Guest Column

New York to pay $250K after years of attempts to shut down faith-based adoption agency

(Alliance Defending Freedom) In a victory for vulnerable children awaiting adoption, as well as religious ministries, New York state officials have agreed to pay $250,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs after trying to shut down New Hope Family Services because of its religious beliefs.

The settlement of the lawsuit, in which Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent New Hope, ensures that New York’s Office of Children and Family Services can no longer target the Syracuse-based adoption agency for its religious policies, and that it can continue serving the community by placing children in loving, permanent homes.

“The state’s attempt to close New Hope violated its core rights protected by the First Amendment and needlessly reduced the number of agencies willing to help vulnerable children,” said ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks. “New Hope is a private religious ministry that doesn’t take a dime from the government. Further, New Hope’s faith-guided services don’t coerce anyone and do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers who have different beliefs about family and the best interests of children. On behalf of the children waiting to be adopted and the prospective parents partnering with New Hope to provide loving and stable homes, we’re pleased to favorably settle this case and ensure the organization can continue its vital service to the Syracuse community.”

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The settlement of New Hope Family Services v. Poole follows a precedent-setting ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in 2020 and a federal district court’s ruling in September 2022 that permanently prohibited the state of New York from enforcing state law “insofar as it would compel New Hope to process applications from, or place children for adoption with, same-sex couples or unmarried cohabitating couples, and insofar as it would prevent New Hope from referring such couples to other agencies.” For more than four years, the New York OCFS agency threatened to close the nonprofit because of its policy, guided by its religious beliefs, of placing children it serves in homes with a married mother and father.

New Hope operates as an adoption agency and pregnancy resource center. The nonprofit accepts no government funding and, besides the fees paid by adoptive parents, funds its ministry through support from churches, individual donors, and private grants.

“Every child deserves a home with a loving mother and father who are committed to each other,” said New Hope Family Services Executive Director Kathy Jerman. “New Hope walks with adoptive families and birth parents alike to place children with adoptive families. It’s regrettable that New York ever threatened to shut down our adoption services, through which we have placed more than 1,000 children with adoptive families since we began in 1965. We live in a diverse state, and we need more adoption providers, not fewer. We’re grateful this case has reached a favorable end that allows us to keep serving children and families.”

ADF attorneys are still litigating a different case for New Hope Family Services against New York state officials. Yet another state agency sought to punish New Hope for the very same religious policy that the federal court upheld in Poole. The New York Division of Human Rights threatened to investigate and penalize the Christian nonprofit because it places infants with couples consisting of a mother and father committed to each other in marriage. In New Hope Family Services v. James, the adoption agency is asking a federal court to allow it to continue its critical work of placing infants with disabilities or other “hard to place” factors in permanent homes without government harassment because of its religious beliefs. In September 2022, a federal court ruled to grant New Hope’s request for a preliminary injunction in this case as well.

Editor’s Note: This press release was originally published by Alliance Defending Freedom.

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