British Columbia

MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and husband denied adoption

B.C. MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and his husband Romi thought they had found a child to adopt after two years of searching, but the same day the good news came, so did the bad.

Prominent politician questions aspects of B.C.'s adoption system, official say it's not personal

Gay B.C. MLA denied adoption

8 years ago
Duration 2:32
Spencer Chandra Herbert says he was told his mixed-race family was a good fit, but he and his husband's sexual orientation wasn't
B.C. MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert have lost their bid to adopt a child after the child's extended family said it didn't want it raised by a gay couple. (CBC)

B.C. MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and his husband Romi's two-year search for a child to adopt was headed for a happy ending, but the same day the good news came, so did the bad.

The pair were excited when their social worker told them this week they were a good match for a baby which had been abandoned by its family.

"They were looking for a new home," said Chandra Herbert. "Romi and I met the match, they said, that culturally we could offer support, and that we were the right kind of family as we would be willing to foster a child with the possibility of adopting later."

An adviser to same sex couples who are adopting says there are many things that can go wrong with an adoption and it's important not to take them personally. (file/Dasha Petrenko/Shutterstock)

Herbert says social workers were looking for a household that wasn't completely white and that would have a better understanding of issues facing non-white children.

Chandra Herbert says he and Romi talked it over and decided they would foster with a view toward eventually adopting.

Later that same day, he received an email.

"'Sorry, unfortunately no, you can't adopt or foster this child,' it said," says Chandra Herbert, "'because the extended family don't want you to look after their child. They said no because you're a same sex couple.'"

'No one wants to talk about it'

Chandra Herbert and his husband have been together for 14 years and have been married for four years.

His husband, Romi says the reasons they were given were "hard to hear" but he has heard similar stories from other same sex couples.

"So we're not alone in this and I think it's been pretty invisible and not many people wanting to talk about it just because there's a little bit of shame that's associated with it," he said.

"We really didn't want it to be about that, but looking at it, there are some challenges that are happening within our adoption or foster care system."

B.C. MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert would like to raise a child of their own but were turned down following a two year search because they're gay. (CBC)

Chandra Herbert says it's baffling.

"Who would step in and say I want to put up a barrier in the way of providing a loving home to a baby?," he told CBC News. 

"For a family who wouldn't or couldn't provide that home to the child to then step in and say, 'But wait, we want to exclude somebody who could, and is willing to, provide that loving home.' It's just wrong when you look at the number of kids who need loving homes."

Chandra Herbert says allowing the extended family to step in and disapprove of a stable, loving home for a child seems wrong.

He says the system should be removing barriers that stop kids from going to good homes, not putting them up.

Birth parents have rights

But Karen Madeiros with the Adoptive Families Association of B.C. says it's common for the birth family to play a role in the adoption, because of the bond the child will always have with its birth parents long after their rights have been legally severed.

Karen Madeiros with the Adoptive Families Association of B.C. says it's important to let the birth parents have a say and provide a match with which they're comfortable because the child will share a permanent bond with them well after legal ties are severed. (CBC)

"That’s an important reason why we want to make sure we’ve done a good match and both families are comfortable with each other," she said.

Randy Simpson and his partner Jack help other gay couples with adoptions. He says this is just a single example of many things you can't control in an adoption.

"We had contact with a birth mother who was two months pregnant and by the time she was seven months pregnant she decided to parent herself. So these things happen and it's important not to take them personally."

On Facebook, where Romi and Spencer Chandra Herbert first told their story, sentiment is clearly on their side.

Randy Simpson and his partner Jack help same sex couples through the adoption process. He says it's important to be patient and Chandra Herbert's situation is only one example of the many things you can't control. (CBC)

"Someone has denied a child they don't want, something beautiful," says one poster.  "You two will make brilliant parents when the right day arrives."

Chandra Herbert replies, " Thanks to everyone who has given us support, and encouragement. It will happen for us when it's meant to."

With files from the CBC's Chris Brown and Richard Zussman