AdoptionAfter months of rumors, the LDS Church confirmed this week that its Social Services arm will be discontinuing adoption placements.

The Church is citing the unwillingness of unwed women today to give up their babies for adoption. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Thirty years ago, 15 percent of single pregnant teenagers and young women chose adoption. Today, it’s 1 percent nationally and perhaps slightly higher in Utah. . . .

One factor is that the social stigma attached to being an unwed mother has evaporated, explained Sherilyn Stinson, field group manager for LDS Family Services. If anything, there is now a stigma attached to putting one’s child up for adoption.

One thing the article does not mention, but which surely must be a factor here, is that at least in the case of teen mothers, pregnancy rates are down across the board.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the teen birth rate “has declined almost continuously over the past 20 years. In 1991, the U.S. teen birth rate was 61.8 births for every 1,000 adolescent females, compared with 26.6 births for every 1,000 adolescent females in 2013.”

In other words, the rate of teen pregnancy in the United States has been more than cut in half in just over two decades, even though the overall rate of people having children out of wedlock is on the rise.

The decline in teen pregnancies is terrific news for society as a whole but not such great news for adoptive LDS parents, who for decades have had their expenses substantially subsidized by the Church. Now they’re facing costs that start around $30,000 for a traditional adoption and go all the way up to $55,000.

That’s a massive jump from what Mormon couples have paid through LDS Social Services, which sometimes charged as little as $4,000 based on family income.

The Deseret News carefully noted that the Church did not make this decision in order to avoid having to handle adoptions for gay couples:

Tuesday’s announcement comes at a time when religious-based adoption agencies around the country are under pressure to facilitate adoptions for same-sex couples. LDS Family Services also has been the subject of lawsuits about fathers’ rights in adoption cases.

“None of these issues drive this decision,” McConkie said.

“This predates any of these court cases,” said Sherilyn Stinson, field group manager for the Salt Lake Valley offices of LDS Family Services.

I hope that is true — and given how slowly the wheels of the LDS Corporation can grind and how long these rumors about LDS Social Services have been circulating, I think it probably is.

I feel sorry for the families that are looking to adopt right now, including one couple I know.

I also feel for the mothers. I know one mom who gave up a baby for adoption many years ago via LDS Social Services. One of her only comforts during that rotten time was knowing that the baby would be raised in a loving Mormon family by parents who had made and kept temple covenants.

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Jana Riess

Jana Riess

Jana Riess is the author of "The Twible: All the Chapters of the Bible in 140 Characters or Less . . . Now with 68% More Humor!" and "Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor." She has a Ph.D. in American religious history from Columbia University.

11 Comments

  1. 25 years ago my daughter tried to adopt a child from LDS…She was advised against a bi racial child/ etc. she went to an open adoption with out the church and got a great child who’s LDS mother refused to place him with the ldschurch….go figure

  2. Thanks for addressing the complicated issue of adoption. While not LDS, my wife and I privately adopted our son, and it is a challenging process.

    As part of awareness, it is important to use proper language. Many people do not realize it, but “give up” and “put up” for adoption can be very offensive to birth families. The proper terminology is “placing for adoption.” There’s actually a whole Wikipedia article on “language of adoption”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_adoption

  3. From what I’ve read, it is unlikely that adoption by same sex couples was an issue. As a private religious organization that was receiving NO public funding, anyone wanting to sue would have a difficult time of it.

    As for the drop in the percentage of single mothers offering their babies for adoption generally, IMHO this is bad news. From the statistics I’ve seen, both the single mothers and the children would be better off if the babies were adopted by married couples.

  4. Let’s keep in mind that there are half a million kids in foster care in the US. Too bad LDS Social Services didn’t retool to place families with foster girls and boys. The at-times obsession with infants is dooming too many kids to a life without family roots.

    • SanAntonioRob

      Ditto, ditto, ditto! We have been doing foster care for about 1 1/2 years and will be adopting our foster son in August. Anyone looking to adopt needs to look there. If you foster prior to adoption, most states subsidize to the point the monetary cost is essentially zero. Fostering and adopting kids who have lost or been taken away from their birth parents can be very difficult at times. The transition can be painful for everyone. But it is BADLY needed. Many kids who aren’t super-young when bio-parents rights are terminated have a difficult time being adopted. But even though it requires more work, I can honestly say I love my son the same as my bio kids.

  5. It’s a shame that church members, despite the press release, still believe that this is all due to same-sex couples wanting to adopt. Or at least that was the message in Sunday’s priesthood class.

    I’m glad LDS Family Services explained why they’re shutting down the adoption program. I just wish the members would believe them.

  6. Just wondering if you help birthmothers who placed their child with LDS social services find these children, or help the child find the parent? Is there an organization for the parties of such situations?

  1. […] More blindness on the adoption front. So what if the supply of infants has dried up. There are still hundreds of thousands of girls and boys in foster care in this country. One would think that a church with such an evangelical mindset would consider the opportunity of bringing new blood into the Saints. I suppose it’s easier to ship adolescents to Brazil. […]

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