"you should be treated equally and assessed for adoption"
On December 6, 2019, Sandeep and Reena Mander were awarded nearly £120,000 in damages after they were banned from adopting because of their Indian background.
The couple from Maidenhead, Berkshire sued The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead after they were rejected by Adopt Berkshire in 2017.
At Oxford County Court, the couple was awarded the damages following a four-day hearing.
They had been told that their chances of adoption would improve if they looked to India or Pakistan.
Mr and Mrs Mander sued the council for discrimination and their case was backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Mr Mander had stated that he and his wife were both born in the UK but their parents were born in India.
He was told that they were unlikely to be approved as potential adopters due to their “Indian background”. The couple were also told that only white children were available in Berkshire.
The couple had undergone seven unsuccessful IVF treatments. Since then, they have adopted a US-origin child.
They each received general damages of £29,454.42 and special damages of £60,013.43 for the cost of adopting an overseas child.
After the ruling, the couple said: “This decision ensures that no matter what race, religion or colour you are, you should be treated equally and assessed for adoption in the same way as any other prospective adopter.”
In her ruling, Judge Melissa Clarke announced:
“I find that the defendants directly discriminated against Mr and Mrs Mander on the grounds of race.”
She also declared that the council “directly discriminated” against the couple on the basis of race.
However, she rejected the Manders’ claim that they had also suffered discrimination under Article 12 of the European Convention of Human Rights and the right to “found a family”.
Judge Clarke added: “I consider that there is clear evidence that Mr and Mrs Mander, who I have found expressed willingness to consider a child of any ethnicity, received less favourable treatment than would a comparable couple of a different ethnicity.
“All of this discloses, in my judgment, what the unknown social worker stated in the very first phone call with Mr Mander, namely that Adopt Berkshire operated a policy of placing adoptive children with parents who come from the ‘same background’, namely race.
“I am satisfied that race was the criterion by which the unknown social worker decided not to book an initial visit with Mr and Mrs Mander because the defendants have not satisfied me that there was any other criterion applied by that unknown social worker.”
She went on to say that the evidence pointed to Adopt Berkshire’s refusal being made on the assumption that it would be in the child’s interest to be matched with potential adopters who were not the same race.
Judge Clarke called the assumption a “stereotype” and said it was not important when considering the welfare of children.
The Daily Mail reported that after the ruling, the couple stated:
“We believe our experience with Adopt Berkshire was not just an isolated event.
“When we went through the Intercountry adoption process we came across many couples who had similar experiences.
“Let us be clear, a child’s welfare is the most important thing when looking for any prospective adopter.”
“However matching cultural values and beliefs is just one of many areas that should be assessed when looking at the suitability of adopters to ensure that child’s welfare.
“It should never be the overriding factor to stop you even being considered, which is what happened to us.
“And certainly, cultural values and beliefs should never be assumed based on an ethnic tick-box, as was our experience.
“We felt there needed to be a change. This is what this case has all been about for us, to ensure discrimination like this doesn’t happen to others wishing to do this wonderful thing called adoption.
“And today’s landmark ruling will ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
A spokesperson for the council said: “We are very disappointed by the judgement in this case, which we will now take time to consider in full.
“We have reviewed our policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and are confident that we do not exclude prospective adopters on the grounds of ethnicity.
“Finally, we always put the best interests of the children at the heart of any adoption decisions and are committed to best practice in our provision of adoption services.”