption Case Manager Interview

Ron :
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:
Who is best for your kid and yourself? If you can’t take care of yourself, you’ll 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:
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’ve worked in the adoption field for over 15 years.

Ron :
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 can combine these two great passions and share them on this podcast.

Kelly:
We have talked about many aspects of adoption, and I thought it would be fun to listen to somebody who has come to work for us. She’s been with us for over a year. She has been in the social worker field for years and years and decades. Sarah is an adoptive family caseworker born and raised in Montana before heading South to Arizona in 2018; the Building Arizona Families mission drew her out of retirement and back into working as a social worker for our agency. She graduated from Carroll College in Helena, Montana, with social work and criminal justice degree.

Kelly:
Adoption is a very specialized field. So many times, workers who come to us don’t have very much experience in adoption as an entity or a lot. And so, when they come from a different sector of social work, it’s like stepping into a whole new world. And we have our language per se, our acronyms, our philosophies. We all follow and adhere to the same state and federal laws. But agency-to-agency philosophies may differ, and we may have different mission statements. Still, I believe the adoption community has the same ultimate goal and mind as a whole. And I thought it would be fun to listen to what it’s like to come from so many different social positions and career choices, right? And what it is like to step into the adoption world as an adoptive family case manager. What was your experience before coming to work in the adoption community?

Sarah:
I started as a social worker, graduated, and at 21, started working in a children’s psychiatric hospital. So I jumped at the onset of the mental health field dealing with, we had kids down to age three that would come into that hospital, and we would have to use different techniques; they had attachment disorder. So we would have to use exceptional holding. There were 12-year-old girls that we were trying to go back, bring them back, and bond. So you would see us holding, like a baby, a 12-year-old girl trying to get her to attach. So we had 20; in my 20’s, I had an eye-opening experience in the world of mental illness and psychiatric hospitals.

Sarah:
So I did that job. And then, I got an internship at the juvenile probation office. And so I started with the next phase, which I moved up to teenagers, and then from there, I have worked in a variety of jobs. So one of them was working at a teenage adoption agency, but it was mainly. We didn’t do many adoptions; we took in pregnant teenage girls. I did case management, and some would place for adoption, but most of them, we are trying to teach them how to parent their child because they were either working through DCS. And one of the most eye-opening experiences was being in the delivery room with a 14-year-old girl. And I was the one holding her hand, trying to talk her through it. And it’s like, I wanted to switch places with her so bad.

Sarah:
So yeah. I just had. And then the last job that I thought I retired at was working at an adult psychiatric hospital, Montana State Hospital. So these were committed individuals, and I would follow my way out the door of working with them. Because I worked with a lot of them were geriatric patients. So you would see one funny story, this is a funny story. I went into the geriatric unit, and I was buzzing in, and I looked in the window, and here is like an 80 some year old man with his pants down around his ankles. Like you’d see a bit three-year-old getting into the tub, diaper down, pants down, and just kicked him off everything off walking butt naked down the hallway. And I go in, and here’s the staff getting them, come on Roger, get your clothes back on.

Sarah:
So, it was just like, wow, this is what I have to look forward to. Yeah. As far as my career expands for 30 years and like, I said, started as a children’s psychiatric hospital, went to geriatrics, retired and saw BAF, researched BAF, and thought, I think I have a little more to add to working with a society that needs the help. So I jumped back in the pool, and I’ll tell you if I’m going, being honest. I don’t see myself leaving until they kick me out. Till they pull my driver’s license and I can’t drive anymore.

Kelly:
That provides such reassurance. Thank you so much for that, Sarah.

Sarah:
And I’ve been through the ugly part of it too. The transitions and all of the goods, the bad, the uglies. And it’s like, you have to work together as a team to get through that. And I’m not someone that’s going to jump ship.

Ron :
Now you talked about how you started researching BAF, which brought you back and made you change your mind about retiring. Was there anything about Building Arizona Families that made you change your mind? What was it that you said, “you know what, this is worth it.”

Sarah:
Because my last job, when I did work with the psychiatric patients, it was as a liaison. So I would help them transition from the hospital. If they were well enough or had a placement for them, I would help them transition into the community. So I spent hours upon hours with people that were homeless. One point in their life and ran into. Their mental health took the best of them, and sick individuals. Well, when I got out of it, I just had that drive to get back in to help in any way I could. I don’t know; it was weird because I was done. I was walking dogs; I was cleaning houses. I was happy. I didn’t have any oversight. And I don’t know; my heart drew me back into the field.

Sarah:
I think as a social worker, it does that. It’s just something simple that draws you back in. So when I initially went there and did the interview, two positions were being offered—working with adoptive families and working with the birth mothers, which my heart always draws towards that. But I had never worked on the other side of the place. As a probation officer, I was working, dealing with aunts and uncles and parents and the kid, and otherwise for adults, I was working with it as a whole, but I never worked on the other side of it, trying to get a family to bring one of the products of the people I work with into their life. So that’s why, and Kelly always teases me, wants me to go back over to the dark side. That’s my comfort zone. I decided to go out of my comfort zone in social work. And that’s why I chose the route I chose.

Kelly:
I was clarifying the dark side. That is a little bit of a joke.

Sarah:
Completely a joke. You know what? I will refer to that as the dark side, meaning you don’t know what to expect. You are in the dark half the time, 3/4 of the time [crosstalk 00:09:26] mothers.

Kelly:
Yes. Well said, yes.

Sarah:
Yeah. That’s the dark side. Because of the dark side, then I’ve lived in the dark side for 30 years, and so yeah.

Kelly:
What is your favorite aspect of working in an adoption agency?

Sarah:
My favorite aspect has the skills, tools, and ability to work with a family. The objective is to have placements and know that if anyone needs to let them down or give them the information, I trust that. I don’t want other people to do that for me because I have those tools and those techniques and those skills to do it in a way that I feel has been effective because I’ve done it. It’s like a pro golfer. He will be a great golfer if he practices, practices, practices. I’ve had many years of training, which ultimately has helped.

Ron :
So everything has its good and bad. What’s your least favorite aspect?

Sarah:
My most minor favorite aspect is the people where my hair stands at the back of my neck when people judge people who have never walked in the other person’s shoes. And when I hear negative comments from people, because many of our birth mothers have drug problems, there will be or possibly could be drug exposure in the baby. So to hear somebody tell me that, Oh, how could they. Do they not understand they’re carrying a baby? That is so selfish. That’s, is that.

Sarah:
I stop them because I’ve heard the stories starting at age four, five, six of the horrifying experiences that the young kids went through. Sexual abuse, through age six by their uncle. Mom and dad were drug addicts. They quit high school. They were exposed to all of this, and we’re supposed to sit there and tell people. I would never do that; I can’t believe they do that. How dare anybody dare say what you would or wouldn’t do when you have no idea how you would react if that were your life. So cut the crap right there. I’m sorry, but that’s what just sets me off.

Kelly:
Yeah. I get it.

Sarah:
I’m very passionate about that.

Kelly:
No, absolutely. So what is the funniest story that has happened to you since you started?

Sarah:
How long is this podcast? I try to make fun every day of my job because I want to bring that to people. I want to get it to one of my coworkers. I want to bring it to whoever I come in contact with. It just makes life better when you hear something funny, and you can laugh; you can laugh at yourself. You can laugh at the other person, but this is halfway funny, but like sad. Sharqi and I had a case; I can’t name names, correct?

Kelly:
Correct.

Sarah:
Okay. So we had a case, and it was a disruption. We went all along, and the adoptive parents were constantly questioning me. Do you see red flags? Do you see red flags? Well, yes, I do. I do because I would tell these adopted families that I am your right arm in the state of Arizona. I will, everything that you would want to do, I want to do for you. Because I feel it’s very much a disadvantage to be in another state, blindly putting your faith in somebody. So this girl was disrupted, and I had to call the family the night before Thanksgiving. It was [inaudible 00:13:25], it’s like oh my goodness, Thanksgiving is the next day?

Sarah:
So I called them and told them whatnot. Well, all of a sudden, we get a call, I don’t know, three weeks later. And she’s at the hospital, and she wants to poise. And so I was so excited, but we weren’t going. I wasn’t going to call them until after she signed the POA. So Shaqia said, “Sarah, we got to get there. They’re kicking her out of the hospital.” So at 10 o’clock that night, she had had C-section 10.

Sarah:
Well, I’m on the phone with Shaqia trying to. Okay. Where do I go? She’s like, we’re out at St. Joe’s. They’re going to kick her out. So I hurry and Kelly, I apologize. I put a hat on, and I may have had sweat; I’m not sure what I had on. But I wanted to get this done because she wanted to sign the POA’s right there at the hospital; she didn’t want to leave. So I hurry, and I’m pulling up into the circle at St. Joe’s, and here is Shaqia and three security guards and the birth mom walking out with. She had pulled the IVs out. She’s stepping out in a t-shirt, shorts, no shoes. And it was a cold, windy day. And here’s Sharqi and the security guards and first of all being escorted out, and I was half laughing, going, Oh my goodness, this is my job. What is going on here? Something’s not right. And so she came over, and security had escorted her out. She took the food tray and threw it at the nurses, and they said, “we’re done with you.” And this girl has just had a C-section.

Ron :
Wow.

Sarah:
So she came out, and here is Shaqia and I in the parking, in the roundabout at St. Joe’s hospital on the bench. And she is like demanding, the birth mom demanding to sign POA’s. So it was funny because that made me go; I’m driving up and facing security guards, a birth mom who just had a C-section, and Shaqia, a case manager, looking at me shaking her head. Because she was new. And she looked at me and were just like, Oh my goodness, what did we get ourselves into?

Kelly:
You left out the best part.

Sarah:
Which was the best part?

Kelly:
What did you give that birth, mother?

Sarah:
So she’s cold, I’m out. She doesn’t want to come to sit in my car. We don’t want to have her sign POA’s in my vehicle. At least they tried to open the door and even crouch down. And so I keep golf shoes in my trunk, and I keep coats because every restaurant I go into, they think that we’re from Alaska. So I stay extra stuff, and I pull out a pair of shoes, I’m putting tennis shoes on her, I’m putting my coat wrapping, my coat around her. If I had a blanket, I would add that around her. But yeah, that was funny because I can’t imagine that happening all too often.

Ron :
Wow.

Kelly:
Hopefully not.

Sarah:
Yeah. Kelly [crosstalk 00:16:22].

Kelly:
That’s a pretty good one. You know what? I have a vault full, so that’s a pretty good one. That’s good. When you came onto the agency, have you ever had a moment where you thought, well, I never thought I would blink?

Sarah:
I guess I never thought I would enjoy jumping back into social work the way I did. It was like I took those six months off to decompress. And when I went back in, I wasn’t 100% sure how much I would like it because I’d been away. So I never would’ve thought I enjoyed getting back into this until I got into it and realized I get to work on both sides too. That’s the other thing I get to work with those adoptive parents, but the minute I can contact a birth mom in the hospital, pre-hospital, whenever. I want that because I want them to see the compassion and the love in my heart, to know that I’m not from the other side; I’m here to help you too. Even though I want my adopted family to have a successful adoption, I want everything to be okay with you. So I guess that’s how I see it. I never thought I would love it so much to get to work on both sides of it.

Kelly:
What about the one thing, because you do work with both sides, but primarily on the adoptive parent’s side, what is the one thing that you have always wanted to say to adoptive parents, but you really can’t? Because this is an open forum. This is how you can say something, and somebody isn’t going to take offense to it. So if you could say one thing, one message, what would it be?

Sarah:
One message that I could tell the adoptive family is to strap in because this will be a roller coaster ride. I can’t guarantee anything. You will go through some emotions that you probably have never felt. And I wish I could tell you that this is going to be, but I can’t and the reality of that. You can’t do that with them because you don’t want to give them the immediate feeling of worry. So you try to tell them that carefully, but you sugar coat a little bit; you have to. Because I don’t want them to worry right initially, that is not a way to start developing a relationship. I have to have them build the. I make the trust, and then the sugar coating comes off gradually, where I’m brutally honest because of that. But I can’t do it right away because it would affect the relationship I’m trying to build in the beginning.

Kelly:
And when you watch two people become a family, what does that do for you?

Sarah:
Well, I’m so happy for them. It is so wonderful to discharge, right in front of the hospital. But there’s another side because for everyone’s when there’s a loss. And so, it’s like accepting the trophy, but then turning back and looking at the people that didn’t get the award. You have to have some compassion for that. That, it’s somebody win and somebody else’s loss, and that’s tough. That’s tough to get around sometimes.

Kelly:
Have there ever been nights where you didn’t sleep?

Sarah:
Yeah, absolutely. I always tell people it’s so funny because social work is underpaid, whatever, all the job done. But those of us that have been in it, yeah, we’d love to get paid more. But the reality is that people don’t love the job as much as I do either. So they could be making $120,000 a day, but they’re not making a difference every single day in the lives of somebody else. They don’t have that opportunity. And to have that opportunity, you can’t put a price tag on it.

Kelly:
I couldn’t agree more. Ron, do you have any more questions for you?

Ron :
No. I’m just blown away. Thank you so much. You have such a kind heart, and you’ve been just a delight. So thank you very much for joining us.

Sarah:
You’re welcome.

Kelly:
Yes, Sarah. Thank you.

Sarah:
Thanks for having me. Now is there a royalty check in this at all?

Ron :
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 @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. Suppose you enjoy this podcast; rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts. And as always, thanks to Grapes for letting us use their song I don’t know as our theme song; join us next time for Birth Mother Matters in adoption for Kelly Rourke-Scarry, I’m Ron reigns we’ll see you then.

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