Sikh couple barred from adopting white child due to ‘cultural heritage’

Agency said only white children were available and couple should try to adopt from India instead

Rachael Revesz
Tuesday 27 June 2017 17:53
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Couple had been trying to conceive for seven years before deciding to adopt
Couple had been trying to conceive for seven years before deciding to adopt

A Sikh couple have claimed they were not allowed to adopt a white child due to their “cultural heritage”.

Sandeep and Reena Mander said they were told not to apply to adopt a child as white British or European applicants would be given preference.

As a result, the couple who were both born in the UK and live in Berkshire, have started legal action.

They allege they were told that only white children were available for adoption and they should adopt a child from India.

The couple, who are both business professionals, are of Sikh Indian heritage but do not have other close links to India.

Agencies are required by law to give preference to prospective parents who would be the most suitable and that includes many factors, including cultural heritage.

Georgina Calvert-Lee, a barrister at McAllister Olivarius which is representing the couple, said that cultural heritage goes much further than race.

“It’s complex, it’s not just your race, it’s also about your values, your beliefs. Anyone would draw upon the many cultural reference points they had when growing up," she told The Independent.

Statutory guidance for local authorities and adoption agencies in 2011 stated that a child’s ethnicity should not be a barrier to adoption.

Her clients will claim in court that they have been discriminated against in the provision of services after receiving an assessment and home visit from Adopt Berkshire, an agency run by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

After Ms Calvert-Lee filed the case, she said Adopt Berkshire told the Manders they could register for adoption, but she said her clients’ trust had been eroded and they had “no option but to look abroad”.

Adopting through the US, where the same cultural heritage barrier has not been applied, could cost around £60,000.

“They are still a long way away from having a child they can take home and adopt,” Ms Calvert-Lee said. “They hope to adopt in the US but do think they would consider adopting child from local borough.”

The Manders tried to change the agency’s decision through the council’s complaints procedure and through the Local Government Ombudsman, the verdict of which is still pending.

Mr Mander, a 35-year-old Vice President of a payments technology company, told The Times that he and his wife had tried to conceive for seven years, including 16 sessions of IVF treatment.

“Having attended introductory workshops organised by RBWM and Adopt Berkshire, giving an adopted child — no matter what race — the security of a loving home was all we wanted to do,” he said

“What we didn’t expect was a refusal for us to even apply for adoption, not because of our incapability to adopt, but because our cultural heritage was defined as ‘Indian/Pakistani’.”

Their case, supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was pursued by their local MP and Prime Minister Theresa May, who sent letters and put the couple in touch with the then children’s minister. He suggested they hire a lawyer.

A spokesman for Adopt Berkshire said: "We do not comment on ongoing court cases."

On its website, the agency says children available for adoption “will reflect the racial, cultural and religious backgrounds of the populations within the areas from which they originate”.

It adds the agency will “first try to identify prospective adopters for each child who reflect the child’s culture and religion of heritage” but would not keep a child waiting to “achieve a direct match”.

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