London–A Sikh couple in Britain were refused permission to adopt a white child here because of their “cultural heritage” and were instead advised to adopt a child from India.
Sandeep and Reena Mander, who are British-born and live in Berkshire, said that they were rejected by a local adoption agency, Adopt Berkshire, “as only white children were available”, the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.
The agency said that white British or European parents would be given preference, according to the report. The couple, in their 30s, said they were willing to give a home to a child of any race.
They are now legally challenging the decision, with the backing of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), claiming discrimination in the provision of services.
The Manders have applied to Slough county court, seeking a declaration that the policy should allow them to adopt, the daily said.
“Giving an adopted child — no matter what race — the security of a loving home was all we wanted to do,” Sandeep 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’,” he told the Times newspaper.
David Isaac, Chairman of the EHRC, 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.”
The Manders said they had been trying to conceive for about seven years, and had gone through 16 IVF sessions, before deciding to try to adopt.
Speaking to a BBC programme, Reena added that it was “hurtful” to be told they couldn’t adopt because of their “cultural heritage”.
“It’s quite hurtful that we were written off at the first hurdle,” she said.
Georgina Calvert-Lee, who is representing the Manders, said: “It is unacceptable for a child to be denied loving adoptive parents solely on the gorunds that the child does not share the same racial or cultural heritage as the adopters.”
Adoption agencies in Britain can prioritise parents from the same ethnic group, but in 2014 adoption rules were changed to make it easier for children to be placed with parents from a different ethnic background.