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Birth Mother Matters in Adoption Episode #60 – Adoption Agencies are a Safe Place

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 agency  triad.

Speaker 2:
Do what’s best for your kids and 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 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-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 can combine these two great passions and share them on this podcast.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
An adoption agency is definitely a safe place and environment when placing a baby for adoption.

Ron Reigns:
One would hope.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah. And I guarantee it. Well, I guarantee our agency. I can’t speak for every adoption agency.

Ron Reigns:
For Building Arizona Families.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
For Building Arizona Families. We’re a safe place. I’ve always wanted to be a safe haven, a safe, a refuge for women who need help and want to place their babies for adoption. I want them… It’s been described by one of our birth moms, actually more than one. It feels like home when they come in. And that is the biggest compliment to me because that was my goal: when they walk in… Well, you’ve been there. You’ve been there.

Ron Reigns:
Absolutely.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And I hope that you felt that warm presence and it’s-

Ron Reigns:
Just very-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
… nonjudgmental and-

Ron Reigns:
It is like a family kind of environment. And again, everybody’s very friendly. Yeah. I agree.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah. So many women that come into our office pregnant considering adoption agency are dealing with being homeless. A lot of them have a warrant for their arrest. A lot of them are using drugs. Many of them have children in the custody of the state. Many have previously had abortions. Lots of them have been placed for adoption prior. Some of them have been consuming alcohol. Many of them don’t know who the birth father is. They may have multiple birth fathers, and some of them are teenagers.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And I want to reassure those listening that you’re not alone; if you’re one of these, fall into one of these categories. We know-

Ron Reigns:
Or more than one.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. And many do. And we’re not there to judge. We’re there to help work. At least, as I said, I can only speak for our adoption agency, but a social worker is there because she wants, or he wants to be there for the good and the bad.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And they know the roller coaster that a social worker is on during their career. And they know that there are good moments and bad moments. And as I said before, I tell every worker that comes in, “This will be the best and worst job you’ve ever had.” And I stand by that. So, so many women who come in and tell me, “I was so afraid when I first walked through the doors, and then I walked through the doors, and I was watching some of the testimonials that women had,” on the TV that we have played often when women come in, “and it really made me feel better.” And again, that’s the goal. Some women will go in and say things like, “I’m on a lot of drugs, and I’m afraid to tell you what drugs I’m on because I don’t want you to not want to help me place my baby for adoption.” And that’s not what happens.

Ron Reigns:
No. As a matter of fact, if there’s nothing that they’re going to tell you, that would really come as a surprise.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Correct.

Ron Reigns:
Do you know what I mean? You’ve seen pretty much all of it.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
In almost 16 years. And in speaking with probably well over a thousand women, I would say maybe even 150% of that, maybe up to 1500 women speaking to them. I can say that there is little that I have not heard before.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And I mean, we’ve seen the drugs, everything from cocaine, crack ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, methadone, methamphetamines, Xanax, the whole oxycodone, hydrocodone, Percocet, Vicodin, you name it. We’ve seen it. Mushrooms. We’ve seen the gamut. The exciting thing about the drugs that come in is that I do see trends. So, in other words, we’ll have a period of maybe six months, nine months, or even a year where there’s a lot of women using this particular drug.

Ron Reigns:
Right. Like heroin, and then next it’s whatever.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. Because we saw for the first, I would say eight or nine years of the agency, crystal meth was the big, big drug. And that was what everybody was coming in on. And again, now we’re not seeing that as much. We’re still seeing it, but it’s not as prevalent. Now we’re seeing more heroin, and we’re seeing a lot of methadone, and it’s just very different. And then we’re seeing a lot of the prescription drugs sold on the street as well.

Ron Reigns:
Now, understanding, obviously you’re not a doctor, but you’ve seen a lot of this. Just out of curiosity for myself, what drugs seem to be the worst for the pregnancy and for the baby in the long run?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Well, I can’t… Again, I’m not a doctor, but from my experience is, methadone appears to be the drug that the babies are in the hospital for withdrawing the longest. They need the most medical assistance to come off of. Heroin would probably follow that. And fentanyl is the drug that, in my opinion right now, is the scariest because it’s being laced in all these other drugs. And a lot of times, women are not aware of what has been mixed into their pills. So they may be doing fentanyl and not really realizing it.

Ron Reigns:
But they’re also getting heroin and something else and-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right.

Ron Reigns:
Right, okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
So, you can place a baby up for adoption if you’re on a methadone program in Arizona. We have lots and lots of women on the methadone treatment program and choose an adoption agency. And it is something that we are… We’re used to working with those women that are undergoing methadone treatment. It’s not scary or new to us. It is something that we’re very familiar with. Adoptive families are absolutely willing and excited to love your baby, regardless of substance exposure. Obviously, they want the best health for you and the baby. But they’re not there to judge you or condemn you for drug use. One question that many women are afraid of when they come in is, do you drug test? Do you drug test?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
We don’t drug test because there are. Actually, there’s a variety of reasons. And I’m going to discuss them because, again, I think knowledge is power. Just because somebody tests positive or negative one day doesn’t mean they’re not going to test positive the next. I have seen and heard of ways people can alter a drug test to not expose the drugs they’re using. That’s not our role. Our role is as an adoption agency is to work on an adoption plan. Because there’re no repercussions. There’s nothing that a woman using substances versus a woman not using substances won’t receive in terms of benefits or assistance. It doesn’t change. So there’s no reason to not be honest with us as an adoption agency because that enables us to find a family that is willing and able to accept-

Ron Reigns:
Precisely what, right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
… a child that has been substance exposed to whatever is being used. So in our frame of mind, I feel like if we were to perform drug tests, that is one a liability for us because we’re not a doctor’s office, and we are again not there to judge or to scrutinize or-

Ron Reigns:
Again, it goes back to making your environment feel more like a family, like a home for these girls, and again, not to be judged.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Correct.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And so when they come in, we’re not performing drug tests. So that’s a big thing.

Ron Reigns:
Now with adoptive families, obviously some… Everybody has their limits. Some are going to say, “Absolutely no drug use.” What would be the percentage of adoptive parents who don’t want any drug use? Probably pretty low, isn’t it?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Oh, that’s a really, really good question. Yes and no. I will say that the more an adoptive family is educated, the more open they are. And unfortunately, when you don’t have adoption education and want to adopt a child, what needs to be understood is that women placing their babies for adoption are putting their babies because they’re not in a place in their life to parent. If they were a stay-at-home mom and a stable marriage, not using drugs, getting medical care regularly-

Ron Reigns:
Chances are-

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
… they wouldn’t be placing their baby for adoption in 99.9% of those cases. So women putting their babies for adoption, with our adoption agency, are doing so because they want a better life for their child than they can provide. And substance use across the board is an epidemic at this point. I mean, drug use is, it’s terrible. We are seeing a lot of it. So families that come in are, I will see initially when they come in, they may say, “We want minimal drug use. And we really would like a mom that has not used drugs.” And does that happen? Sure, sure. It’s not.

Ron Reigns:
But it’s more the exception than the rule.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It is. And the other thing that needs to be understood is just because a mom isn’t using drugs in the beginning when she’s matched with a family doesn’t mean she’s not going to not use it by the end.

Ron Reigns:
She could relapse or.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Absolutely. She could relapse. She could try for the first time and get hooked. It’s not, there are no guarantees, and life doesn’t offer guarantees. The more educated an adoptive family becomes, the more open they become. The more relaxed they are. And we’ve talked about the doors in our adoption agency and that analogy. The more doors they have opened, the faster they’re going to be, the quicker they will achieve their goal of going through an adoption agency. Every family may not be equipped or ready or emotionally able to adopt a child that has been substance exposed. That may be over their limit. That threshold may not be there.

Ron Reigns:
And in the long-term, I mean, obviously, some of these babies are somewhat addicted when they come out. Right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yes.

Ron Reigns:
So in the long term, what are some of the adverse effects?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
That’s so debatable and hard to substantiate because so many studies show different things.

Ron Reigns:
Okay. Are they more apt to become. They have addictive personalities or?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Not necessarily.

Ron Reigns:
Really? Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
In my opinion, I’m not a medical professional. From what we have seen and from what we have been told by the adoptive families that have adopted from us over the past almost 16 years, is the vast majority are not reporting any long-term effects. Now that’s not to say that… It’s hard, I think from an adoptive family’s perspective when they’re raising a child, because you think, “Okay, so if my child has this behavior, is this because they were drug exposed? Is this because they were adopted? Is this because they’re…?”

Ron Reigns:
Any number of things.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And that’s what they do. “Is this because…” It’s hard to attribute what the cause is.

Ron Reigns:
Because there are always so many factors that go into life.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
There are so many factors. Right. So, could there be long-term effects? Absolutely. Could there not be long-term effects? Absolutely. I would say that the vast majority of feedback that I have gotten are-

Ron Reigns:
Positive stories.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah.

Ron Reigns:
A lot of nurture as opposed to nature kind of things.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah.

Ron Reigns:
Now you did bring up one thing. It kind of just, it’s a sidetrack, but it made me think, what do you feel when you realize your adoption agency that some of the earliest babies you helped to adopt are now driving?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It makes me feel old, Ron.

Ron Reigns:
That’s not where I would go with that, but okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It makes me feel old but thank you for that.

Ron Reigns:
No, I mean, you’ve changed so many lives, and some of these are now teenagers and driving, and.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
I have to say when I sit down… And I sit down with every birth mother that comes into our program, and I explain my story. I want her to know that if it wasn’t for adoption and the gift I was given, I would be sitting on the other side of the desk. And I… My experience and the life I have had are what they’re giving their baby the opportunity for. And I have to say, when someone’s looking at you, they look at you one way, and then when I say this, it’s like, they look at you a completely different way. And you become the bird in the cage at that moment. And they’re then fascinated. And it’s not the response I’m looking for, mind you. I just want to present the other side.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
So many adoptive families that are educated regarding drug-exposed newborns are very open to adopting a baby that has been exposed to substances in utero. We definitely work with our adoptive families. We encourage them to talk to pediatricians who have experience with drug-exposed newborns. We encourage them to speak with other adoptive families that have adopted babies exposed to substances. We want families to research before matching with a mom or even filling out the preference form. We want to make sure that they’re comfortable with their choice before going into a match with a birth mom.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
When you call Building Arizona Families or AZ Pregnancy Help, it’s the same agency, two different names. We know that you’re going in… For the families adopting, and this is your first adoption experience, you are going into unchartered territory. We get that. That’s why you work with an agency. That’s why you have a caseworker there to hold your hand help you understand what this looks like, and provide references. “Oh, we have a family that experienced a very similar situation. Let me reach out and see if they’re open and willing to talk with you about how this affected them, how they work through it.”

Ron Reigns:
And I would assume that nine times out of 10, people like to tell their stories and share their experiences. So I can’t imagine too many times when other people who have gone through the same thing are like, “Nah, I don’t want to talk about it.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Agreed, agreed. Families that have gone through, it’s like… And this is probably a bad comparison, but when… If you are a person that likes roller coasters and you go on… Have you ever been on Montezooma’s Revenge, Knott’s Berry Farm?

Ron Reigns:
No. Sorry.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Okay. That’s the only name of a roller coaster that I know. But if you go on some, this roller coaster-

Ron Reigns:
California adventure, whatever it’s called. Right. Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Okay right. So you hear about it. You see the ads on TV; you see people who come off of it. You watch… You see on Instagram, they’re wearing the shirt that they went on it. Sometimes there’s throw-up on the front of it, but whatever, and you go on it, and you loved it. What are you going to do?

Ron Reigns:
You’re going to go on it again. Get back into.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Tell everybody.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, that too.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, when you… They always say if you do X, Y, and Z, you’re not going to get a t-shirt. It’s not, so being able to tell your story and your adoption story is like wearing that t-shirt. It’s like being able to stand proud behind your child and your family and know that you did something unique, not just for your family and not just for this child, but for the birth mother. Because your adoption agency is able to give her that peace of mind, knowing that her child is being raised in a home that she wants for her child and that she’s…

Ron Reigns:
The whole triad benefits, right?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. It’s a positive and a win-win situation. A win-win-win situation.

Ron Reigns:
According to drugabuse.gov, the number of women with opioid use disorder at labor and delivery quadrupled from 1999 to 2014. 19.5 million females, or 15.4% ages 18 and older, have used illicit drugs in the past year. An estimate suggests that about 5% of pregnant women use one or more addictive substances. And suppose a pregnant woman attempts to suddenly stop using drugs and alcohol without medical help. In that case, she can put her fetus at risk.

Speaker 7:
My name is Shailla. I found out I was pregnant; I was a little nervous because I didn’t know how to expect it. And to tell my mother, I was like, “Oh my God, what am I going to do?” So at first, it was a little scary. And then I walked into your life. It was amazing. It changed my whole life. It made me a better person, as well as for my daughter. I knew I was leaving her in the hands of somebody I could trust. I got the best; Aaron and Jonathan are some of the best people that have ever helped me in my life and changed my life for my daughter.

Speaker 7:
I don’t sometimes know when you’re on the street and right when you’re out in the world that you don’t see what you’re going to expect, and people think highly think of you. Still, they just don’t know what to expect because becoming a mother is hard and just alone. With the parents, both being together and the relationships are complex and challenging. But I know that I have the best support and that you’re doing a great job by coming to Building Arizona Families. And they’re adoption agency is here to help you because I’m scared or upset, I’m here because it’s the happy. And I just wanted to tell him, thank you. I decided on adoption because I felt that it would be the best for my life, that I have what’s going on in my life right now.

Speaker 7:
I have a mental disability. And I just thought that the best support for my relationship with my daughter would be to put her through adoption where I’d have opened adoption and where I can be able to see her, communicate with her, and know-how she’s doing throughout her whole life. And I wanted nothing but the best for her, and I’m lucky because I found the perfect place, and that’s Building Arizona Family. It’s a hard step for anybody to go through, but I know it’s essential for a girl and a lady to understand. And we have the best team. I was a little nervous that I got scared the first day when I came around. Because I was like, I didn’t know what to expect. And then there’s… You got a lot of relationships that you go through with each person, and building it was the best part of my life.

Speaker 7:
So it changed me in many ways. And it also made me find myself within myself. And I would hope for the best for my daughter. And that’s why I left her for us to build a good family. They help you financially. They allow you mentally; if you need any classes you need to take or support system, they help you with clothing, they help you with food. The ladies here, everybody, was excellent. She helped me through it. I mean, whenever I needed her, she was right there. She never… She stopped what she was doing. No matter the crisis or situation, she was right on time. And it was just incredible.

Speaker 7:
And then meeting you and then knowing that you were also adopted was really cool because then it kind of like made me have better set up for me when I get to meet with my daughter if that’s what she chooses, and I hope she does. To understand your situation and to feel like it’s not a tragic situation. It’s about building yourself and your character of the life of what you want for your life, and it turned out the best. So I’m really happy for her.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
What was your best moment in the whole adoption journey? What was the one defining moment that you found the most peace? The most happiness.

Speaker 7:
That I made the right decision going through an adoption agency. And I know that the right decision was to complete her because I put her first. But I know that the best decision was for, no matter what situation I was going through, no matter who was in my life, you guys stayed by my side. And we just went through it and worked through everything. And the support, that’s the best part too, because you need that kind of support. You got somebody helping you with your clothing, food, finances, and circumstances. And then just being out there and taking that of your life that you’ve maybe, it could have been something terrible, it could’ve been something good. But you turned yourself around. And I always think for the positive part, that it’s going to be something that you’re going to have a good outcome because you’re not making the wrong decision by coming here.

Speaker 7:
This is the best place in the world for you for this situation that you need to go through with this. And they’re going to be there for you on and on and on and on, but just never give up. And don’t ever think that, that’s bad to make that decision because it’s… Everybody goes to this situation throughout their life, and they don’t have a family. They don’t have support or anything. So if it’s in your relationship or anything that you feel like it’s on a side that fails, don’t think you failed here. Think of the best thing you’ve ever made as to the best decision in your life. We got the best support system with the ladies that work here; at the adoption agency they’ll give you the utmost respect. They’re there on time. They’re always positive thinkers, and they always know the right words and the right things to say to us. So we don’t get our feelings hurt. So just this shouldn’t be a place where you would ever have any regrets. So I can guarantee you that.

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 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 dunno as 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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