Winter Carnival is celebration of adoption
National Council for Adoption honors LDS Family Services and commissioner
Sarah Jane Weaver
LDS Church News
The National Council for Adoption honored LDS Family Services and Commissioner Fred Riley Dec. 3 for "improving the lives of children, birth parents and families through adoption."
The awards were presented before more than 700 people gathered in the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City for a Winter Carnival. Families played games, rode carnival rides and ate hamburgers, hotdogs, popcorn and cotton candy as part of the National Council for Adoption's 25th anniversary.
Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and his wife, Mary Kaye — Church members and adoptive parents — presented the awards and hosted the carnival, attended by adoptive families, government officials, and adoption professionals.
NCFA President and CEO Thomas Atwood said the organization, based in Washington , D.C., chose to hold the first regional celebration in Utah because of a long working relationship with LDS Family Services and a desire to honor the organization.
"We're here in Utah because LDS Family Services is one of the premier adoption agencies in the world, and we're here to celebrate all of the work done by LDS Family Services," he said.
The award, he said, represents Family Services' professional and personal commitment to adoption.
David M. McConkie of the LDS Family Services Board of Directors accepted the award. "Why is (LDS Family Services) what it is? he asked. "The employees want to make the world a little better."
He noted that the organization's campaign slogans communicate much about LDS Family Services. " 'Where there is hope, there is love'; 'I didn't give her up, I gave her more'; and 'Adoption, it's about love' — that's what LDS Family Services is all about," he said in reference to the slogans.
The organization, founded in 1919, now has 57 offices in the United States and seven international offices.
Brother Riley, LDS Family Services Commissioner who sits on the NCFA board of directors, was honored at the event with the Adoption Hall of Fame Award. Past recipients include First Ladies Barbara Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Gerald Ford, Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
Mr. Atwood praised Brother Riley as a wise counselor and hard worker who has a "heart for adoption." He received a standing ovation from the audience after receiving the award.
"Fred Riley is my hero," he said. "He is just so dedicated to adoption."
Brother Riley used the award as an opportunity to promote adoption and building families through adoption. "I hope that today we can all decide in our minds to take adoption forward," he said.
Before presenting the awards, Gov. Huntsman and his wife recalled the journey their family made to China in December of 1999 when they adopted their daughter, Gracie Mai. "We are the ones that are so much better because of the adoption," he said.
Sister Huntsman said adoption has brought something extraordinary to their lives. "I think through the adoption process I realized that miracles happen every day. We just don't recognize them."
Founded in 1980, NCFA is a research, education, and advocacy nonprofit organization that provides adoption information, promotes ethical adoption practices, informs public policy and opinion about adoption issues, and serves as a resource for women dealing with out-of-wedlock pregnancies, adopted persons and their families, those seeking to adopt, and adoption professionals.
While in Utah, Mr. Atwood met with journalists and others to promote adoption policy, including issues such as confidentiality in adoption, birth mothers securing biological fathers' rights, adoption awareness, and court enforceability of agreements for a birth mother to make contact with a child placed for adoption.
"We have much to celebrate and we have much more to do," said Mr. Atwood.