Something must have changed.
Just a month after New Hope Family Services received a positive letter from a New York state agency, it was told by the same agency to violate its beliefs or shut down its adoption program.
This past fall, the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) praised New Hope for “a number of strengths in providing adoption services within the community.”
The praise is well-deserved. New Hope has been a vital part of the Syracuse, New York community for over 50 years. It serves as both a pregnancy center and an authorized adoption agency. And as a Christian non-profit, New Hope provides important services like pregnancy tests, medical referrals, and counseling while also compassionately working with birth parents and adoptive families to place children in loving homes.
It makes sense that OCFS would give New Hope such positive feedback. But during a routine audit OCFS discovered New Hope’s religious belief that the best home for a child is ideally with a married mother and father and that New Hope places children in homes consistent with that belief. OCFS called the policy “discriminatory and impermissible” and issued an ultimatum to New Hope to violate its beliefs or submit a close out plan for its adoption services.
Something certainly changed. But it was not New Hope or its policy.
As a pregnancy center, New Hope happily serves all families with children, including unmarried couples and those who identify as LGBT. But as I mentioned, New Hope is a Christian non-profit governed by its religious belief that the best environment for children is in a home with a married mom and dad. For that reason, New Hope does not place children for adoption with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples.
Instead, New Hope kindly refers them to one of the other approximately 130 adoption providers in New York—the vast majority of which will place with any individual who qualifies. Allowing New Hope to operate consistent with its religious beliefs does not prevent anyone from adopting.
When New Hope was founded in 1965, no one would have questioned its reasonable belief that children are best served when they’re able to be placed with a married mom and dad. The state of New York apparently supported that view as well, since it wasn’t until September of 2010 that the legislature first permitted unmarried and same-sex couples to adopt. Now OCFS is threatening a faith-based adoption provider with closure because its beliefs conflict with the state agency’s political agenda.
With over 400,000 children in the foster care system nationwide, not to mention the 25,397 children in the state of New York alone, you would think that government agencies like OCFS would want to work with as many adoption providers as possible to find homes for these children.
But it appears that OCFS is putting politics ahead of the needs of children. And that needs to change.
Faith-based providers should be supported, not punished, because of their religious beliefs. Several birth parents and adoptive parents have supported New Hope’s legal effort with signed testimony that New Hope’s commitment to its faith and the values they shared with New Hope were critical in helping them through the emotional and profound experience of placing a child when they could not parent or choosing to parent through adoption. And New Hope’s faith compels it to serve women who are dealing with unplanned pregnancies and their vulnerable children.
That is why New Hope is asking a federal court to protect it from being singled out, punished, or disfavored because of its religious beliefs—the very beliefs that motivate its care for children in need.
The first hearing in this case is tomorrow. Please keep New Hope and the children they serve in your prayers.