LDS Family Services
Enhancing the living of gospel principles
Church members are not immune to many of the world's challenges. Therefore, LDS Family Services is available as a support system to local Church leaders, said Fred M. Riley, LDS Family Services commissioner.
At the start of this year just months after changing the name LDS Social Services to LDS Family Services and in the wake of a public service ad campaign designed to educate the public about adoption Brother Riley hopes to help Church members understand and take advantage of the many services the agency provides to strengthen families.
LDS Family Services, which has existed in various forms since 1919, is a private, non-profit organization affiliated with the Church to meet the social and emotional needs of members and others. "Services are aimed at enabling individuals and families to pursue a life consistent with eternal gospel principles. This applies in our roles as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and parents," said Brother Riley.
Today, there are 55 offices throughout the United States and six international offices which provide services to those in Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Brother Riley explained that many members are not aware that the agency provides adoption and birth parent services; consultation with priesthood leaders; assessment of client problems; therapy; help in identifying and developing acceptable community resources where members can be referred for values-sensitive counseling; orientation of ecclesiastical leaders; and special services that include assistance for missionaries, a helpline for bishops and stake presidents dealing with abuse issues, services to prisoners, substance abuse groups, Native American and refugee programs, and emergency response and crisis counseling.
Church members seeking help through Family Services are referred by their bishops. Exceptions include young women facing an unplanned pregnancy or individuals dealing with homosexual issues.
"The services we provide are offered in the same manner assistance is provided to members who have financial problems and need food from the Bishop's Storehouse," said Brother Riley. "If members can't meet their needs by themselves and ward resources are not sufficient, then we are one of the resources their bishops can draw on to help them serve their members."
Brother Riley said that the agency exists to help members in living gospel principles, keeping their covenants and strengthening family relationships.
Brother Riley recently detailed some of the many services the agency can provide for Church members:
This year LDS Family Services will launch a television and radio ad campaign to promote adoption and educate the public about the services it offers.
"Consultation services, wherein a bishop calls the agency to discuss in a confidential manner a specific situation, are provided at no cost to ecclesiastical leaders," Brother Riley said. "That is one area where we are not used as much as we could be. That evaluation process can be really helpful. The bishop and staff member may decide to treat the client at the agency, determine that treatment is not necessary, or refer the client to another source of help that will keep gospel standards."
In 1999, the agency volunteered approximately 600 hours assisting more than 3,000 people. Professionals provided individual and group crisis counseling to those affected by school shootings in Canada and Colorado, a tornado in Oklahoma and a shooting at the Church's Family History Library. They also provided services to individuals and families in refugee camps in Albania.
Brother Riley noted that research suggests that if professionals can meet with people who go through a traumatic event and allow them to talk about the disaster, this can reduce the chance for future problems.
"In many cases," Brother Riley said, "representatives from wards or stakes come to LDS Family Services for training and then, using the agency's materials, provide parenting classes in their own units."
Brother Riley said in many cases the agency will refer a Church member dealing with a substance abuse problem to specialized programs in the community. LDS Family Services can remain a resource by helping the individual on other issues that accompany substance abuse, such as marital problems and depression.
"The agency," said Brother Riley, "could assist priesthood leaders who might have an institution within their units geographic boundaries. If they were to determine that they wanted to do something with the LDS population there, then we would be a resource to help them do that." The Church provides Sunday meetings and other programs at the Utah State Prison.
"Our staff is committed to using gospel principles in a professional setting. We help Church members from a gospel perspective," he said. "It gives us the chance to help individuals improve personal and family relationships and lifestyle."
6 CHURCH NEWS