Mormon agency changing focus of adoption services

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The social services arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will no longer handle adoptions and will instead shift its resources toward making referrals and counseling families about the process, officials said Tuesday.

The change was driven in part by a drop in the number of women who put their babies up for adoption and because the stigma of being an unwed mother has subsided.

"Our goal is first, to provide more opportunities to adopt, and second, to offer a broader array of resources to unwed parents," said David McConkie, manager of services for children at LDS Family Services.

In the mid-1970s, 9 percent of babies born to never-married mothers were put up for adoption, a figure that now stands at 1 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"As a traditional adoption agency, it's not working out for us," McConkie told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Family Services has been placing 200 to 300 children a year, down from a peak of 665 in 2002. Expectant mothers of all backgrounds could put their babies up for adoption through the agency, while prospective parents must be Mormons in good standing and document their infertility.

Some faith-based adoption agencies faced lawsuits for not facilitating adoptions for same-sex couples, although McConkie told television station KSL that litigation is not driving the change by LDS Family Services.

About 600 couples who are in the process of adopting with the agency will be able to complete their adoptions or start again under the new model.

Adoptions through LDS Family Services were considerably cheaper than those through outside agencies. Fees ranged from $4,000 to $10,000 due to subsidies from the church, while a private adoption elsewhere can cost $5,000 to $40,000, according to federal estimates.

Officials with LDS Family Services announced the changes at an employee meeting.

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