Berkshire

Sikh couple 'did not meet adoption criteria in Berkshire'

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Media captionReena and Sandeep Mander say they don't want the same thing to happen to other couples

A Sikh couple who claim they were barred from adopting did not meet the criteria for the pool of children available, a court has heard.

Sandeep and Reena Mander say Adopt Berkshire told them white British parents would be given priority.

The agency has told a court it prioritised those who could take older children or large sibling groups.

Former service lead Hilary Loades said the couple had initially wanted to adopt a child under two.

She told Oxford County Court councils were "entitled to not recruit for a cohort of children" they already had a large pool of adopters for.

Ms Loades said the recruitment strategy set by Adopt Berkshire's board of directors was clear.

She explained: "Concentrate your energies on adoptees who are harder to place, older children and those with complex needs like autism."

She added: "They [the Manders] were told we were not able to take this application forward at this point of time and you can pursue other applications with other authorities.

"And we clearly left the door open in the hope they would come back."

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Image caption The case is being heard at Oxford County Court

James Robottom, representing the Manders, asked Ms Loades why she suggested the British-born couple approach an Indian adoption agency when she wrote to them in May 2016, deferring their application.

She said: "I knew that they would meet the criteria for some adoption agencies in India - not all as some are based on religion - however, they would have not met adoption criteria for adopting from Russia or Thailand.

"You have to give people a hope, really."

Ms Loades also told the court she understood initially the Manders preferred not to adopt a black child.

"My understanding was the Manders were not willing to take a black Caribbean or African child; they were looking for child of fairly pale complexion," she told the hearing.

"Their social network was predominantly white and they were looking for a child that would fit in their network."

The court heard social worker Shirley Popat made an initial visit to their home in April 2016.

She said: "I asked them whether they would consider a black child, and it was a no."

But the Manders said they were prepared to adopt black children, and Mr Robottom said the social worker had not recorded they would not consider doing so in her notes.

He said the government wanted agencies to recruit adopters who would consider adopting children of different ethnicities.

He said there was a national shortage of adopters for black children.

The court heard Ms Popat's notes highlighted 13 strengths but flagged up two concerns, which were no practical child experience out of family, and that "given their Indian background they may not be considered for a child with different ethnicity background to their own".

When asked if their race was a consideration in their application not being moved forward, Ms Popat denied this and said: "At that time we were not recruiting for adopters that only wanted a young child."

The case continues.

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