“Help for Unwed Parents at LDS Social Services,” Ensign, Apr. 1975, 69
“By law and by assignment from the First Presidency, all matters pertaining to the adoption and foster care of children in which the Church is or should be involved have been assigned to the Social Services Department.” (Priesthood Bulletin, February 1971.)
Under ideal conditions, members of the Church do not have a need to place children up for adoption or foster care. There are circumstances, however, when childless Latter-day Saint couples and unwed mothers need some place to go for help in finding solutions to their particular dilemmas.
Consider the plight of Sally, a 15-year-old girl. She is pregnant, unmarried, and doesn’t know what to do. She confides in her boyfriend; he urges her to get an abortion. He offers to make the arrangements and to pay the bill. Sally knows that abortion is not the answer, because she has been taught in her home that life is sacred and not to be tampered with. Frightened and desperate, she turns to her mother, who is shocked and saddened by her daughter’s problem. At this point Sally’s mother could have belittled her daughter, tried to shame her, and made her suffer even more for having transgressed; instead, she suggested that Sally consult a physician to confirm her suspicion that she is pregnant and to receive advice on prenatal care.
Knowing that in six months she will give birth to a child, Sally now has to decide whether to marry the father of the child, to release the child for adoption, or to keep the baby. She seeks further advice from her bishop.
While counseling with Sally the bishop recognized her sincere regret in having committed a sin. He desires to help her explore the possible solutions for her problem, and he tells Sally that the first consideration would be marriage. Since Sally and her boyfriend do not share the same ideals in life, she has no desire to marry him. Sally instead needs help in deciding whether to keep the baby or give it up for adoption.
At this point the bishop tells Sally about LDS Social Services and makes an appointment for her to talk with a professionally trained social worker. He stresses that the counselor will keep the information confidential and that she will retain her free agency to make her own decision. Sally decides to go for regular counseling so she can become aware of her real feelings and desires and of possible resources available within herself and her environment to solve her problem for her own sake and the sake of her unborn child.
Debra was referred to LDS Social Services by an attorney who was a friend of her family. Debra became pregnant out of wedlock during her senior year in high school. She wanted to finish high school but did not want to make her circumstances public.
Debra’s social worker arranged for her to live with a Latter-day Saint family in a neighboring city. Here Debra was treated like a member of the family; she did light housekeeping duties and was given appropriate responsibilities and privileges.
Debra and Sally both were able to attend group meetings for unwed mothers, to take part in firesides, and occasionally they spent an afternoon doing arts and crafts together under the supervision of a trained female volunteer. These activities provided an opportunity to socialize, exchange common concerns, and voice frustrations. Both girls continued their education through a special tutoring program arranged by LDS Social Services. They also received prenatal counseling.
LDS Social Services recognizes that unwed parents have emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual needs and works with the unwed mother, the unwed father (if possible), and their parents (if appropriate). Through a series of interviews each unwed parent sets up a program that will prepare him or her to meet individual needs through self-understanding.
Financial planning is arranged on an individual basis, but members are encouraged to provide for their own financial needs.
Debra and her boyfriend both went for counseling and were able to obtain a greater understanding of who they are in the sight of their Heavenly Father. They pledged a determination to create a home that would welcome the spirit that would soon come to earth.
Sally, on the other hand, did not choose marriage as a solution to her problem. In her case, LDS Social Services arranged for the child to be legally adopted in a qualified Latter-day Saint home.
A majority of unwed parents helped by LDS Social Services go on to become successful wives and mothers and husbands and fathers, meriting the forgiveness of their Father in heaven and feeling his love.
LDS Social Services has agencies in Australia, Arizona, California, Canada (Alberta), Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Washington. If there is no local agency nearby, Church members and officers may inquire for information through LDS. Social Services, 19 West South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101, telephone (801) 531-2846.