White parents preferred: UK adoption agency tells British-Sikh couple

Conditional love.
Conditional love.
Image: Reuters/United Photos
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All that British-born couple Sandeep and Reena Mander wanted was a shot at parenthood.

The duo was seeking to adopt a child of any ethnic background. But their local council’s agency, Adopt Berkshire, told them that, “as only white children were in need, white British or European applicants would be given preference, meaning they were unlikely to be selected,” the Guardian reported. In other words, their “cultural heritage” was a problem. The couple, who are of Sikh descent but were born and raised in the UK, were told to try and adopt from India instead.

The denial apparently came after the agency, run by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, completed an assessment and home visit and deemed the couple suitable adoptive parents in all aspects. However, it claimed that since mostly white children were available for adoption, white British or European applicants would be given preference over the Indian-origin couple.

Giving preference to parents from the same ethnic group as the adoptive child is a lawful move, but not allowing a couple to even apply to adopt merely based on their ethnicity, religion, or race is not just racist but also illegal. Adopt Berkshire’s denial violates the Children and Families Act of 2014, which ended the practice of allowing only ethnic matches for adopted children.

“The couple was offering to adopt a child needing a stable, caring, and loving home,” Narinderjit Singh, the general secretary of the Sikh Federation in the UK, told the Guardian. “Instead, they appear to have been confronted with what can only be called racism.”

Despite local MP and prime minister Theresa May and the Equality and Human Rights Commission raising their voices against the decision, the council refuses to budge. Some of the partisan behavior may be explained by the lack of diversity among the decision makers—the vast majority of the 57 councillors are white.

Now, the Manders are seeking legal recourse in the Slough county court. “The Manders simply want to register their interest in adopting, as you might want to register to participate in a race, they are not asking to be allowed to win the race, they simply want to register,” their lawyer, Georgina Calvert-Lee from McAllister Olivarius, told the Guardian. “What they were confronted with was a denial of possibility to register, because the adoption agency thought they couldn’t win.”

The couple, in its 30s, decided to adopt after failing to conceive for seven years, despite 16 sessions of IVF treatment, the Times reported (paywall). Sandeep and Reena are now considering adopting from the US. It will be an expensive affair, though, costing them up to £60,000, the Independent said.