New government guidance will advise social workers to allow white couples to adopt children from ethnic minorities, it has been revealed.
Figures show that on average youngsters from ethnic minorities wait up to three times longer than white children to be adopted.
Now ministers say that with most prospective parents being white, race should not delay adoption.
“The whole thing about trans-racial and trans-cultural adoption is that it’s actually about making sure that you are able to, as a parent, open yourself up to the fact that you are no longer part of a family where you are white and they are brown or whatever,” says Stevan Whitehead, who adopted two children from Guatemala.
“But you’re all part of a family where everyone has to accept the fact we are a mixed race family”.
In 20 years on the front line of social work, Eddie O’ Hara has come across eight cases where ethnicity has been a sticking point in adoption.
Ben Douglas’ white parents struggled to adopt him
“It’s certainly an issue and it’s right to start talking about how we can move things further forward”, says Eddie who is now an independent consultant advising local authorities on best practice.
“I think it’s a subject that tends to polarise people’s perspectives, people tend to be either all for it or all against it. I think time is needed for perhaps more open and productive conversation on how we can actually address what is a significant concern.”
Ben Douglas was adopted by his white parents in the 70s and has concerns that the same prejudices faced by them are still prevalent today.
It is unacceptable for a child to be denied adoptive parents solely on the grounds that the child and prospective adopter do not share the same racial or cultural background
Text from the new guidelines, according to The Times
“They applied to adopt,” said Ben who grew up in Teddington, South West London.
“Straight away they got a letter saying ‘we don’t think this is a good idea’ and the reasons listed were; you wouldn’t be able to do his hair, you couldn’t cook Caribbean food, you wouldn’t understand his culture.
“And one social worker actually said to my mother ‘and of course black children are different to white children so you probably wouldn’t relate to him’.
“Extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary, and my parents carried on battling battling and battling”.
Both Ben and Ossie are proof, for those who want to change the system,that trans-racial adoption can work.
The difficulty for social workers is that every person is different.
The new guidelines are due to be unveiled by Education Secretary Michael Gove on February 22.
They won’t change the law, but will make it clear that race should not be a “deal-breaker” if the prospective adopters show that they are able to parent the child.
Current advice states that social workers must give “due consideration to the child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”, but does not make clear whether race should be regarded as trumping other factors.