Adopting through LDS Family Services

Some friends of mine just adopted a baby through LDS Family Services.

First off, some straight-up facts:

To adopt through LDS Family Services you must be a couple that has been married for two years, sealed in the temple, hold current temple recommends, get a Bishop’s endorsement and you must pass your state’s (or province’s) criminal background check. LDS Family Services are available to Mormons living in Canada or the United States.

Every adoption has a fee, among many other costs. The minimum is $4000 and then 10% of your income capped at $10,000. Other fees include: travel, living expenses while going through the adoption process, attorney fees, and court fees. There is also an optional pass-through account which is $3000. It pays for groceries, medical appointments and other necessities during the birth mother’s pregnancy. It is not mandatory but if you cannot pay it, there are many adoptions you will not be considered for. This is relatively new to LDS Family Services and they’ve added to be able to compete with other adoption agencies.

You have a case worker both in the place where you live and in the place where you adopt. You go through the latter county’s court system to adopt with the help of your case worker.

Funding for adoptions comes through fast offerings.

100% of adoptions through LDS Family Services are sealed to their parents.

The birth mother generally chooses the birth parents. She can look at hard copies of profiles and also online at itsaboutlove dot org. The birth mother usually narrows it down by age, income, interests, pets, a zillion things. Then the adoption agency shows her what they have. If they don’t have a match, they’ll ask neighboring agencies for couples that fit the birth mother’s wants. Sometimes a mother will go in to the hospital to give birth and tell them that the baby will be up for adoption. The hospital then contacts agencies to see if they have any families available. A case worker has to have a family committed before being allowed to take the baby. The fewer the case workers the more opportunities like this that have to be passed by and, in Detroit at least where my friends adopted, mothers are told they have to keep their babies because there isn’t a family to adopt.

Now here’s a little bit about their story and some things they’d like to see changed for future families and for the welfare of LDS Family Services.

They had been married a few years and decided to adopt and went through the process and were put into the system of LDS Family Services. Also the company that he was working for volunteered money to help with adoptions. Cool, right? They immediately decided they would take any child, regardless of the ethnicity, health problems or disability. Then they waited. For two years. Of course, he changed jobs. Finally they had a match. It was for a baby with down’s syndrome. They flew up to meet the birth mother and she went into false labor and they spent the day with her. It seemed like a great day and the birth mother reassured them that she would give them her baby. Five days later, she went jane doe in the hospital and she decided to keep the baby. He said, “it sucked” but I’m pretty sure it was devastating to them. This however got them on the adoption radar in Detroit.

Two months later a woman in Detroit, pregnant with her third child, came into the hospital and told them she would be giving this child up for adoption. The hospital case worker called LDS Family Services (they are one of five agencies the hospital uses) and that case worker had my friends picked out. The baby was a healthy African-American baby. They immediately flew to Detroit. I’ll call the baby Mahar-shalel-hash-baz (destruction is imminent) because that’s what the husband wanted to call him. They got Mahar when he was 5 days old and were allowed to keep him immediately, but then the court fun began. They stayed in a hotel in Detroit for three weeks and then an older LDS couple invited them to stay in their home for about a month more while the legal process of adopting Mahar was finishing up. For them, it meant lots and lots of waiting. I can’t imagine what this was like. Living in a hotel with a new-born? They are so grateful for the couple that let them stay, but even still another month with a new-born in not-your-own-home sounds painful to me. I did all sorts of searches on tourism in Detroit, trying to find things for them to do there and all we found was the world’s largest tire. After almost 2 months in Detroit it all worked out and Mahar was officially theirs. He was sealed to them in January.

After their first let down, the husband when filling out his tithing slip, put a large donation in one of the boxes, crossed out the original indicator, and wrote ‘adoption fund’. The financial clerk and the bishop called him, telling him there wasn’t an adoption fund and what would he like them to do with his money? Then he wrote a letter and all this ended with an area-authority-seventy calling him to discuss his “issues”. His main one is that if adoptions are funded through fast offerings, people ought to know. They should know that if they choose they can donate specifically to this fund. It gets very expensive to adopt a baby and if you can’t afford the pass-through account you’ll have to have wait and wait and wait because most birth mothers want this. The system as it stands self-selects older, attractive (the birth mother looks at the couple’s picture generally), wealthy, white couples and he believes there are a lot more able families than ones that fit these criteria.

This couple also wants an adoption fund so that more case workers can be employed by LDS Family Services. They loved their case workers, but knew that they needed more support than was available. Since a family has to be chosen in order to be available for an adoption, the more case workers the better. He says that with 100% sealing rate, it seems more valuable to invest in adoptions than missionary work. He is partial, but I see his point.

Another thing they wanted was more support from the Brethren, from the general Church. After a few searches on lds dot org I found a few magazine articles in the mid-80s encouraging adoption and a couple in the 90s and nothing til 2002. Since then there has been a mention or article in the Ensign every year or every other year. The couple (and I) would love to hear it mentioned at least every year in conference. I would like it put into lesson manuals. I know a lot of Mormon girls that kept their babies more because they and their parents thought it was better than adoption. This irks me for a number of reasons, one being that the fathers rarely get stuck with these situations and having and keeping a baby when you’re not ready will change the mother’s life forever. If the boy deserves an unblemished future, so does the girl and I’m positive that more attention in the Church would make more women and their families feel secure about making the choice to place their baby for adoption.

This is something that the Church has little control over but if the agencies had more open communication between them more babies could be placed. There are always parents waiting and babies waiting, it seems more families could be made with more communication. There is some job performance pay though and that is dependent on the number of babies adopted through your particular agency. It’s hard to openly communicate when some of your salary depends on you keeping things in your own system.

Tell me what you think about adoption. Do you have stories, experiences? What do you think of these suggestions? Would you pay into an adoption fund? Do you feel any doctrinal hesitation about adoption? Talk to me.

Here, here, and here are a few articles in Church magazines on adoption.

Comments

  1. I’ve forwarded this thread to a family I home teach, who is in the process of adopting their second child through LDSFS. (The baby was born and placed with them a couple of weeks ago.)

    Maybe they’ll comment if they have time.

    (Oh, and this family is indeed white. I don’t know if I’m qualified to judge their attractiveness or their wealth, except that they live in a home that’s about the norm for our part of North Texas, which is middle class, but not necessarily “rich” (although there are rich among us, so who knows). I know that they had a chance to meet the birth mother in person before the birth and were at the hospital.)

    I know of three other families (and there may be more) in our ward who have adopted children or are in the process, but I don’t know if they used LDSFS.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Amri, I was confused about something. You quote an adoption fee on a sliding scale of $4-10,000, and another $3,000 fee for birth mother necessities. Then you say funding for adoptions comes from fast offerings.

    So does this mean that fast offerings pay for these two fees (in all cases?), or does the couple have to pay these two fees and other incidental costs and the funding from fast offerings is simply for the bureaucracy?

    A dozen or so years ago when I was an EQP I remember receiving training in which adoption was encouraged. I know bishops were supposed to encourage young girls who became pregnant to give the baby up for adoption. I assume a lot of those girls mothers had other ideas, so I’m curious whether there has been conflict between church policy encouraging giving babies up for adoption and families wanting to keep them.

  3. I am all for adoption, but I hear that LDSFS has a not-pristine reputation when it comes to getting kids for adoption. While I was a summer associate at a law firm this past year, I worked on a case representing them against a birth father who claimed that LDSFS had hid the baby from them. I have heard through this and other channels that this kind of behavior (get the baby from the birth parents and into the new home, by any means necessary) characterizes LDSFS.

  4. Great post, Amri! Last year our adult session of Stake Conference was about adoption. They had people who had adopted or been adopted share their experiences. They had people from LDS Social Services speak. They showed a video of a talk by President Hinckley addressing adoption and the church’s standpoint. It was a highly informative and emotional evening.

    Our stake president said that in the past the church had primarily addressed adoption with priesthood leaders and counted on them to disperse the information to their wards and stakes on an as-needed basis. Recent statistics had shown that a broader and more general approach was needed and these types of meetings would soon become commonplace. I have had friends in other areas recently report similar meetings.

    Some facts shared that evening (I believe from the Hinckley video):

    -In the church we average one unwed mother per ward per year. That’s roughly 18,000.
    -Only 1/3 of those mothers seek any help or counseling from LDS Social Services.
    -Just over 500 babies are placed per year.
    -The number one deterrent in adoption is the birth grandmother.

    Those were some startling statistics for me. Now, only 1/3 using LDS SS isn’t too startling, as long as they are receiving support somewhere, but the low placement number is in stark contrast to the pregnancy rate.

    There was quite a bit of discussion directed toward parents who might think to encourage their daughter to keep the baby. The feeling of the church is that even the best and most supportive grandparents cannot give that baby an eternal family. They cannot bring that baby under the covenant (Unless they choose to adopt, but that’s a different subject entirely).

    Having seen adoption from both sides numerous times, including my nephew being placed for adoption, I have very strong and very tender feelings surrounding it. I think adoption is a beautiful thing. I see it as a tender mercy of the Lord that he has allowed a way for something that can be so tragic (on both sides) to become a means for glory to be heaped upon the heads of loving and glorious parents (on both sides). When I think of birth mothers who place their babies with couples whose hearts have been parched for want of a child I cannot help but see them as saviors in that sense of offering the one thing another could not do for themselves. Their act is a healing balm on both sides. Theirs is a wonderful understanding of God’s plan and the Savior’s atonement.

    My sister’s adoption was very hard for me. We were both expecting little boys and they were born 36 hours apart. My baby was sick. Hers was healthy and robust. In the same hours she was willingly placing her baby in the arms of his parents we were contemplating our baby returning to his Heavenly Father and pleading to be able to keep him. In those moments it was hard for me to understand how she could let him go. In the months that followed I realized how much bigger of a person she was than me. As we both watched my baby grow I saw her genuine joy for me mixed with her heartache. I also saw her peace in knowing that her little boy was where he was always intended to be. This is the tender mercy of the Lord.

    I have many good friends adopt through LDS and other agencies. I have seen their heartache in waiting and there indescribable joy in receiving. I have felt the powerful spirit that accompanies adoption and the witness that these are indeed their children. They are no less theirs than the the babies I have born are mine.

    Would I contribute to an adoption fund? Wholeheartedly yes! Case workers are overburdened and often under-trained. Adoptive parents often can’t get straight answers on legal issues and other things. The cost, though low through LDS compared with other agencies, is burdensome. Yes, I would like to donate to the adoption fund. Where do I sign?

  5. #2- Adoption is an extremely expensive process. In my understanding, the $4-10,000 the family is asked to pay is to supplement those costs. Fast offering spay for the rest. The $3,000 is, as I understand it, to compete with other agencies that offer birth mothers quite a bit of money for placing their babies.

  6. Um, that’s “fast offerings pay”.

  7. Funding for adoptions come from fast offerings.

    Fascinating. From anecdotal experience, I understand that $4,000-$10,000 is a relatively inexpensive adoption. The fast offering fund would likely pick up thousands of dollars in additional expenses in many cases.

    The $3,000 pass through account is also interesting. I previously heard couples say that one attractive part of LDSFS adoptions was that you didn’t have to pay the mother’s expenses during the pregnancy. Sounds like that has changed a little.

  8. To address another side, I had a young friend who placed her baby and based her decision very much on looks and income. She knew they could dress the baby in really cute clothes. Frustrating? Yes. But how do we adjust the system for that? If I were considering placing a child I would want to know everything I could about prospective parents. However, the average birth mom is college aged and most would tend to have a little more maturity than my young friend.

    Also, is it wrong to base some of the decision on socio-economic factors? We as parents want the best possible future for our children and we know money opens doors for a lot of opportunities. If you knew someone could pay for college and take your child on the vacations you would have wanted to yourself, would that not factor in? We want our children to be secure, and financial security is a big factor for most of us.

    As far as the attractiveness thing goes, I really don’t know what can be done about that either. Maybe LDS can separate prospective parents into two stacks. Then birth mothers who don’t have an attractiveness requisite can thumb through the ugly stack? That’s a joke. But really, what can you do?

  9. After my wife and I had 8 children, she and I wanted more, but she wasn’t physically able to have any more. We talked with LDSFS and were told we would never qualify. Some friends then suggested we become foster parents, and adopt via that route. Many states foster parent programs allow you to adopt those children who are placed in you home and become eligible to adopt. These are either problem children or children from problem families.

    After 23 children being placed in our home over a 3 year period, we adopted 2. We are very happy with the results. Also the costs are much lower, only $2000 here in AZ for a foster parent to adopt two children.

    After adopting the 2 children, we dropped out of foster parent program. We adopted them both when they were 20 and 21 months old, but we had had them in our home since they were 10 days and 7 months old. We have been sealed to both children; they are happy 10 year olds now. Another family in our ward just adopted their 20th child via this same method. It allows you to get to know the child and adjust to them in your home, before adoption happens.

    We went through Catholic Social Services to do this, since they support state foster and adoption programs, while, it is my understanding that LDSFS only does new baby adoptions. CSS was very happy to work with LDS families, because of our strong moral background. We had no problems with CSS, they were very supportive of our long term plans to adopt while being foster parents. We did have some difficulties, all bureaucratic and delay related with state agents, but CSS acted as a buffer and was able to help us get through all the hoops to get what we wanted done.

  10. Kevin: Each adoption costs about 17000 so about 4000 is paid by the Church, this comes out of fast offerings.

    As far as I know it is relatively cheap to adopt through LDS Family Services but if you’re students at BYU wanting to start a family but can’t, adoption is also too expensive, and you can’t get government aid to help out in the way that you can if you’re carrying your own baby.

    CE–I don’t know if they do anything naughty. I hope not but it could happen. I know they are not adequately staffed, especially in major cities where many kids will be put up for adoption.

    sol–Thanks for your stories. I don’t know what to do about the attractiveness issue but it drives me crazy. This is why it would help if agencies talked to each other because there are lots of women that give their baby up upon having it and they’re not going to be poring over photos during labor to choose the best looking couple.

    as for the socio-economic status of the couple, I think there are couples out there that are in the lower end of middle class that would like to adopt too that are overlooked. They could still provide a very quality life for the child.

    My husband and I would like to adopt but I think we’re going to have to turn to the Catholics or Lutherans because he’s not Mormon and so we don’t qualify to adopt through LDS Family Services.

  11. Cuteness factor:

    I have several friends who have adopted thru LDS social services. None of them were very attractive and were really scared that there photos would discourage birth moms from picking them. In all cases they ended up with 1 or 2 children thru LDSFS

    I can attest from firsthand exp that many families ignore church advice on adoption and often the grandmother is the source of the disagreement.

  12. I don’t have much time to comment right now (hopefully I will later), but I wanted to share what my sister wrote about her experience as a birth mother on ExII: http://exponentblog.blogspot.com/2007/06/my-choice-placing-my-baby-for-adoption.html

  13. Stephen that is amazing! 10 kids. I’m glad to hear you had good experiences with the Catholics. I’ve heard lots of good things about going through foster programs too.

    From what I understand, LDSFS only does new baby adoptions like you said.

  14. bbell and sol–I’ve also heard that the birth grandmother is the major stumbling block in adopting. Why is that? do they want to raise another baby? I would never want this but I haven’t even started having my own kids yet so maybe I don’t know.

    bbell, I hope the cuteness factor isn’t a factor. I have a couple of friends who tried for over 5 years and in both cases the case workers said they thought it was because of the cuteness factor. Meaning that they didn’t have it.

  15. In a previous stake, my wife was called to be the LDSFS adoption liaison.

    She did 5th Sunday presentations in each unit of the stake once a year. She also got a few frantic calls from Bishops to meet with underage birth mothers in our stake. She also attended monthly meetings with the full time LDSFS employees and other stake coordinators in that region.

  16. AHLDuke

    #

    I am all for adoption, but I hear that LDSFS has a not-pristine reputation when it comes to getting kids for adoption. While I was a summer associate at a law firm this past year, I worked on a case representing them against a birth father who claimed that LDSFS had hid the baby from them. I have heard through this and other channels that this kind of behavior (get the baby from the birth parents and into the new home, by any means necessary) characterizes LDSFS.

    The recent public case concerning LDSFS was when they had an adoption challenged by the Navajo Nation, based on the Indian Child Welfare Act. They complied with state notification requirements in Utah (relatively lax) but because the father was of Navajo heritage, when the tribe heard about several years later, they filed a challenge.
    Because several years had passed it was pretty messy, the kid had already been with the family for a while. There was also some question as to whether or not the birth mother had disclosed the father’s heritage. I don’t know enough about it to say that LDSFS was blameless, but it wasn’t an shady deal as far as has been reported.

  17. Maria, thank you for that link, I remember reading that post and it is wonderful. When I was an older teen one of my best friends gave up her baby for adoption and it was such a good experience for the ward that when the circumstance came up a bit later with some other girls they were willing to do the same thing.

    MAC that is awesome that that calling was made and that your wife was willing to do it. I’m so happy about that.

    sol–what if all of us started writing that on some of your fast offerings, writing adoption fund. Maybe we’d get what we wanted.

  18. #12- Thanks for that link. Your sister was very candid and I totally agree with her feeling that we need to support women in their choices. Ultimately only the birth parents can say what is right. Being pregnant with my first when my sister was pregnant, I was horrified by how much my mother pushed for adoption. I told my sister constantly that my husband and I trusted her to make the decision and would support her no matter what. However, looking back I see that my own pregnancy was driving me to want her to keep the baby. She made her own decision and made it well.

  19. Amri,

    Fortunatly for my three couple friends the cuteness factor did not seem to play a role. One of them got 2 kids in 2-3years and the kids even looked like them.

    I can imagine though a 16 year old birth mother basing her decision partly on looks.

  20. Amri,

    Being a foster parent is not easy, the children that come to you are either “broken” or come from “broken” homes. In most cases you have to work indirectly with one or both “broken” parents to help the children. It takes a lot of patience and love to help these children. You also have to be willing to say to your case worker; that you are not the one to fix this child’s problem can you please move this beloved loved child of God to another home, where someone with the right skills to fix this child’s problem exists. The ones that came to us as babies were the easiest to handle, but the hardest to give back to their parents.

    Some of our 23 children only stayed in our home for a week before they were returned or moved to another home. Some stayed as long as 18 months before their parents were ready to take them home. We were approved for 4-5 children and the need was so great that we would often have a new placement the day one left. We would have adopted 3 more, but the state, at that time, didn’t approve adoptions of black or Native American children to white foster parents. Check the rules for the state you life in and talk with a number of Social Service agencies before you start. We found CSS to be the best here in AZ.

  21. bbell, are you saying their kid was ugly?

  22. Timburriaquito says:

    This past Saturday my wife and I went to the temple to have our 3rd and 4th children sealed to us, after having finalized their adoption the week before. Our first two were adopted previously, and we hope to finalize the other two who are living with us before the year is over. We adopted through our county adoption agency (in California). We have paid no fees in any of the cases, and we recieve a monthly adoption assistance payment for each child until they reach age 18.

    LDSFS was just not an option for us as a childless couple wanting to adopt because we just didn’t have the money. We thought about trying fertility treatment, but again, money was the obstacle. Stories like the one above about flying to Detroit or anywhere else just sound so heartbreaking and stressful, that I don’t think we could do it. There are also those who adopt internationally and pay even more money, and have to go through more stress, that it makes me wonder why people don’t use their local government social services agency to adopt. I have six wonderful children who I love completely. They have challenges, and talents, that any other child born to us could have. Five of the six are blonde haired and blue eyed, with the one exception being considered half caucasian, half hispanic, and absolutley beautiful with her light brown hair, black eyes and olive skin. We did not specify that we would only take white children, but that’s just how things worked out for us. And could work out for anyone else who goes through the county.

    I understand my experience is my own, and I don’t have the insight as to why others choose the way they do, but I don’t understand why some choose a process that is far more difficult and costly. Here where I live, knowing what I know, I would not recommend a childless couple use LDSFS over the county. But if I knew of a girl who was pregnant and thinking about giving up the baby for adoption, I’d recommend LDSFS to her.

  23. Amri,

    Some of our friends just adopted through the CASI foundation. They couldn’t adopt through LDS either. The adoption cost them around $23,000, but three weeks after their paperwork was finished they were chosen and four days later the baby was born (three weeks early) and a day after that he was home with them. The average wait time with that foundation is extremely short. Their friends just adopted in two weeks (after paper work, home study, etc.). Spendy, but they couldn’t stand the thought of waiting till they could go through LDS and then waiting for who knows how long for a baby from them. Plus they’d heard too many horror stories of mothers changing their minds after the birth.

  24. Stephen, this is good to keep in mind. We’re just newly-weds and would like to get a couple years of marriage under our belts before we start the process. But I’m keen on looking at the foster care system as well.

  25. Timburriaquito–congratulations on your sealing. how did you find out about your county’s services?

    Sol-that is a good option, we’ll start saving our pennies right now. It helps to know that you won’t have to wait for so long.

  26. nah,

    No kids are ugly. I was more referring to eye and hair color and facial structure. The similarieties are striking.

  27. See also Thurnwald v. A.E., 2007 UT 38, where LDS Family Services helped a mother try to keep the father from asserting his parental rights and terminate his paternity out from under him. Coming from a family of several adopted children and having parents who tried to go that route back in the 1960s, I’m not impressed with LDSFS or their methods and haven’t seen that they’ve changed all that much.

  28. StillConfused says:

    My brother and my sister were both unable to have children. My brother and his wife did the foster children route in Utah and that worked very well for them (though they did get pregnant right after the adoption). My sister and her husband adopted through social services in Florida and had a worrse experience but were able to adopt three of the four children that they wanted. The adoption process was pretty simple and I did the legal work here in Utah (and was reimbursed by the state for it). I have not heard great things from people who adopted through LDS social services however.

  29. As an adoptive father, I’ll add my perspective.

    LDSFS social workers are very overworked and probably don’t provide all the hand holding that anxious couples want. Like just about any bureacracy, they are all sincere but competence levels vary. As explained above, you deal with two social workers, one on each end. In our situation there was one who was great and one who was not. Although it was frustrating at the time, we are grateful that the birth mom had the benefit of the great one, that’s who needed it most. This is one clear difference between LDS FS and private agencies where you can choose your social worker. There just seems to be a higher level of service when they are, in effect, competing for business.

    Other points I would add: LDS FS is much less expensive than a private agency, there is no way we could have afforded going through a private agency at that point. There is also a tax credit (not deduction) of up to $10,000 (may have gone up since then) for qualified adoption expenses that can be taken over several years. In our case, this meant that ultimately the adoption did not cost anything besides the time value of money.

    The other big difference is the length of the administrative process with LDS FS to qualify and then to finalize, setting aside the waiting time that no one controls. We were always at the mercy of the social worker’s schedule. Since he was based in Richmond he only came up to Northern Virginia once a month. He was always pretty booked, when he didn’t forget our appointments completely. I’m actually a lot less bitter now but then again, I’ve had five years with my wonderful daughter. They’ve added some mandatory parent training classes and they not-so subtly “encourage” participation in Families Supporting Adoption (FSA) which is a support/lobbying group.

    My big issue with LDS FS and FSA has been their stubborn resistance to open adoption arrangements. The clear trend is towards more open adoptions, which means ongoing contact with the birth parent(s). Through the unique circumstances of our adoption, we have had that open relationship with the birth mother, birth father, and even one of the birth grandmothers. When we were dealing with LDS FS they seemed to be stuck in the era of shame/don’t talk about it approach to adoption, with a touch of fear due to watching too many made-for-television movies about birth moms snatching back their kids. From our perspective, allowing the parties to tailor the arrangements to their own circumstances, and to allow for such arrangements to evolve, is best for all involved.

  30. #27 – Nate, if you are going to make a claim (“LDS Family Services helped a mother try to keep the father from asserting his parental rights and terminate his paternity out from under him.”), it’s a good idea to make sure the case you list supports that claim. I just read it; it doesn’t.

    LDSFS was serving a mother who approached it, followed the law exactly and then agreed to not formalize the adoption until after the case was adjudicated – even thought the initial ruling was against the biological father (boyfriend).

  31. I don’t want this to be a bash on LDSFS, I do think a lot of these problems could be cleared up with more money in the system, which is why I think we should be able to choose to donate to it if we want to.

    I’m glad to have all these other options talked about too. I like it.

  32. Has anyone else seen special emphasis given to this subject in their ward or stake?

  33. I have. When we lived in Maryland we had all the meetings devoted to it at one time or another. I’ve also seen the same emphasis in AZ.
    The uteness factor and the wealth factor are real. Not everyone chooses tht way, but some do.

  34. Sorry Ray, I re-read and realized that those facts were left out of the opinion because it wasn’t relevant to the case. Here are some more relevant details:

    http://voiceofutah.blogspot.com/2007/08/lds-family-services-and-biological.html

    There was also some stories from the AP, but alas, can’t find a weblink. The story is about LDSFS fighting the father in this case after the Supreme Court’s decision, but you’ll have to settle for a citation: LDS Family Services against returning boy to biological father, AP Wire, August 3, 2007.

  35. Ward Organist says:

    #32 Yes. In two different states in different regions of the country (neither in the Mormon corridor).

  36. I apologize ahead of time if this was already addressed (my eyes couldn’t bear scanning all the entries), but can anyone answer what the maximum age is for adopting parents through LDSFS?

  37. Young women do better if they give their children up for adoption rather than raise them as single parents.

    However, LDS Social Services has been specifically instructed not to pressure young women or their families in this position, for a number of very good reasons.

  38. Nate, if you are going to make a claim (”LDS Family Services helped a mother try to keep the father from asserting his parental rights and terminate his paternity out from under him.”), it’s a good idea to make sure the case you list supports that claim. I just read it; it doesn’t.

    LDSFS was serving a mother who approached it, followed the law exactly and then agreed to not formalize the adoption until after the case was adjudicated – even thought the initial ruling was against the biological father (boyfriend).

    /sigh.

  39. My cousin and wife made it “to the finals” with several birth mothers but were consistently passed over because they were young and relatively poor. It was hard for them, but eventually someone picked them.

    My grandmother is a great proponent of adoption, and I wonder how her experience with an adult but then unmarried daughter giving birth might have affected that.

    I also get kind of antsy when then main reason given for encouraging adoption is sealing. My own children are not sealed to me and I have had ecclesiastical leaders threaten me with dead babies who I would not get to raise in the next life. I realize people are free to dislike the state of my family, but my kids are happy, we love them, and God loves us.

  40. I currently have a 25 year old woman living in my home who is about to give birth.  This is her third child (by 3 different fathers).  She is connected with LDSSS and is planning on adopting this baby.  We live in Michigan.  They want her to fly to Utah to have the baby and sign the adoption papers there because the laws in Utah give the birth father fewer rights, and they don’t want the birth father here in Michigan (who is currently in jail) to cause problems for the adoption. 

    The SADDEST thing in my opinion is that there are literally millions of children (orphans) overseas who desperately need homes.  I take a health mission to Limon, Honduras every year.  We work in an orphanage that houses 50 orphans with l bathroom – they have NOTHING.  These are beautiful, intelligent, loving children with no prognosis – they will leave the orphanage and end up on the street in prostitution or drugs in order to survive.  Many of their parents died of AIDS.  There are literally hundreds of children living on the streets getting l meal a day or less from local charity – who don’t even get the benefit of an orphanage, or any schooling.  My heart is breaking for them.  These idiotic governments that can’t sort out their legal systems enough to just make it easy for these wonderful little children to be adopted over here by families who are desperate for a child.  It is so sad.

  41. #38 – I never said that LDSFS is a model agency – or the best option for everyone – or any other qualitative assessment. I have seen both good and bad examples from LDSFS, although I support it in its overall objective and am glad it exists. I simply said that the case cited is not a good one to make the claim that was made. I can see how my comment might have been interpreted differently than was intended, but I still don’t think it’s a good case to use to make the point.

    Let me be clear: I personally don’t agree with this particular LDSFS decision, but LDSFS didn’t “keep the father from asserting his parental rights and terminate his paternity out from under him”. The law did that. LDSFS followed the law. Perhaps the law was not a good one, but LDSFS followed it to the letter. For that reason, I don’t think the case justifies the claim.

  42. I have represented two families in the adoption of a total of three children. At least two of the children were born in another state, but the adoptions all occurred in the state where the adopting parents lived.

    There is an interstate compact relating to adoptions, which provides for releases to be executed by the birth parents in the state where the child is born and then the required background checks and other steps in the adoption to be done in the home state of the adopting parents.

    In none of the cases I was involved in did the parents have to spend any significant time in the other state–I don’t remember where the baby was “delivered” to them. In any event, I’m not sure what the circumstances are that would have required your friends to spend a few lovely months in Detroit.

  43. I want to chime in with # 40 Chimera about International adoption. We adopted Hong Mei from China last May. With international adoption you do not have to worry about birth parents changing their mind. It makes me sad to hear of potential adoptive parents waiting years to be picked.

    Instead get in line for Ethiopia. There is a 3-9 month wait once your dossier is completed ( 1-2 month time). The adoption costs are about $15,000 ( including travel). You are in Ethiopia for only 5 days With the $15,000 tax credit that can be applied over a three year period; this international adoption route is affordable. Please see http://www.childrenshopeint.org/ethiopia/EthiopiaChildren.htm for more information.

    Please consider the waiting children of the world.
    God Bless
    Joanna

  44. I not sure they thought through that website’s name very well. I first parsed it as “children shop e int” and was wondering what the ‘e’ stood for.

  45. MAC (#16)- I am talking about a case in Texas. So there is obviously more than one out there…

  46. We have gone through four adoptions, three successful, and one not. LDS Family Services was involved in three of those adoptions, and I appreciate their work a great deal.

    Our first child was in 1999 through LDS Social Services (as it was then known). Back then they only did closed adoptions, that is we could not communicate directly with the birth mother after placement. We could send letters through LDS SS, and at 18 our child could initiate direct contact with the birth mother if she also wanted to. We did get to meet the birth mother and her parents a month before the birth, although we were not suposed to tell each other our last names. The birth father and birth mother were no longer in contact, and the birth father was not answering messages. So there was the danger that he might oppose the adoption. But while we were in Chicago for a day visiting the birth mother, he called LDSSS asking for information about the adotion. It was quite a miracle that he called during the very short time we were in the office. We were able to go to his house and assure him that we would be good parents. Molified, he signed the papers.

    Soon thereafter the now renamed LDS Family Services changed their closed-adoption policy. Most adoptions are now open to one degree or another. So #29 warno, you do not need to worry about that anymore.

    We next adopted a Japanese 1-year old at the tail end of a two year stay in Japan. We adopted through the local prefecture. Foreigners very rarely adopt in Japan. They do not do China-style overseas adoptions. You would have to live there long-term, and be able to read and speak Japanese quite well. The process went very well, perhaps becuase we never had to deal with lawyers, just social agents and legal clerks. Although we will probably never meet the birth mother, we have become close friends with a Japanese family who adopted three older birth siblings of our child. We go and see them every summer.

    Our third attempt was the doozy. The young woman who chose us was in the middle of getting her life together. We knew her as a very able, mature young woman, but she was getting out of a bad period. The birth father was a very manipulative person, and he made her pregnency a very uncomfortable time. She decided she did not want him involved in the baby’s life, and decided to make an adoption plan. She moved to our state, and informed him that she was going to place the baby. She chose us (through LDS Family Services), in part because we welcomed an open adoption. We got to be quite close to her, and she visited our home. Our plan was that we would be very open with the baby (and everyone else) about her birth mother, and that she would play an favorite aunt-type role. The birth father was informed, and while his story often changed, he clearly did not want the adoption to happen. He did not take any legal action, however. After the baby was born, he filed an improper document in his home state,and did nothing else. The birth mother wanted to wait to get everything cleared up before she placed. After two months a judge in our state removed the birth father’s rights, and the birth mother placed the baby (which was even harder to do than it would have been at birth). But then a month later (before the adoption could be finalized) the birth father got his act together, hired a lawyer, and filed in our state. The judge agreed to hear his motion, and eventually it went to trial. The trial was held after the baby had been with us for 9 months. So the case has a lot of similiarities to the Thurnwald case mentioned above (although ours got no media attention). At trial the birth father said the adoption should not happen, and the birth mother should not have custody because she “abandoned” the baby. The bith mother said she wanted the adoption to happen, but if it did not, then she wanted custody. The trial was basically about what actions the birth mother and father did during the pregnancy (did he do anything to help her? nothing significant), and did LDS FS act legally. The birth father and his family came off looking very bad at trial. The Basically, LDS FS did everything by the book. But the judge appears to have agreed with the court-appointed baby advocate who said that termination of parental rights is the death penatly of family law. And so even though he did not do what he was supposed to, the court gave him another chance. So he won back his parental rights, and the adoption could not go forward. The birth mother, however, has primary custody, for which we are very grateful. The Church put a lot of resources into the trial, again for which I am very grateful. So in the end we lost our baby, and were devestated. We never imagined trying to continue the fight, as is going on in the Thurnwald case. We are happy she is mostly with her birth mother, and are able to visit her.

    I have seen a lot of criticism of LDS FS about the Thurnwald case. But as I see it, lots of birth fathers refuse to sign agreements to terminate their parental rights, but also do not do anything to support the mother, and faced with legal hassle, do not contest the adoption. So if LDSFS rolled over every time a birth father did not sign, then there would be much fewer adoptions. Cases like ours and the Thurnwalds are very rare, I hope adopting parents do not get scared off by them.

    Just a few monthes later, LDSFS told us another birth mother had picked us, and this time the birth father had signed off on it. And now we have a half-black/half-white Barack Obama baby to add to our United Nations. The adoption process went very smoothly. We are donig an open adoption again, but the birth mother does not appear to be nearly as eager to participate in the baby’s life as the previous birth mother.

    Quite a ride.

  47. #44 Star Foxy. The agency is called Children’s Hope International. Just click on the link and it should take you to the page with Ethiopian adoptions.

  48. What effect will the popularity of the movie JUNO have on young women’s comfort level with adoption, and with choosing adoption over abortion?

  49. Not a cool kid says:

    #46 –

    Thank you for that. An actual experience rather than a rant. AHLDuke and others should check their biases and realize people like you actually exist, and that LDSFS is not some evil cabal jumping fathers in back alleys and stealing their children.

  50. JA Benson, I figured it out, and it is a great resource, but the URL could benefit from a well placed hyphen.

  51. My wife and I had one child together and believed– since I’m 48 and she’s 50– that we missed our opportunity to adopt through FS. However, I just learned that isn’t true. There is not a maximum age to adopt, either a newborn or a special needs child, through the LDSFS. I guess now we need to seriously revisit the idea of a new face in the family.

  52. I ahve researched the Thurnwald case. Here is my take.

    LDSFS should have been more careful with this case from the beginning to avoid problems like this. More questions needed to be asked of the Birth mother etc. One complicated case like this does not make LDSFS “bad actors” by any stretch of the imagination.

    We are now three years down the road. A toddler has been in a home for 3 years and been raised by the only parents the child has ever known. I believe that this toddler should not be removed from its home and given to a stranger at this point.

  53. Interesting subject to think about.

    While I in theory support adoption, I have to admit I would have strong feelings of opposition if my hypothetical daughter became pregnant out of wedlock.

    This is not due to any doctrinal opposition, but rather a strong impulse to keep my family together. A grandchild being adopted outside the family would be agonizing- as I would feel like I was losing my grandchild. I suspect that is the motivation behind most of the grandmothers opposing adoption.

    However, I would be very heavily inclined to adopt my hypothetical grandchild myself. The idea of encouraging my daughter to raise my grandchild as a single mother is hard for me to understand.

    These feelings might be influence by my own family history, as my paternal grandfather was adopted by his maternal grandparents (along with his half-brother). It was never talked about much, but there has always been this impression to me that that is just what families are supposed to do.

    The main worry I’d have is that my grandfather’s birth mother was always estranged from her parents and her adopted brothers. I think that was due more to her living a life in opposition to the values of her parents than the adoption. However, I can’t help but think that changing from mother to sister relationships would be difficult emotionally.

    Still, having my family remain as one would seem more emotionally important to me. I think it would require a lot of thought, prayer, and discussion.

  54. #53 Cicero

    I am glad you wrote what you did. I have the same feelings and I have an adopted child. I have known personally several young women who have had a baby out of wedlock. These women have gone on to marry in the Temple. One is even the 20 something year old wife of a counselor in a Bishopric. One woman was the Stake YW President in her early 30’s.

    I have known parents who have pressured their daughter to give up her baby and then for her to have another one in a few years as an emotional need to replace the baby that was in her mind lost.

    I have known birth grandparents who still grieve for the loss of contact and knowledge of how their grandchildren are doing.

    I have known adoptive parents to get a divorce and the child is primarily raised by a single parent anyway.

    Some factors that I have observed in a successful single parent situation. the mother is over 18; her parents are supportive, the mother is not on drugs, mentally ill etc.. and the mother continues her education.

    I hope and pray that this situation never happens in our family, but I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on the what if.

  55. #53 JA Benson,

    You point out several exceptions to the rule–single moms who go on to marry in the temple, adoptive parents who get divorced, etc. But these are exceptions; the numbers tell a far different story. The vast majority of single mothers do not marry in the temple and go on to become stake YW presidents. Statistics show that they are far less likely to get married, continue their education, and stay out of poverty. They are far more likely to continue the cycle of single parenthood (i.e., their children are more likely to be single parents themselves).

    And the vast majority of adoptive parents don’t get divorced. Most know they have to be very committed to their marriage before they go through the difficult process of adopting.

    “I have known birth grandparents who still grieve for the loss of contact and knowledge of how their grandchildren are doing.”

    Fortunately, many birth parents and birth grandparents today don’t have to wonder how their children are doing. Because of changing adoption practices, many of them have some form of contact with the children.

  56. Woops, I meant #54, not 53.

  57. #55 R. marie,
    On a sensible, intellectual level you are completely right. As an adoptive parents I know the joy of adoption. Like Ciero we are thinking with our emotions. When I am a grandmother; I cannot image how hard it would be to give to another the baby of my baby. That pain needs to be acknowledged. I admire those who are brave in making that choice. However I am afaraid that I am not so brave.
    Never would I pressure my daughter either way. She would be given the choice and I would support her in the decision. If she gave up her child for adoption I would support her with a silent broken heart. If she did not want to give up her child I would never shame or pressure her to; that only leads to more problems.

    The single mothers you are referencing are young, poor, with substance abuse/mental problems. The women I have known who were able to overcome the stigma of single motherhood were active LDS women with support who went on to be successful in their life. From what I have seen it is not impossible.

    Also unless things have drastically changed in the last 5 years; after the required few years of sending the yearly letter with the pictures is up; the adoptive family is no longer obligated to continue to do so.

  58. JA Benson,

    You’re right; it isn’t impossible for these women to be successful–but every unwed mother who chooses single parenthood thinks she will be a success story, and unfortunately, all too often it doesn’t turn out that way. Plus, in the meantime the child doesn’t have the benefit of the sealing ordinance and the spiritual blessings that are associated with it.

    I’m not familiar with the 5-year policy you mention. Currently LDSFS birth moms and adoptive parents work out their own arrangements that work for their individual situations.

    You’re right about the emotional struggles that grandparents go through. It’s got to be a heart-wrenching situation regardless of the decision.

  59. I Love Adoption says:

    This has been an interesting thread to read through. Rather than add a lot of personal experiences to this, I’d just like to clarify a few points. Adoptions are indeed “subsidized” by the Church in that there is a sliding scale which falls well below the actual cost of adoption. However, the funding given to LDS Family Services from the Church is in the form of a grant, and does not come from fast offerings. LDS Family Services headquarters, I believe, will accept direct donations. LDSFS workers are indeed few and very busy, but they are a wonderful group who do the best they can with limited resources. Open, closed, and confidential adoptions are all available. Birth mothers do choose the family based on criteria they have, and workers cannot in good conscience sway them in any direction, other than to educate them on what might be other important things to look for. Adoption is truly the hand of God manifest in so many lives. I’m glad there is a forum like this for a discussion of this topic.

  60. My wife and I have adopted two boys since 2005 one internationally and one through LDS Family Services. Our experience with each, though a whirlwind has been very positive. I don’t know fore sure if LDSFS is subsidized by fast offerings specifically, but at an FSA conference I recall an official saying LDSFS is also receives support from several large donors. At any rate is is subsidized much like BYU is subsidized.

    My experience is that LDS Family Services and Families Supporting Adoption are very pro open adoption. The majority of adoption literature out there supports open adoption and LDSFS and FSA have fallen in line at least since 2005 as formal policy, but ultimately leave it up to the birth parents. Our open adoption is somewhat flexible in that we negotiate and mutually agree to what type, level and frequency of contact we are comfortable with. So far no major complaints we are aware of.

    Regarding birth father rights, it seems that most hiccups occur when a birth father has attempted to assert his rights, (which in many states must be done formally, as you are legally on notice of fathering a child if you have slept with the birthmom), doesn’t perfect his rights, or is late in asserting his rights, and as Andrew pointed out, Courts are reluctant to terminate the rights, even if the birthfather hasn’t properly asserted his rights.

    I believe some of the problems occur not are not the fault of the LDSFS but the birthmother. LDSFS can’t contact the birthfather if the birthmother doesn’t disclose the name or contact info of the birthfather. Usually it seems that the birthfather wasn’t interested in the pregnancy or didn’t know about the pregnancy or an adoption plan, and the birthmother wants to keep it that way. Other times the paternal grandparents want to raise the grandchild, in spite of the birthfather’s disinterest.

  61. canadian lds says:

    For whatever it’s worth, I’ll add my two cents’ worth. My wife and I are in the process of adopting a child through LDSFS in Canada. Up here the process is a little different that it appears to be in the USA as it is illegal to give the birthmother significant gifts (ie money, groceries, etc.) during or after her pregnancy. Also, I don’t think it’s quite as expensive for us to adopt a child as it seems to be in the States.

    I work at a law firm that handles some adoption files when go sideways. In my experience, most often it is the birthfather that challenges the adoption. Usually the birthfather is mad because he did not consent to the adoption (even though most birthfathers that I have dealt with take off when they find out the girl is pregnant). Birthfathers seem to be quick to blame the adoption agency (including LDSFS)for the adoption. My experience has been that in all cases the agencies have followed the law as set out in the individual province/state.

    The media is often quick to blame LDSFS for a legislative decision that allows adoptions to happen without birthfather consent. Afterall, it makes a great headline if you can accuse the LDS church of stealing babies. If people don’t like the legislature’s decisions with respect to adoptions and how they are handled, they should take it up with the legislature and not blame adoption agencies like LDSFS.

  62. Thank you for this post. I know at least three families in my ward alone who have adopted recently, and it has indeed been a blessing in their lives. For a long time it was difficult for LDS Family Services to compete with other adoption agencies, but they do a wonderful job. I appreciate the links to recent articles on this topic in the Church magazines, including the New Era. It’s nice to see that there are some people on these Mormon blogs who think the magazines have an occasional relevant item.

    By the way Naismith (#48), I saw Juno, and I would say that the overall impression it leaves is that love, marriage, and parenthood are things to be taken seriously and not to be entered into by immature people (of any age). The title character is sympathetic, and audiences (and, it could be argued, our culture in general nowadays) are likely to agree with her decision not to have an abortion.

  63. I support LDSFS policy to let the birth mother choose the adoptive family. She looks at the files, she can make requests, she can even meet them if she wants.
    What might a teenager base her decision on? She’s a teenager. But it is her child.
    I do not think the “attractiveness” factor is a huge stumbling block. I know many adoptive parents and the run the spectrum of looks.
    Pregnant birth mothers sometimes look for someone like them, or someone like the birth father….in looks or in interests.
    I was at the house of my friend who eventually adopted 3, and she got a call from her caseworker asking if she waterskiied!
    My heart went out to this girl who probably loved waterskiing and was wanting her child to have family experiences similar to her own. Another time her caseworker called to get height information on her extended family and adopted son, probably because the birth mom was tall (like me) and worried about her child being out of place.
    One birth mom of a child they adopted said that the adopted father looked very much like the birth father.
    If a birth mom was tormented by “popular cheerleaders” during junior high, you can bet she probably won’t choose someone she thinks looks like a cheerleader!
    Give these birth moms a break, they are young and possibly immature (imagining the baby in cute clothes but then again, so do some kinds of pregnant married moms), but they can also feel the spirit and I assume usually take the job of choosing adoptive parents as a gift that she is giving her child.

  64. Hello
    My husband and I are of the Christian faith but not members the LDS. We want to adopt. We have a good friend who is a member of LDS and he suggested that we seek information on adoption through the LDS adoption services. Can we adopt through the LDS if we are not members?
    Thank you

  65. JA Benson says:

    Melissa, I am sorry no. Please see my comment #43. Children’s Hope International was a wonderful adotpion agency to work with. If you have any further questions email me at JoannaBenson at comcast dot net .

  66. I have always wanted to adopt, but most of all I would love to help others adopt, since I am blessed with (so far) 2 beautiful little girls (not through adoption) and one on the way. I am working on a way to open an adoption fund so that anyone can afford to adopt. So yes I would pay into an adoption fund if I were able. Since I am not at this time I am able to raise money for adoption funds.

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