Church agency is ready, willing and able to help

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:

  • Birth Parent Services. Any young woman, LDS or other, facing an unplanned pregnancy is eligible, through the agency, to receive free services. "The agency's goal is to provide information and counseling to assist birth parents in making the best possible decision for the child and themselves," said Brother Riley. Services include counseling, out of home placement, educational assistance, medical assistance and adoption planning, if desired. In addition, most offices offer birth parent support groups.

    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.

  • Adoption Services. LDS Family Services has been providing adoption services since 1919 and completes approximately 600 adoptions a year. "All children are placed with wonderful, temple-worthy couples. Many offices sponsor regular adoption education meetings as well as support groups," said Brother Riley.

  • Counseling Services. At the request of local Church leaders, LDS Family Services provides professional assessment and therapy to individuals and families. When appropriate, clients may also be referred to community resources.

    "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."

  • Emergency Response/Crisis Counseling. Over the years, LDS Family Services has been called on to assist those in crisis as a result of natural or man-made disasters. Several full-time employees of the agency are members of the Red Cross National Crisis Team. In addition, LDS Family Services has a crisis team which can be dispatched to assist local professionals.

    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.

  • Parenting Classes. The agency has supported since 1974 a parenting class titled "Becoming a Better Parent." The program teaches relationship and problem solving skills which adhere to Christian principles. The class is taught by volunteers under the direction of the agency.

    "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."

  • Substance Abuse Recovery Groups. The agency sponsors substance abuse recovery groups based on need in a given geographical area. These groups are based on traditional 12-step programs with the addition of a spiritual focus. Several LDS Alcoholic Anonymous groups currently meet along the Wasatch Front in Utah.

    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.

  • Prison Services. LDS Family Services regularly mails religious materials to those in prison upon their written request. Also, upon request, the agency assists inmates in making contact with local Church leaders.

    "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.

  • Bishop's Abuse Helpline. Local leaders, such as bishops or stake presidents, who are counseling ward members concerning abuse of any kind, can call a 24-hour abuse helpline, where a professional from LDS Family Services will help them sort through moral and legal obligations. They can also provide direction to the bishop in how to best meet the needs of those involved.

  • Native American Services. LDS Family Services helps LDS Native-Americans and other members of minority cultures to use community resources, including employment services, job training and educational assistance. "We are basically providing the same services [on the reservations] that we are anywhere else," Brother Riley said.

    "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."


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