The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit issued an emergency order Monday that temporarily halts New York officials from targeting a faith-based adoption provider for its religious beliefs and seeking to shut it down on that basis. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing New Hope Family Services asked the court to stop state officials from interrupting current adoption placements or mandating the phase-out of its adoption program. Monday’s order grants that until the court has a chance to consider whether to reverse a federal district court’s decision to dismiss New Hope’s lawsuit sometime after oral arguments are held on Nov. 13.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services singled out the religious nonprofit for its policy prioritizing the placement of children it serves in homes with a married mother and father. The 2nd Circuit’s decision allows New Hope to continue placing children already in its custody and continue the adoption study process for families who already completed the orientation process for the time being.
“Every child deserves a permanent home with loving parents,” said ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks, who argued before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York on behalf of New Hope Family Services in February. “New Hope’s faith-based services do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers, but banishing it means fewer kids will find permanent homes, fewer adoptive parents will ever welcome their new child, and fewer birth parents will enjoy the exceptional support that New Hope has offered for decades. We hope the court will permanently uphold New Hope’s ability to serve children and families according to the very beliefs that motivate its valuable services.”
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New Hope operates as a pregnancy resource center, temporary-foster-placement agency, and adoption agency. 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. According to the lawsuit, New Hope Family Services v. Poole, OCFS sent New Hope a letter following a site visit and praised the nonprofit for “a number of strengths in providing adoption services within the community. One of which is the strong emphasis on assisting the birth parents in making an informed decision for their newborn, providing them time to make the decision, along with a supportive and detailed adoptive family selection process.”
OCFS changed course later when it reviewed New Hope’s policy and procedures manual and singled out the nonprofit’s policy regarding child placements. OCFS described the policy as “discriminatory and impermissible” despite the fact that it respectfully refers couples to other providers and has faced no formal complaints from prospective parents due to the policy. OCFS provided an ultimatum that New Hope revise its policy or submit a close-out plan for its adoption program.