A British Sikh couple have launched legal proceedings after they were turned away by an adoption agency due to their ethnic background.
Following unsuccessful fertility treatment, Sandeep and Reena Mander had applied to adopt a child. But they were told by the agency Adopt Berkshire that the only children available for adoption in their region were white and prospective adopters from a similar background would be given priority over them. Instead they should consider children from an Indian background the couple were told, even though they have no connection to India.
Sandeep told The Times:
“Giving an adopted child – no matter what race – the security of a loving home was all we wanted to do. 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’.”
Adopt Berkshire is operated by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. The decision to deny the Manders appears to be in breach of the Children and Families Act 2014, which ended a previous insistence on matching children with prospective adopters of the same ethnic background.
The Manders have now applied to the County Court at Slough for a legal declaration that they should be allowed to adopt in spite of the Council’s refusal. Their case was brought with the help of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
David Isaac is chair of the latter organisation. He said:
“There are many children who are waiting for a loving family like Sandeep and Reena to help give them a better life. To be denied this because of so-called cultural heritage is wrong.”
Narinderjit Singh of the Sikh Federation (UK) was more overtly critical, telling The Guardian:
“The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead clearly lack sensitivity and understanding of the situation and decision makers appear not to appreciate diversity or the law.”
If their efforts are unsuccessful the Manders are considering adopting a child from the United States.
Photo of a ‘chand’, a traditional Sikh turban adornment, by jasleen_kaur via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence