“A Conversation about Adopting a Child,” Ensign, Apr. 1990, 79–80
One of the services offered by LDS Social Services is adoption. To find out more about one aspect of this service, the Ensign spoke with Harold C. Brown, director of LDS Social Services.
Q.: First, why does LDS Social Services operate an adoption service?
A.: To help three separate parties, all equally important and all with very distinct needs—a young woman who is expecting a child out of wedlock; a couple who wants a baby but cannot have one naturally; and a child in need of a stable, eternal home.
We’re quite concerned when young women think that if they come to LDS Social Services we are going to expect them to release their babies for adoption. The truth is that we will help any young woman explore all of her options. If she wants to keep her baby, we will help her understand the realities of raising a child and assist her and her family in making the adjustment. If she chooses to release the baby, we will place the child for adoption with a temple-worthy couple. If her choice is to marry, we will support and help her in that endeavor.
The primary reason the LDS Social Services adoption service exists is to find an eternal home for a child. We feel there is a doctrinal foundation for our service. Doctrine and Covenants 83:6 says that “orphans shall be provided for.” This indicates that the Lord expects us to help these children.
Q.: How do couples apply to become adoptive parents?
A.: They go to their bishop or branch president, who refers them to LDS Social Services. They can also contact any of the LDS Social Services offices directly to receive information about adoption and how to apply. There are currently agency offices throughout the United States, Canada, England, New Zealand, and Australia.
Q.: What criteria must couples meet?
A.: Couples need to be members of the Church in good standing, having been married in the temple and holding current temple recommends. They are eligible if they have no children or only one child and are proven to be infertile. Couples may apply after two years of marriage if their infertility has been medically substantiated, and after three years if no medical reason for infertility is found. They should be in good health, have a reasonable life expectancy, and be able to care for the child financially.
If a couple wants to adopt a special-needs child—one who is generally more than five years old or who has some kind of handicap, or for other reasons is hard to place—the process is basically the same. The differences are that they don’t have to prove infertility and they can have more than two children.
The application and preparation process may be frustrating. However, many of the procedures we follow are required by the states in which we work. And once a child becomes the responsibility of LDS Social Services, we have an obligation to provide him or her with the best possible home.
Q.: What happens once a couple has met the requirements and has been recommended by their bishop?
A.: The agency begins an adoptive study with the couple so that we have enough background information to match them with a child. In turn, we prepare couples to receive a child. This process involves interviews with the caseworker and verification of infertility and good health.
Q.: How do you decide which child goes to which couple?
A.: Agency workers work with birth parents to determine their desires and feelings about potential adoptive couples and the environment in which they would like their child to be reared. Agency workers then carefully match the interests of birth parents and the needs and physical characteristics of the child with the desires and personal characteristics of adoptive parents. We conduct this process in a prayerful manner, seeking the Lord’s guidance in the decision.
Q.: How long can a couple expect to wait for a child?
A.: As soon as the adoption study is complete, which takes about six months, the couple becomes eligible for a child. When all other considerations are equal, we give priority to couples who have waited the longest. Usually, babies are placed within a few days of birth with couples who have waited from one to two years.
Q.: How do you prepare couples to be parents?
A.: Much of the preparation comes through adoptive study interviews. We talk with couples about such things as their philosophy of parenting, their feelings about adoption, and their capacity to love children. We answer their questions about parenting and the adoption experience. We try to help them think through the whole process and what it means for them.
We also often arrange for parenting classes; some of these are sponsored by LDS Social Services. Also, in large agencies, there may be support groups in which couples can talk with others about the challenges of adoption.
Q.: What extra preparation do you give to couples who are adopting special-needs children?
A.: We prepare them for the specific needs of the child, whether they be physical, mental, or social. We provide background information and sometimes additional training. Support does not stop once the child is placed in the home; we continue to refer parents to classes and other resources to meet their needs. In most states and countries, the law requires a wait of at least six months before any adoption can be finalized, but with special-needs children, the adoption is finalized when the couple and children are ready, usually after a year or longer.
Q.: When can a couple have their adopted child sealed to them?
A.: After the adoption is finalized. One adoptive parent, Randy Rader, has found that “as each birth is a miracle, each adoption is also accompanied by signs of the hand of the Lord. Three times our family has gathered in the temple to experience the majestic sealing power of the priesthood, and each time we have felt the divine confirmation that our family is more complete.”
Adoption is a rewarding experience. There are many children who need help. We hope LDS couples will give them the opportunity for eternal blessings.