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Birth Mother Matters in Adoption Episode #53 – Is it Difficult to Adopt?

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 #YouBeforeMeCampaign. 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:
You know, Ron, I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be at a soccer game for one of our children or a basketball game or at a Christmas party. We’re talking with people around us, and they say, “Oh, adoption. Oh, yeah. Isn’t it difficult for families to adopt?” That is the first question I get.

Ron Reigns:
Almost invariably, just always, “Isn’t it difficult to adopt?”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
When they start the first word, I can just finish the sentence. And I think I’ve answered this so many times. I almost want to go, “One moment please,” and pull out a tape recorder and just hit play. Or a flyer. Or just get a t-shirt that outlines it. So, I think that-

Ron Reigns:
So, is it?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
No, it’s not.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah. Everybody likes to live within their comfort zone, and people don’t want to step outside. An example of that would be my biological mother lived in Grove City, Columbus, Ohio, and she and her husband didn’t like to travel very much at all. In other words, she wanted to be at home on her couch and wasn’t real comfortable venturing out.

Ron Reigns:
Right. I’m honestly the same way.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
But she’d been on airplanes before. I mean, not many times, but I would have to walk her right to the gate, basically, and make sure she knew what plane to get on. And she just wasn’t comfortable. And so, adoption can seem like this foreign entity, where when you understand adoption and how it works, it’s not complicated.

Ron Reigns:
And a lot of the difficult part is making that first step, right? Kind of like, “Okay, I’m going to look into it tomorrow.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
I think it is. Yeah. Why put off for tomorrow, which you can do today? I think it is. And I think when you are trying to grasp a new concept and try to understand something, initially, it can feel very overwhelming. It can feel very intimidating. Sometimes, people don’t want to learn a new process or gather an understanding. I know right now I am obsessed with my camera and Photoshop, and Lightroom, and it can also be overwhelming. And so, I’ve trained myself to learn one new thing a day, and that way, in a month, I’ll have discovered 30 new items. So, that’s how I look at it. So, maybe if people took the same approach of learning one thing about adoption and just learn one new thing a day, what types of adoption there are.

Ron Reigns:
Kind of the way I’ve been approaching this podcast because I’d been on the radio before, and that was daunting when I first started that. And since I got out of radio, I’ve always wanted to do a podcast, but thankfully for your pushing me and saying, “We need to do this podcast.” Otherwise, I wouldn’t have learned that one new thing a day and started approaching this podcast.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah, I have to think about what I’m going to say, how it may be interpreted, what I can say to make somebody feel better about it, how I can kind of cushion the fall. And so, yeah. So, I think that families out there are thinking, “Is adoption difficult?” It can be. As a general rule, it doesn’t have to be. And so, I want to say, “No, no, no, it’s not difficult.” But it can be depending on your situation, your belief system.
First and foremost, the perception or notion that adopting is difficult is a hurdle you have to overcome first. When you hear stories of people saying, “Oh, I’ve been trying to adopt for years. My grandmother’s sister’s mother’s aunt’s sister, she had an experience where they took the baby back, and so-and-so knows somebody pregnant and we wanted to adopt that child, but it didn’t work out.” And I think, unfortunately, in the adoption community and society, people focus on the negative stories, and they get more attention than the positives because the majority of adoptions are successful. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be doing this. That’s like saying, with heart surgery, if the doctor only were successful 20% of the time, you wouldn’t be lined up to get a coronary bypass; you would find a different doctor.

Ron Reigns:
And like with medical issues, like with a heart doctor, things have changed over the years. Medicine has improved, and those odds have gotten better, just like I believe they have with adoptions. And so many things about adoptions being more open than they used to be, have become better.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Correct. The understanding of adoption, I think, is getting better and better. And hopefully, this podcast is helping with that, breaking down the barriers, and increasing people’s knowledge. Because again, as we’ve talked about, knowledge is power, and adoption is robust in and of itself. So, with knowledge, we’re talking superhero status.

Ron Reigns:
Absolutely.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Adoption was, in the past, not always openly discussed. In the past, like when I was born, in dinosaur days, most adoptions were closed, and unfortunately, conversations about adoptions were closed too. I would hear my adoptive parents refer to, “Oh, yeah, our children are adopted.” And again, I’ve told the podcast listeners before that that was something that made me hold my breath and freeze for a little bit.
It wasn’t something that was; it almost felt like back then, because adoption wasn’t openly talked about, there were very few celebrity adoptions. It wasn’t something that was glamorized. It almost felt, at that moment, like you were the zoo animal, and people were looking in at you. And that’s what it felt like. Probably very similar to somebody with a disability, is when people look at you, you almost don’t know how to look back.

Ron Reigns:
Right. Well, in a similar way, I have very poor eyesight. I’m legally blind. And it’s hard for me to look somebody in the eye when I talk to them because I feel like if I make eye contact and they look into my eyes, they can see that I have a disability, and I don’t want to be different from anybody else. And so, I’m sure I look evasive when I’m talking to somebody face to face because I don’t look them in the eyes for very long. I’ll look away a lot. And so, yeah, it is very similar.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
So, you understand, and you can relate.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
So, because adopting is more common than the general public realizes, we see adoptive families from all walks of life. It is not the 1% that can do this. Studies show that six in 10 Americans have had a personal experience with adoption. This means that a family member or a close friend has been adopted, adopted a child, or placed a child for adoption. And that was back in 1997. This study was done by the Evan B. Donaldson Institute, which I thought, was in ’97. That was a long time ago. It is estimated that about one million children in the United States live with adoptive parents. And that was from a study on adoption from 1993. So, I.

Ron Reigns:
So, that’s almost 30 years ago.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Someone may have had difficulty adapting, and that situation is openly discussed more than positive. Again, we talked about that at the beginning of this podcast. The news and media are excellent examples of talking about everything wrong. The glass is half-empty, rather than talking about everything right. When a family leaves a hospital, it doesn’t make the news.

Ron Reigns:
Let’s look at the bright side of this.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah, we are looking at the bright side rather than being a Debbie Downer. It’s not doomsday. Let’s lift each other, and let’s look at what’s positive, even if it’s not the best situation. And so, going back to, is it difficult for families to adopt? It can be, but that doesn’t mean it has to be. And it’s all within your control, and that’s what we’re going to talk about.

Ron Reigns:
A lot of it is what you make of it. Certainly.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Correct. There may be many reasons people believe adopting is difficult, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. So, in looking at that, some aspects that may give credence to the notion that it is difficult, I’m going to go through those, and then we’re going to counterbalance them, Ron, because we’re going to show people that perceptions can go out the window. Stereotypes can go out the window. You hear it from people in the field, the daily grind. As the agency director, I don’t ask my staff to do anything that I wouldn’t do. I’ve done every aspect of the job. I jump in and case manage if we have too many cases or if they need a second hand; I’m right there. I’ve done consents.

Ron Reigns:
You’re there to deliver bad news if need be. You’re there.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
I am, I am. I’m there to do consents at 10:00 PM. I’m answering the phone Christmas morning, hiding in the closet, helping coach a caseworker through something, telling my kids I’m in the bathroom quickly as they’re opening up presents, just to make sure that I’m right there with them. So, that being said, this is doable. For those of you who want to adopt, this is doable. So,

can adoption be expensive? Yes. So, then the families say, “Well, we don’t make very much money. How would we be able to adopt?”

Ron Reigns:
Yeah. There are grants. There are all kinds of great things.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Adoption grants. There’s the tax credit—financial gifts from family members, fundraisers. There are so many resources out there. We’ve had families where grants funded their entire adoption.

Ron Reigns:
Really? That’s amazing.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
All right. So, after enrolling in a domestic adoption program, families fear that they will be waiting forever. “Oh, it’s going to take us years and years and years.” Waiting is hard. I am as an inpatient person as they come. I like everything right here, right now.

Ron Reigns:
Instant gratification. Amazon, bring it to me.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Oh, forget Amazon, Prime Now, where it’s two hours. And there is no end marker for when a birth mother will choose you, but there are ways to lessen your wait. So, in doing domestic adoption, we’ve talked about keeping as many doors open as possible. The more honest you are, the more chances can be shown, giving you more opportunities to be chosen.

Ron Reigns:
The more limited you are, the longer you’re probably going to wait.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Sure, because you’re closing doors.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, exactly.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Also, you would want to check with the agency you’re working with and see if they have a list of families that have had a disruption or an exceedingly long wait. And when babies come in through Safe Haven, or we get a mom who has delivered at the hospital and decided that she doesn’t want to parent. She hasn’t been in our program prior; again, those families kind of get pushed to the front of the line because we want everybody to have.

Ron Reigns:
What’s the longest you’ve ever seen a family wait for an adoption? Years?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
I would say two years. And I would say that it was because of.

Ron Reigns:
Closing doors.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
One, their preferences, so they had many, many, many doors closed, very, very specific. And they were not willing to rework their profile book. They liked their profile book, and that’s something.

Ron Reigns:
And you’ve said that before. Have somebody look at your book, whether it’s an adoption professional or somebody else who’s had an adoption, and say, “This is what you’re doing right.” And yeah, you get that advice.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. And I worked with six moms two weeks ago in one week and presented profiles myself because, again, we were swamped that week. And so, I was jumping in and helping. And in going through the books, I can tell, by looking at the books, I can tell which book will be chosen before the mother even chooses. And I’m cautious when I present because I don’t want to give an advantage to one family over another.

Ron Reigns:
Right. You don’t put one a little closer to them or anything like that. “Hey, look at this one.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
No. We lay them out, and they’re in no particular order. And they go through and choose.

Ron Reigns:
But invariably, you can tell which ones will get chosen by their presentation. Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
I can. Some things attract and detract from a book.

Ron Reigns:
Such as?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
First of all, it should be a book and not a PDF printout.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
The book should not look overwhelming. Simple yet dedicated.

Ron Reigns:
Right. You had said before, one to two sentences for a photo, just very brief, concise.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. The other thing is that if you have other children on the front of the book, I would not include the other children. I would make it just the mom and the dad. That looks overwhelming when there are so many people on the front. The other thing that people don’t understand, that sometimes agencies are worried about offending somebody, so they don’t want to state the obvious. Have at least five to 10 people look at the picture you’re putting on the front and tell you if it’s a good picture. An image that you may think is phenomenal.

Ron Reigns:
It may not look the same to everybody.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
No. It may not. And that doesn’t mean that as an agency, “Oh, we’re being picky.” We would never send it back and say.

Ron Reigns:
“Redo this photo.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. If you ask us, we will. But we don’t want to come across as offensive.

Ron Reigns:
Maybe you have some members of the family that can be brutally honest without hurting your feelings.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And again, for the families that are working with us, I will be happy to tell them, “This isn’t your best angle, and smile a little brighter, stand a little closer to your husband.” Certain things are significant.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
If your agency allows it, I know that we do; consider enrolling with more than one agency because all your eggs are not in one basket.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Lastly, don’t make your entire life about adoption. Live your life. Be mindful, be present. Don’t wake up in the morning and think, “Okay, so today, I am going to just think about adoption. I’m going too fast for an hour and I’m going to think about adoption. And then I’m going to read every adoption blog, because that’s all I’m going to do. And then I’m going to sit by the phone for the next two hours, and I’m going to wait and see if my adoption agency calls me. And then I’m going to go to an adoption group this evening and just stop.”
Fasting is great. Reading adoption blog is fine. Going to an adoption group is excellent, but all in one day? This will be something that you live or die on; if you make this, you’re all. That is going to, ultimately, in my opinion, negatively affect your adoption experience because it may not live up to the height that you have created. It’s like Christmas morning when you’re younger. You go, sit on Santa’s lap, maybe two weeks before Christmas. And you are like, “Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh, this is, I cannot wait.”

Ron Reigns:
“This is the biggest ever. The best Christmas ever.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
You’ve compiled your list. You’ve gone through, remember the toy catalogs? You’ve combed them and circled the ones that you wanted. You’re laughing because you know what I’m talking about.

Ron Reigns:
I know exactly what you’re talking about. “Hey, Mom, did you happen to see the Ward’s catalog?”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
“Where’s the kid that plays with it?”

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah. “And I have to move it myself? It doesn’t just go on its own? And the music’s not playing like in the commercial.” And yeah, there was the magical moment. And I don’t look like the girl in the catalog. So, what’s happening here?

Ron Reigns:
Yeah. It just doesn’t live up to what you’ve built up in your head.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And that can happen.

Ron Reigns:
And especially if that’s all you’re thinking about, as you said, it can’t live up to that expectation.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
So, you’ve got to make this part of your life. Not your life. The adoption process seems long and overwhelming. I believe life is what you make it. Life can be long and overwhelming. That doesn’t mean you don’t live it. It just means you take it in stride. I love the advice my dad gave me a long time ago, and I use it with our birth moms and our staff members and family and friends that are struggling. He said, “Picture your issues or your problems as a stove top. And if you have all of your issues and problems and concerns and worries in one pot, it does seem like a lot. But if you spread it out amongst four pots and you deal with them individually, it’s much easier.” To make it not so overwhelming, put it in different pots. And that analogy has gotten me personally through a million things in life because breaking it down really does make a difference. And it doesn’t seem as overwhelming.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
So, the steps in adoption, people think, “Ugh, there’s so many steps.” Well, if you live in a two-story house and you’re at the bottom of the stairs, we live in a two-story house. Every time I go up the stairs, I don’t think, “Oh, there’s so many steps to get to the top floor.”

Ron Reigns:
You never look at it and go, “Oh, my gosh. That’s 15 feet above where I am now. That’s an awful long way to go.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. “I can’t climb that many steps.” So, again, it is what you make it. You can run up the stairs. You can take it to step by step. You can crawl up the stairs. You can slide back down on your bottom if you choose to. It’s more fun if you have a moving box. Did you ever do that with cardboard?

Ron Reigns:
It makes me want to do it. Did you get any big cardboard boxes? I can slide down the stairs.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
We do. Amazon Prime Now, quite a bit. So, when you think about it, there is the steps or creating the home study or completing a home study, creating the profile book, choosing an adoption agency, then being matched with a birth mother after she chooses you, waiting for her pregnancy to come to an end, labor and delivery, the adoption papers to be signed, and then waiting for the adoption finalization. It’s a journey.

Ron Reigns:
That’s not so bad.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
No, it’s a journey. It’s a period. And in life, there are seasons. There are four seasons to every year, except in Arizona.

Ron Reigns:
We get one and a half.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah. It’s hot or hotter. And in life, you have seasons. You have your teenage days, and then you have your twenties where you live life a little crazier thirties; you start to settle down and have more money than you did in your twenties. You still have the body of a 20-year-old. And then you hit your forties.

Ron Reigns:
And it’s all downhill.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
And

the body starts to go, but the money starts to come. And then you just have to trade one for another.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah, but it’s a different phase. Yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It’s a different season. And each season has its highs and its lows. So, think of that just like adoption. There will be hills, and there’s going to be valleys. But at the end of the rainbow is your pot of gold. Now, work closely with your adoption agency, explain the process and create a checklist. And you will feel like you’re more in control. I love checklists. I love lists so much. I’m the one who will add stuff just to check it off because then I feel like I’ve accomplished more. And you know what an enjoyable trick for all you listeners is? If you have so much to do you feel completely overwhelmed, create your list and add in a few things you’ve already done, and you’re halfway done with your list. I learned that.

Ron Reigns:
Smart.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah. So, then when you look at it, you’re like, “I’m getting there.”

Ron Reigns:
“Look at that. I mean, it looks the same as it did this morning when I started, but still.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
“I checked a lot of boxes.”

Ron Reigns:
“There’s a lot of boxes checked off.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. Talk with other families in the adoption process. See if there’s a support group with the agency or a group chat or something where you can connect with other people. People say that misery loves company, and that’s not what this is, but people who seem to get through things easier together.

“There’s nobody else that can fall out, so it’s going to be me.” So, that sense of community will give maybe not only lifelong friends but companions in your adoption journey. Also, if you reach out to previously adopted families and ask them for tips and recommendations, basically like a do’s and don’ts checklist, families who’ve adopted love to talk about their adoption. Families in the adoption process love to hear about other people’s adoption: the good, the bad, the ugly, the whole bit. Connections are huge. Your adoption journey doesn’t have to be difficult, but there’s so much more than you can take away at the end than just building your family. So, enjoy the process, educate yourself, connect with other people, but live your life.

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, 1800 340 9665. We can make an immediate appointment with you to get you to a safe place, provide food and clothing, and start 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. If 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, 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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