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MLA says he was ruled out as foster parent because of his sexual orientation

Spencer Chandra-Herbert (on the right) and Romi Chandra Herbert.

A British Columbia member of the legislature says he and his same-sex partner were ruled out as foster parents this week because the child's extended family objected to their sexuality.

Spencer Chandra Herbert, the NDP opposition environment critic, said he could not understand why an extended family with no interest in raising the child full-time would say a same-sex couple was unacceptable to them.

"It really hurts your heart that a family that is not willing to take care of their own child, their own baby, would take that opportunity away from somebody because of homophobia," said Mr. Chandra Herbert, who has been married for four years, and with his partner, Romi Chandra, for 10 years.

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The MLA says his social worker asked him and his partner if they were willing to foster and perhaps later adopt the child, who had been abandoned by its birth parents. Then came the objection from the extended family.

Karen Madeiros, executive director of the Adoptive Families Association of B.C., said that whether an adoption in B.C. takes place through the Ministry of Children and Family Development or an agency, the birth mother or extended family have some input into decisions about the placement of the child.

The ministry said in a statement that there have been 150 placements with same-sex families since B.C. brought in new adoption legislation in 1996, but no statistics are available on rejections.

"To be clear, either the ministry or a licensed private adoption agency makes the final placement decision. However, they must consider whether the biological family is opposed to a particular placement, whether the family will remain involved if the placement goes forward and how that will impact the child's best interests," the statement said.

Mr. Chandra Herbert said he wonders about the fate of the child. "I just feel for the kid, for the baby who hopefully finds a loving family," he said.

The MLA for Vancouver-West End since 2008 said he and his partner have been trying to adopt for two years. They tried a private adoption agency then switched to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The objection, on Monday, came from a B.C. family. Mr. Chandra Herbert said he had no information, due to privacy rules, on the family.

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"We weren't in the final stages where they said, 'Here's your baby; sign here.' We were asked, 'Would you be willing to be considered as probably one of two or three families that the social worker would choose to take the baby. Later the same day, we were told, 'Well. No, you have now been disqualified on the basis of the same-sex issue.'"

He said the setback will not deter the couple. "We've got a lot of love to give and a very supportive environment [in which] to raise a kid. We can't wait to pass on the lessons and love our own parents have given us."

He said the focus should be on getting a child into a loving home. "If you've given up your right to look after the kid because you're unwilling to or unable to, how far do you go to put up barriers to stop that child from getting into a good home? There shouldn't be any," he said.

Mr. Chandra Herbert said he was reluctant to spotlight his own situation as the basis for change, but that the ministry should look at barriers that keep children from families willing to adopt them. "It probably won't even affect our own adoption, but, hopefully, will make it easier for families in the future," he said.

But Ms. Madeiros of the B.C. adoptive families association said families have many different reasons for their decisions.

She said the reason given in Mr. Chandra Herbert's case is "unsettling," but she has seen it all over the years, including one adoption that went awry because the prospective parents liked the Beatles, and another that was clinched because the prospective parents said they liked to make chocolate-chip cookies, which appealed to the birth mother.

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In some cases, relatives do not want the child to be raised in a city, or as an only child. One birth mother insisted on a same-sex male couple because she wanted to be the only female parent in the child's life.

"It's very hard, as a prospective adoptive parent, to have the other family critique you essentially and decide if they like you or not. That's a difficult place to be, but a natural part of adoption. The power is in the hands of the relinquishing family," Ms. Madeiros said.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More


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