- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2023

New York state’s Office of Children and Family Services will pay $250,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by New Hope Family Services after a court ruled that the agency is not subject to closure because it only places children with married, heterosexual couples.

The payment follows four years of threatened action by OCFS against Syracuse-based New Hope over those adoption policies. The group said it offers same-sex couples referrals to other agencies which can accommodate them.

Last September U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Obama, permanently blocked OCFS from enforcing non-discrimination rules against New Hope, citing First Amendment protections for the organization.

That ended one case and set the stage for a cash settlement, which will cover attorney’s fees and court costs.

New Hope is a private organization that, attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom said, takes no government funding.

Among its specialties are placing infants with disabilities or other “hard to place” children in permanent homes, the law firm said. Adoption fees and support from churches, individual donors and private grants also fund the organization.

In a statement, New Hope executive director Kathy Jerman praised the outcome.

“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,” she said.

ADF Senior Counsel Roger Brooks said New York’s attempt to shutter New Hope over its policies violated the group’s “core rights” and would have “needlessly reduced the number of agencies willing to help vulnerable children.”

“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,” he said.

New Hope is still in court with the New York State Division of Human Rights, because that state agency has threatened investigations and penalties over the adoption group’s policies.

ADF said New Hope won a preliminary injunction against the human rights agency in September 2022 while that case progresses.

Late Tuesday, an OCFS spokeswoman said the agency “remains deeply disappointed” with a federal appeals court ruling that it “must comply with.” 

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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