By Ranjit Uppal, Director & Solicitor Advocate
The simple answer is, yes, of course they can. However, very recently Sandeep and Rena Manda were told by Adopt Berkshire that White British or European Applicant’s would be given preference in the adoption process as they only had white children who needed to be placed for adoption. The agency therefore refused to process their application.
As a Sikh Solicitor who specialises in child care proceedings and adoption proceedings I was taken aback by this news headline. Given my own 20 years’ experience in this area of law, and my working knowledge of the number of children placed in long term foster care and children waiting for their ‘forever families’, I was surprised by the response given to this couple.
The basic principle of the Child Care Law is that welfare rights of the child are the court’s paramount consideration. So why is it that a couple are ruled out due to their ethnicity without any assessment of their circumstances?
Article 8 of the Human Rights Act gives every person the right to private and family life. A state or local authority in this case should not interfere unless it is in accordance with the law and is necessary and democratic to do so.
It seems to me that the adoption agency appear to have reached a conclusion which is not justifiable. In my opinion, if a couple seek to adopt then they should at least be given the opportunity to meet with the relevant adoption agency workers; they should be consulted and assessed. The assessment should lead to a detailed analysis of their circumstances before a recommendation can be made as to whether they would be approved as adoptive carers.
How is it right that a couple have simply been refused to be considered on the basis that they are Asian?
Under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, Section 1 sets out the considerations applying to adoption:
- Paragraph 1: Whenever a court or “adoption agency” is coming to a decision in relation to the adoption of a child
- Paragraph 2: the paramount consideration of the court or adoption agency must be the child’s welfare throughout his life.
- Paragraph 3: The court or adoption agency must at all times bear in mind that in general any delay in coming to the decision is likely to prejudice the child’s welfare.
- Paragraph 4: The court or adoption agency must have regard to the following matters among others:
- The child’s ascertainable wishes and feelings
- The child’s particular needs
- The likely effect on the child throughout his life of having ceased to be a member of the original family and becoming an adopted person
- The child’s age, sex, background and any of the child’s characteristics which the court or agency consider relevant
- Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- The relation the child has with relatives and with any other person in relation to who the court or agency considers the relationship to be relevant including:
- The likelihood of any such relationship continuing and the value of the child in so doing
- The ability and willingness of any of the child’s relatives or any such person to provide the child with a secure environment in which a child can develop or otherwise meet the child’s needs
- The wishes and feelings of any of the child’s relatives or any such person regarding the child
It may well be the case that a child is of a particular ethnicity, therefore ideally the adoptive parents will share that ethnicity in order to meet the child’s needs. However, if no such placement is available, and all other factors are addressed in a welfare analysis, in some cases it may be appropriate to place a child with adoptive parents of a different ethnicity.
For example, I am aware of white couples who have adopted non-white children, however they are able to demonstrate that they will engage and assist the child in developing knowledge and links to the community from which the child’s birth parents originate. From personal experience I am aware of white couples who often visit the Sikh temple with their adopted children and engage in Sikh culture to allow their children who are brought up in a White British home to understand and develop their knowledge of their birth culture.
On a personal note I am well aware of the very good work done by social worker’s and adoption agencies in England and Wales and it is unfortunate one negative headline has come to the attention of the national press. However, given the issues that it raises it seems wholly appropriate that this is brought to the national agenda.
When considering the positive impact that adoption can have on a child (and throughout their life), it seems premature that an Asian couple have simply been ruled out at the first hurdle. Failure to properly consider them at the outset as prospective adoptive parents, simply because of their race, means that the couple may well have been suitable. The sad reality of the situation is that there may well be a child in foster care who had a home available to them who is still waiting to be adopted.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances.