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Birth Mother Matters in Adoption Episode #62 – Maintaining Contact with a Birth Mother

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. 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 6:
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 Family’s 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.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Open adoption has become the trend, and I love that. I always encourage open adoption when moms come in unless there is a reason that closed adoption would benefit the entire triad. I push and encourage open adoption.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
I think it’s beautiful. It often begins with promises and commitments on everybody’s part and on behalf of the birth mother and the adoptive parents. When an adoption is finalized, there is something called a post-adoption communication agreement, which is entered into the adoption decree. Some states make it legally enforceable. In other states, it’s not legally enforceable, but it’s still an agreement entered into the court.

Ron Reigns:
Where does Arizona stand with enforceability?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It is legally enforceable.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It is.

Ron Reigns:
That’s why, when there’s an adoption out of state, they kind of go by Arizona’s

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It depends on where the adoption’s finalized.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
In other words, if you’re going to finalize in a state that doesn’t enforce the post-adoption communication agreement, you can still have one. It’s just not enforced in that state.

Ron Reigns:
In the other state, okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Because that’s where it’s finalized, now, if Arizona doesn’t finalize out-of-state adoptions here, that’s not something that we as a state do.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It’s not like if you were in X state that doesn’t recognize them as legally enforceable that you could then do in Arizona, you can’t do that.

Ron Reigns:
Generally speaking, the adoptive parents and the birth mother, to some degree, at least try to

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right.

Ron Reigns:
follow the

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Absolutely.

Ron Reigns:
Guides.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
What’s so interesting to me is often, birth mothers are very worried that the adoptive families won’t follow through on their end, and they won’t stick with the plan.

Ron Reigns:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
What’s so interesting is, in my experience, it’s not the adoptive families.

Ron Reigns:
More often than not, it’s the birth mother?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. It’s not that she commits that she has to follow. She’s not obligated to provide letters and pictures, but sometimes it’s tough. Sometimes she just needs a little bit of a break to clear her head and find peace again. Families often struggle with communication after a birth mother has placed a baby for adoption. They want that communication. Both sides were fearful before the adoption happened.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
What it was going to look like and how it would pan out. Some adoptive families have the irrational fear that a birth mother will come and knock on the window and take the baby. That’s not reality. The woman is placing the baby with you because she wants the baby with you.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
She’s not placing the baby with you, so she can come in the middle of the night and take the baby back. That’s not what this is. The birth mothers are afraid that the adoptive families will take the babies and cut off all communication. Again, that’s not what we see.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Has it ever happened? In situations where there was a concern on behalf of the adoptive family about the appropriateness of the relationship and the behavior and so forth around the child in that situation, I have seen a disconnect for a while. Then that would’ve been deemed appropriate.

Ron Reigns:
In what you’ve seen, does that usually change? If they disconnect, you said for a while, does that ever?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Sure. Let’s say that a birth mother has had a visit with the child, and maybe she came high to the visit and was not appropriate. The family may be hesitant to do that again for a while. If the birth mother then becomes clean and can resume the visitation.

Ron Reigns:
Okay. So it’ll kind of self-correct?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yes.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
That happens sometimes. I can’t say how often I see an adoption set up with the parameters, letters, and pictures. As an agency, we use child connect, so it’s its entity. They start on one level, and then it just takes off and blossoms into this beautiful relationship.

Ron Reigns:
Wow.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It’s no longer letters and pictures three times a year. It’s, “Oh no, we have separate phone lines that we set up that we talk on, and we exchange pictures.”

Ron Reigns:
The batting line, the adoption bat line.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Absolutely. It’s beautiful. The goal is always to have this relationship with extended family, not co-parenting, but extended family.

Ron Reigns:
Right. She’s part of the family as well. The birth mother is.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
When a birth mother chooses open adoption, she can watch her child grow and thrive and not wonder or worry about what’s happening. The birth mother’s current future children have the opportunity to connect with that child. The birth mother can feel confident that she will contact the family and her child. She knows that’s going to happen. Having a secure and positive relationship with the adoptive parents can help her feel confident and reassured in her adoption choice. That brings a lot of peace.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It also brings peace to the adoptive family when a birth mother is in the life. When they adopt the baby, they essentially fall in love with the birth mother because of this beautiful gift they’ve given them. She’s made them a family.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
They love her, and they care about her. When she distances herself, if she chooses to, because she’s struggling, sometimes it’s very hard. We have adopted families, where the birth mothers have drifted away, calling us saying, “Have you heard from her?” “Have you had any contact with her?” “Has she come and checked on the pictures?” “Have you heard anything?” “We’re really worried.”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Maybe the open adoption was not really with the birth mother’s vision. Maybe she wanted to place the baby, know the baby was safe and in a good home, and move on with her life.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
She wasn’t ready to take on this new relationship. She didn’t realize that until afterward. Sometimes she needs time. Sometimes it’s not that the adoptive family’s done anything wrong. It’s not that she regrets any aspects of her decision.

Ron Reigns:
Her choice. Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
She just may need time.

Ron Reigns:
I think that I don’t know. Maybe this is analogous, or maybe it’s not, but when my son was in his teens and high school, I didn’t hear from him much. He was hanging out with friends, doing his thing, doing homework, and doing school. It worried me. I would call, I wouldn’t get a callback, I’d text, or actually, it was more email at the time. I would try and stay in contact without being overbearing. It’s scary. Am I going to have a son? Is he done with me?

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
I think that’s a great analogy.

Ron Reigns:
He did come back to me, and he’s like, “I want to hang out,” and I want to do the… It was kind of at a perfect time because even now, thinking about the situation, I’m getting teared up.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It was just a season.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah. It was a season in his life. Exactly. Like we’ve talked about.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Right. I think that’s precisely what it is. There are seasons in life where you and he may be thick as thieves and super close. There may be other seasons where you’re not as close.

Ron Reigns:
It doesn’t mean the love is not there or the respect or anything else.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
No, it just means at that time in your life that it’s.

Ron Reigns:
I want to start playing the cats in the cradle or something.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Don’t because I’m going to start. That song gets me every single time.

Ron Reigns:
Oh, it’s the best and worst at the same time.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
I’m going to go with the worst because it’s just the parental guilt.

Ron Reigns:
Yeah.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
The parental guilt of what haves, should haves, could haves.

Ron Reigns:
“Can I borrow the car keys, Dad?”

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yeah.

Ron Reigns:
Okay. Sorry. Little tangent there.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Absolutely. So because open adoption is beneficial for both sides, the birth mother and the adoptive family, when a birth mother starts to drift away, the most important thing you can do is remain constant and consistent.

Ron Reigns:
Keep putting those pictures up.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Keep putting the pictures and letters up, give her time, reassure her in the messages. You’re not going anywhere that you’re here and that you love her enough to wait for her.

Ron Reigns:
You’ve talked before about how sometimes they’ll come back after a long time and just be inundated with pictures and letters that they hadn’t seen yet for the past six months. I think that’s kind of neat because it’s always there.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It is neat. Sometimes when they come back after and they resurface, and they come back after not being there for a while, and they see the letters and pictures, they’re in a different place in their life. They’re able to take the relationship to another level. In contrast, maybe they had to go and grow in their own lives and find themselves.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Before, they could be the person to be a part of the open adoption that they wanted to be. I think that, as you said, that adolescent stage where it’s hard on parents, but again, it’s a blessing because if they didn’t pull away a little bit in adolescence, we’d never let them leave at 18.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
So it’s like preparing to push the eagle out of the nest.

Ron Reigns:
Fly a baby bird.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
You just hope and pray that they will. I think you kind of have to do the same thing with a birth mom when she ghosts or just takes off.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
You hope that she will fly, and you hope that she’ll return to her nest.

Ron Reigns:
You want that nest always to be there, ready for her to come back.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
I would say just stay consistent. Just because she’s not emotionally, physically, mentally present in the relationship doesn’t mean the relationship is over or it stops.

Ron Reigns:
Right.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
It just means that she needs some time.

Ron Reigns:
She’s in that season.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
Yes.

Ron Reigns:
Okay.

Kelly Rourke-Scarry:
You got to let her fly.

Speaker 7:
Hi, my name is Sherell. I’m making my adoption journey. It was kind of a last-minute thing to consider because I, in my mind, me and my husband were going through some separation issues. We have three other children, still in denial about being pregnant again. I was in my first trimester, and I knew I didn’t want to abort my baby in my heart. I was looking for other options, and my friend said, “Oh, why don’t you Google look for an adoption agency.”

Speaker 7:
So I did. It had a general one in California, and then I kept going down the list, and then I found “BF,” and then I called just right away. I think it was like three or something in the afternoon. Look, I called, and it was like, “Oh yeah, you could come right now. We close at 4:30; you could come right now.” It was just perfect.

Speaker 7:
So we fired up and drove to the office “BF.” Then I met one of the agents here for the first time, and she confided in me, went through the process just let me know, “Hey, it’s a good choice, you’re making a good choice.” I think about all the expenses and benefits of the family and let me know that I get to pick the family. We were able to go down the line. I think we had three families to pick. My husband and I said, “This family kind of mirrors the type of lifestyle we are.” Because we are family-oriented and we like to travel and stay physically active, they looked like they were doing well with that.

Speaker 7:
I read a little bit of their story, and we went ahead picked them. I would say from this day that I am happy with the decision I made, that we picked this family. I always say it’s an open job. I said that I call them the extended family. They got to meet my other three kids. They know who they are. They communicate with us send us pictures little videos here and there. Let me know like, “Hey if you’re going to talk, don’t be afraid to send a message to me or reach out to me.” So I love [inaudible [00:13:49]] because it does feel like they are an extended part of our family. We’re not just giving our child here.

Speaker 7:
We’ll see pictures here and there, really a part of the family. If anything, I said we got a win-win situation and put our child up there, knowing that he’ll be taken care of. We got blessed with and added another part of the family, too as well. I’m thrilled with the decision I made. I’m glad that at the time, whatever emotional decision that was for my husband, I didn’t grieve. Hey, let’s just let go of our child. That decision was not an option for me; even though we did have three other children, we were in a situation that could go left or right. I trusted God. I’m not going to give up this child. We’re going to find a family for him, or we will toughen it out.

Speaker 7:
I was grateful because I came to BAF; they had counseling and let me know, Hey, it’s okay. The decision happens in life. They relaxed me. As women, especially, and all emotions and hormones, you get anxious and worried like, oh what if? It’s helped me to relax. I think about the what-ifs but look at the positives, even positive affirmation. “Hey, you’re a good mother.” You know, you have three other ones; you’re doing a good thing. I love that. People don’t say it, but counseling is good about some people get the wrong option about needing a mediator. It’s more than just being a mediator in a situation. It’s helping you emotionally and mentally stay stable. I’m grateful to BF for that.

Speaker 7:
They were there to support me emotionally. I was upset at my husband at the time, grateful that he did come and was there to support me during my time for us to give birth to our son. I’m grateful for that. I think I made an excellent decision with that. I love BF for that. They have supported me in many ways, not just emotionally, to help make decisions with housing or finances. They support you and always make you feel that you’re essential. I’m important. I’m not just a mother out there giving up a child. I’m happy about that.

Ron Reigns:
We have a pregnancy crisis hotline available 24/7 by phone or text at (623)-695-4112. 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, 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 and 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 as our theme song. Join us next time for Birth Mother Matters and Adoption for Kelly Rourke-Scarry. I’m Ron Reigns, and we’ll see you then.

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