LDS Family Services No Longer Operating as Adoption Agency
Contributed By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer
LDS Family Services recently announced it will no longer operate a full-service adoption agency but will focus instead on counseling services for both birth and adoptive parents.
David McConkie, LDSFS group manager for child services, said, “For many years, LDS Family Services has operated much like any other adoption agency. After very careful consideration, it was determined that the traditional adoption agency model was not meeting the needs of LDS single expectant parents who were not planning to place their child for adoption or most LDS couples who desired to adopt a child. With these changes, LDS Family Services will be able to provide greater services to single expectant parents and will increase opportunities for LDS couples to adopt.”
LDSFS has provided counseling services for between 800 and 2,000 single expectant parents per year and has placed between 300 and 600 children per year since the agency was organized in 1970.
“There are a variety of developments in the adoption community that had some influence on this decision,” said Sherilyn Stinson, field group manager for the Salt Lake Valley offices of LDS Family Services. “Certainly, the diminishing number of single expectant parents choosing to place their children for adoption has been an important factor. Some data indicates a decline in teen pregnancy. Social pressure against an out-of-wedlock pregnancy has shifted dramatically over the years to pressure against adoption. Sadly, many of the selfless, courageous individuals who have chosen adoption now face hostility in the social media and the general public.”
A U.S. federal government report released last month shows that the fertility rate has dropped to the lowest point in almost 30 years. The number of teens giving birth has decreased more than 50 percent since 1991. That’s despite a definite increase in the number of unwed pregnancies to 41 percent of U.S. births as of 2013. And just 1 percent of births to unwed mothers result in adoption. That’s down from 9 percent in 1973.
To understand how the new changes will affect individuals and families, it is important to examine two specific groups, single expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents.
“In the past, even though LDS Family Services offered a broad array of services, many single expectant parents, their families, and leaders felt that the agency served only parents who intended to place their child for adoption,” said Brother McConkie. “In the future … this will not be our primary focus. LDS Family Services will work with leaders to provide a broad array of individualized counseling services for single expectant parents and their families, regardless of whether parents are considering marriage, adoption, or raising their child as a single parent.”
As an example, if single expectant parents intend to marry, counselors at LDSFS will help them prepare for marriage. However, if a parent would like to raise the child as a single parent, counselors will help the parent to be as successful as possible. If the single expectant parent chooses adoption, counselors will help prepare the birth parent for adoption and to select an LDS couple that can take the child to the temple. LDS Family Services will then help the birth parent and the couple select community resources that will help them complete their adoption.
Brother McConkie said, “All counseling services are provided to single expectant parents and their families free of charge. Because LDSFS will no longer offer traditional adoption agency services, single expectant parents can receive services from the agency without fear that counselors will have an adoption bias.”
For parents wanting to adopt, the decision to shift from a full-service adoption agency opens up a variety of new resources. LDSFS will now be able to help couples use community adoption resources, resulting in more opportunities for LDS couples to adopt. “In the past, the majority of couples who relied solely on LDS Family Services to adopt a child were often disappointed,” said Brother McConkie. “As couples expand their vision and become more self-reliant, they will be more successful than ever in adopting children.”
LDSFS will continue to help hopeful couples by:
• Providing free consultation.
• Working with community partners to provide new and improved website matching services to increase couples’ exposure.
• Helping couples identify resources in their communities to help them to adopt.
According to the LDSFS website, prior fees for adoption ranged from a minimum of $4,000 to a maximum of $10,000 based on 10 percent of a family’s combined gross annual income as reported on the previous year’s tax return. Costs were typically lower because adoptions were subsidized through the Welfare Department of the Church.
According to creatingafamily.org, fees charged by other adoption agencies, including birth mother expenses, average about $34,000.
Sister Stinson said, “Couples who choose to adopt through a community agency will likely see a significant [financial] increase. However, some who choose to obtain an independent home study and engage the services of an attorney to handle the legal aspects may actually see a similar or even lower cost than what they might have paid at LDSFS.”
Although LDSFS will no longer provide the mechanics of adoption to new clients, the agency will continue to help those who are currently involved in the process. Sister Stinson said, “Existing clients will be supported through traditional services according to a phased timeline, which will allow them to complete pending placements identified by the end of the year. It is our desire to provide a comfortable transition to the community for all couples working with LDSFS.”