Last June, LDS Family Services made a big change: they announced they would no longer be working as an adoption agency. In the press releases attendant the change, LDS Family Services promised that there would be a solution to provide greater adoption opportunities for LDS Families.
That solution was announced this morning.
In an video email sent out this morning to couples and families on the LDS Family Services registry, the agency announced a new era for LDS adoptions, specifically, a powerful partnership with the world's top adoption website, Adoption.com. This popular adoption site now has a section specific to LDS couples that you can visit at adoption.com/lds.
David McConkie, LDS Family Services adoption group manager, explains the gist of the new arrangement: "The Church has signed an agreement with Adoption.com where the Church, through LDS Family Services, will be able to have Adoption.com post profiles for eligible couples through the end of February 2016."
In other words, for the next year, LDS couples looking to adopt can use the Adoption.com website--a subscription that usually costs $199/month per family--and the Church will pick up the tab. Following the February 2016 date, members can still use the service, but at a substantial discount.
"The Church really has never done anything like this," explains McConkie. "We’re moving from our agency model that just helped a very limited number of LDS members around the country to a model where any family that meets some basic criteria can be eligible to take advantage of this new program which will give them so much more exposure than we’ve ever done."
"This change in our program has been reviewed very carefully by the Presiding Bishopric and First Presidency," McConkie continues. "And all of these brethren are anxious to be able to help more adoptive families."
This service comes on the heels of a major upgrade to Adoption.com that went live last Friday, as current CEO and founder of the website, Nathan Gwilliam, outlines. "With this new deal, we wanted to do something much larger," he shares. "We wanted to revolutionize how adoption and parent profiles work." In the past, parent profiles have been similar to dating sites, but the new Adoption.com profiles integrate social technology from many platforms.
"We added a wall very similar to Facebook where you can post text and photos and videos," he explains. "We created a section that we call 'Favorites' and it works just like Pinterest." There are also elements inspired by LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube. "We’ve taken these very popular social concepts on the internet that people are already using extensively to connect with others, and we’ve brought them into this parent profile." The new, revolutionary approach lets single parents considering adoption get to know the prospective adoptive parents in a powerful new way that fits today's social age.
Additional changes on the Church's end as part of the new arrangement also make LDS adoption accessible for more families. There are now only four criteria a potential LDS adoptive couple must meet:
1. Be sealed in the temple to your spouse
2. Have current temple recommends
3. Get a Bishop's recommendation
4. Complete an approved home study
Those familiar with LDS adoptions in the past will rejoice that some restrictive criteria, like medical documentation of infertility or a child limit of 2 per family, have been dropped.
"The message we hope to be able to have people hear with this new announcement is that we’re doing more than we’ve ever done, really ever in the Church, to help adoptive families be more successful and create more opportunities for them," McConkie states. "So this is really a big deal."
The substantial changes and new partnership come after over a year of work between LDS Family Services, the Church, and the Adoption.com website, which was founded by Gwilliam as a BYU student in 1997. "It was a BYU project," Gwilliam says, "that’s grown into the world’s most used adoption site."
"In today’s world," McConkie says, "this change for LDS Family Services adoption program (as part of the Church), I think it is inspired. The timing is perfect for this to create more opportunities."