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Mormon church drops adoption business

Fewer and fewer pregnant single women are giving up their babies, church officials say.

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LDS Family Services has 69 field offices across the nation and has been placing 200 to 300 children a year. That’s down from 665 in 2002, the peak year.

The number of couples who yearn to adopt, however, remains high. Some of the 600 LDS couples on the agency’s list have been waiting as long as three years, Stinson said.

At a glance

What’s effect of church’s exit from adoptions

12:15 p.m. Wednesday » The LDS Church will no longer be a full-service adoption agency, with LDS Family Services shifting from front-line adoption brokers to counselors to expectant mothers and families considering adoption. Donna Pope of Heart to Heart Adoptions, Becky Davis of Children’s Service Society, prospective adoptive mom Sonia Quiroga Thomas and Tribune reporter Kristen Moulton join Jennifer Napier-Pearce to discuss how the change will affect birth moms, adoptive families and adoption services in Utah. You can join in by sending questions and comments to #TribTalk on Twitter and Google+. You can also text comments to 801-609-8059. › sltrib.com

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According to the agency’s website, only LDS couples who are sealed in a Mormon temple, have temple recommends and are infertile qualify to adopt through Family Services. Expectant mothers of any background, however, are served.

For several years, LDS Family Services has been encouraging couples to explore all options in their quest for a child, Stinson said, whether that meant working with another adoption agency or finding a birth mother on their own.

Now, those partnerships will be more important as counselors at LDS Family Services help couples prepare to adopt and pick the best course for finding a child.

The partners throughout the country, McConkie said, come from various religious and secular backgrounds.

Many couples, he said, will realize that it’s cheaper to find a birth mother on their own and have an attorney handle the paperwork.

The changes will be phased in so couples already working with LDS Family Services will not be adversely affected, Stinson said.

For some time, she said, the agency has been encouraging its social workers to get master’s degrees and licensed as clinical social workers so they can provide professional counseling.

While LDS Family Services will continue to champion adoption and uphold church teachings on abortion — it’s an option only in cases of rape, incest, health of the mother or severe fetal defects — adoption no longer will be the focus of its work with pregnant women, McConkie said.

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The focus, he added, "will be on her needs."

If a pregnant woman selects abortion, he said, counselors will make the appropriate referrals.

Becky Davis, the social-service adoption specialist at Children’s Service Society, said the change makes sense.

Many expectant mothers, she said, do not turn to LDS Family Services because they want mental health, not religious, counseling.

But Mormon couples seeking to adopt may be in for "sticker shock," Davis said. LDS Family Services’ fee is considerably lower than other adoption agencies’ fees.

Children’s Service Society, which was one of Utah’s largest adoption agencies several decades ago, is now one of the smaller ones and has a base adoption fee of $30,000. "Others are as high as $50,000 to $55,000," Davis said.

Wes Hutchins, a Utah lawyer who handles adoptions and has represented a number of birth fathers fighting for parental rights, predicts that adoption agencies and attorneys will be busier.

"We’re going to see a dramatic increase in the do-it-yourself adoption. They can go to the Internet and make connections with biological mothers and fathers who are contemplating adopting."

Quiroga Thomas said she and her husband will pursue several possibilities. They are now licensed to be foster parents or to adopt children whose birth parents have lost their parental rights. She also is tapping into social media to let friends and family members know they’re looking to adopt.

"You have to use all the resources you have," she said.


Twitter: @KristenMoulton

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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