Through education opportunities and counseling support, we enable a brighter future for birth parents who have lovingly chosen adoption, which is perhaps the greatest sacrifice a parent can make for their child.
If adoption has touched your life, you may see yourself in the following story.
Pharaoh, the ruler of ancient Egypt, was concerned about the growing numbers of the People of Israel. He feared they would rise up in rebellion against his rule, so he placed taskmasters over them and heavy burdens upon them to keep them subdued. As they continued to multiply even under these harsh circumstances, Pharaoh’s concerns grew. He gave an order that all male infants born into Hebrew families should be killed.
During this time of fear and violence, a son was born to a Hebrew woman. Knowing her son was to be killed if he were discovered, she hid him three months. This loving mother did all she could to care for her child, to provide for his needs, and to protect him from Pharaoh’s decree.
According to the account given in Exodus 2 (KJV), “And when she could no longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes… and put the child therein; and she laid it (among the reeds) by the river’s brink,” and sent her daughter to watch over the child. As the daughter of Pharaoh came to wash herself in the river, she discovered the child. When the infant cried out, the daughter of Pharaoh’s heart was touched. The account in Exodus continues: “…And he became her son. And she called his name Moses.”
The story of Moses honors all the roles found in adoption:
- The mother (the modern birth family), who loved her child enough to give him more than she could give him on her own, sent her child down the river to safety.
- Pharaoh’s daughter (the adoptive family), being moved with compassion, took the child as her own and raised him in her household with all the privileges and protections that accompanied that upbringing.
- The child’s sister (the adoption worker, advocate, or support staff) watched carefully and lovingly from the riverbank to ensure he would pass safely between families.
Most importantly, the infant Moses (the adopted child), loved by all involved, is the center of the story. He lived and grew to be a great man among his people.
The Fred M. Riley Foundation’s motto, “Safer Downstream,” comes from this touching account. As Moses was safer downstream, many children and birth mothers today are also safer downstream from their adoption experience.
Why was the foundation created?
Some years ago, founder of the Fred M. Riley Scholarship Foundation, Steve Sunday, had an experience that left a deep and lasting impression on his heart. He remembers meeting with a 26 year-old pregnant mother who was considering placing her unborn child with an adoptive family. She had only an eighth grade education and was struggling to provide for a young child of her own already. Her future looked bleak as she faced a continuing cycle of working low-income jobs and battling poverty.
Steve thought there must be more that could be done for birth mothers like her. “I knew I needed to do something to help,” he said of the experience. Education seemed to be a necessary factor in changing her trajectory.
As this situation lingered in his mind, he began to research programs that would fund the education of birth mothers like the one he met. He discovered with dismay that he could only find a handful of programs in the United States like the one he envisioned this mother would need.
Steve set to work researching how these programs functioned and determined that with his years in adoption work and the relationships he had formed with community partners, he could create a scholarship fund to assist these birth mothers who were slipping through the cracks. Education could be the catalyst for change.
This is how the Fred M. Riley Scholarship Foundation was born.
A Friendship of Common Purpose
Steve and Fred began working together in 1994 when Steve joined the LDS Family Services Headquarters Team, and the two were dear friends for more than two decades. The mission of their work was to not only provide caring, ethical support through the adoption process, but to also provide lifelong support. Working together in the field of adoption gave Steve the opportunity to really get to know Fred and to share their mutual drive for improving the lives of others.
As a man of faith, Fred would often pray over his work. He expressed an unshakable impression that there were people, specifically birth mothers, crying out for his help. Fred could not rest, knowing there was relief he could administer to those who needed him.
When Steve began the process of starting a scholarship fund, it was a natural choice to name it after his beloved friend, who had died some years previously. Steve wholeheartedly believes that this is a cause to which Fred would be proud to lend his name.
Biography of Fred M. Riley
FRED M. RILEY - "A TRUE ADOPTION ADVOCATE"
A thoughtful and steady leader, Fred dedicated his life to promoting adoption and the prevention of teen pregnancy. Fred was a recipient of the Adoption Hall of Fame award from the National Council for Adoption. Other recipients of this award have included first ladies Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton. Fred received the Friend of Adoption award from the organization Families Supporting Adoption.
About Fred M. Riley from his Friends and Colleagues
“I worked with Fred Riley from a distance for 15 years. I worked very closely with him for 15 years. By reputation and performance he was a man with dreams, passion and a desire to accomplish. His works matched his desires. He was a leader in the field of adoptions, encouraging of services to unwed mothers, foster care and mental health. Though Fred has now passed on it is fitting that his name be used in connection with efforts that will continue to assist those in need of assistance.” Brent Scharman, Ph.D.