The recent story of Sandeep and Reena Mander* highlights some of the issues that can confront couples wishing to adopt a child. The Manders are a British Sikh couple who are bringing a claim against Adopt Berkshire, the adoption agency for their local council, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. The couple, who are represented by McAllister Olivarius, are claiming that Adopt Berkshire subjected them to racial discrimination by not allowing them to adopt a child due to their ‘cultural heritage’. The Manders claim that Adopt Berkshire told them not to apply to adopt a child as British or European applicants would be given precedence, and that they should instead consider adopting a child from India.
Adoption agencies are required by law to give preference to prospective parents who would be suitable matches for children, and they can consider a range of factors, including cultural heritage. However, it appears that Adopt Berkshire may have taken a narrow view of ‘cultural heritage’ by focusing almost exclusively on race, and so not considering the other factors, such as values and beliefs, that may have made the Manders suitable adopters for white British children. Furthermore, even if the Manders’ race made them potentially less suitable than other prospective adopters, the statutory guidance for local authorities states that a child’s ethnicity should not be a barrier to adoption, and so Adopt Berkshire may have been in breach of this guidance by ruling the Manders out as potential adopters without even allowing them to complete the application process.