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Does Race Matter When Adopting in The UK?

By Principal Lawyer

Many couples find that adoption through their local authority is the best means for them to become parents. The reasons people choose to adopt are wide ranging, but what they have in common is the desire to give unconditional love, regardless of the child’s race and ethnicity.

Provided a couple can offer a safe, stable and caring home and they are willing to adopt a child of any ethnic background - you would assume that they should be within their rights to do so.

Being denied the chance to adopt a child or children based purely on your race or ethnicity is unlawful and discriminatory.

However, a Sikh couple from Berkshire say they were told they couldn’t even put down their names down as potential adopters because the children in need in their area were white and their heritage had been recorded as ‘Indian/Pakistani’.

If the details of this case are correct then the agency is in clear breach of the law and if the couple chose to challenge the decision in court, they would almost certainly be successful.

The Law on Race And Adoption

Adoption agencies should carry out careful assessments of every child’s individual needs, irrespective of race and ethnicity, to establish which family is best for them.  

Local authorities can then prioritise the parents who are most able to meet the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs. Having the same racial or ethnic background may mean a couple are more suitable, but this is just one of many factors that must be considered by an agency in deciding where a child should be placed. It should never be used as a barrier to adoption.

Until the Children and Families Act was amended in 2014, agencies were allowed to prioritise a person’s race and cultural background above other factors. This meant that children from black and ethnic minority backgrounds were left waiting to be adopted for long periods of time as the majority of couples adopting in the UK were ‘white/British’.

This is no longer the case, the law has changed and all local authorities must recognise this. Most importantly, the needs of the child must come first.  

If you are uncertain about your rights on adoption then before embarking upon a domestic (where you have a child placed with you by a local authority or UK adoption agency) or an international adoption you can consult a legal expert to advise you on the process.

You can call the children law solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers for an initial consultation on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we will be happy to help.

Nick Hodson is a family lawyer with expertise in children law. He works at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.

Adoption Law, Adoption

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