This Couple of Indian Heritage Was Barred From Adopting a White Child

June 27th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

A British couple of Indian descent was allegedly stopped from adopting a white child because of their "cultural heritage." Sandeep and Reena Mander, who were born in the U.K. and live in England, filed a lawsuit that says an adoption agency told them white parents would be given preference to adopt white children.

British law does require adoption agencies to match children with the most suitable parents, which includes cultural heritage, but it doesn't allow excluding prospective parents solely based on race. 

“It’s complex, it’s not just your race, it’s also about your values, your beliefs. Anyone would draw upon the many cultural reference points they had when growing up," Georgina Calvert-Lee, an attorney at McAllister Olivarius, told The Independent.

The couple told The Guardian that they were interested in adopting a child of any race, but the adoption agency told them that only white children were the ones in need at the time. 

“Giving an adopted child – no matter what race – the security of a loving home was all we wanted to do,” Sandeep Mander told The Guardian. They were then allegedly told to adopt a child from India, a country to which they have no close ties. 

When he was Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove said that it is "outrageous" and "disgraceful" to use race to block an adoption. 

“I won’t deny that an ethnic match between adopters and child can be a bonus, but it is outrageous to deny a child the chance of adoption because of a misguided belief that race is more important than any other factor," he told a London audience in 2012. “And it is simply disgraceful that a black child is three times less likely to be adopted from care than a white child.”

Mixed race adoptions are an international topic of discussion, including in the U.S. 

The topic of "transracial adoptions" — the term often used to describe adoptions where the child is of a different race than the parents — came into the spotlight recently with the popularity of NBC's "This is Us." The show features a black child adopted by white parents. 

The 2016 Academy Award-winning film "Lion" follows the story of an Indian boy who was adopted by white parents. 

As the U.S. is becoming more diverse, non-white children still face obstacles in being adopted. Since 1996, it has been illegal to consider race when deciding whether a couple is a good match for a child. However, it is still more difficult to place a black child with adoptive parents. As NPR reported, in some states private adoption agencies make it cheaper for prospective parents to adopt black children as an incentive. 

Some white parents who do adopt black children find that teaching their child about race can force them to confront things outside of their experience. Robyn Wells, who is white and married to a police officer, told Time Parents that teaching her son about things like shootings and racial profiling made her learn things too.

“I figured I’d have to explain some name-calling, have hard talks about language, navigate the waters when somebody’s parent won’t let my son take their daughter to prom,” she told Time. “But what I have been surprised by is this: At no point in the process of considering transracial adoption did I think I would have to teach my son how to stay alive.” When Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager was infamously shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman in 2012, Wells' son was 6. 

“It was awful, but I thought — as every white, privileged parent wants to think — maybe this is an isolated incident,” she told Time.

Advocates say parents need race-based training for interracial adoptions.  

“Children of color have been historically underserved in adoption and foster care, and it plays out in a number of ways,” Beth Hall, executive director and co-founder of Pact, an organization that offers resources for transracial adoption, told NBC News. “Many of those kids who are placed with white families may or may not understand the contextual meaning of being a person of color in America.”

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