LDS Social Services to halt adoption placements with Mormon families

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.