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Smithlawn Church in Lubbock Provides Adoption and Maternity Services
The oldest maternity home service associated with churches of Christ began in 1960 primarily through efforts of the Smithlawn Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas, which saw the need to provide a “refuge” for young women with an unplanned pregnancy. They raised funds to provide the “first known cottage-style maternity home facility in the nation.” Now they have two such cottages on a twenty-acre campus which accommodates thirty-two residents.
At first the Smithlawn program arranged placement for babies through other agencies, but in 1968, they obtained a license to place children for adoption themselves. At this point in time, they employed Howard Hulett, Sr., ACSW, CSW-ACP, to be the Director of Social Services for Smithlawn. Growing up in Arkansas in an impoverished family, at age seven young Howard was taken in by a church family who wanted to provide a better life for him in an “unofficial foster home.” While staying in touch with his family, the new “parents” took him to church regularly and showed him Christian love in action. This experience impressed Hulett deeply and he determined to become a social worker so he could help others with a similar need. Hulett served with the Smithlawn program until 1993. In 1972, Frances Phillips, LMSW, came as Director of Maternity Services and continues in that role. Presently, James A. (Tony) Parnell, LCSW, ACSW, LCPA, is Smithlawn’s Director of Adoption Services.
During its fifty years of service, the Smithlawn program has arranged for more than 1900 babies to be placed for adoption. They work hard to meet the needs of all three parties involved in the adoption process: the adoptive family, the birth parents, and the adoptee.
The Smithlawn Agency has served more than 30,000 expectant mothers which have come from every state except Hawaii and from eight foreign countries. Some of these they have referred to other agencies, some have lived in their cottages, and others have lived elsewhere. For those staying on their campus, Smithlawn provides bedrooms in their two cottages with live-in house parents. They also provide medical services through local physicians, offer Christian counselors and social workers, give opportunities for social life, offer educational opportunities, and plan recreational experiences.
Smithlawn provides an alternative to abortion, and is a place where expectant mothers can explore their options in a private setting and, thus, have a better situation in which to make a decision about the welfare of the baby and themselves. Their services are funded through individual contributions, support from churches, and adoption fees.
In 1988, Smithlawn was recognized for its work by receiving the President’s Volunteer Action Award Citation, signed by President Ronald Reagan.
Among churches of Christ there are a number of other groups providing similar services. These agencies do an important work in caring for expectant mothers who need physical, emotional and spiritual assistance. They also serve those who wish to adopt children, and, their greatest service may be to those children who, without such services, would grow up under much more difficult circumstances.