Foster-care, “the religious background of the child” and inaccurate reporting: a postscript

In August 2017, we noted a series of stories in The Times (£) about a five-year-old girl from a Christian family who had been placed in care with a Muslim couple. Allegedly, the girl, a native English speaker, had spent six months with Muslim foster-carers who had removed her neck-chain and cross and refused to allow her to eat bacon. It was also alleged that a social services supervisor for Tower Hamlets LBC described the child as begging not to be returned to the foster family because “she doesn’t understand Arabic”. We added that:

“No-one would suggest that placing a child in foster-care is easy: in the absence of the full facts, it would be both rash and improper to make any further comment.”

On the following day, we reported that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets had told The Guardian that there had been several inaccuracies in the reporting of the case. Tower Hamlets then complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation about the article on the front page of The Times on 30 August – and Ipso upheld the complaint.

HHJ Sapnara gave judgment on 16 February 2018, following a 10-day final hearing in care proceedings in respect of the child, ‘AB’, who was aged 6 at the time, instituted by Tower Hamlets pursuant to s.31 Children Act 1989. A summary of her judgment has now become available and it makes very interesting reading in light of some of the media reports at the time.

Her Honour notes that when the child was moved from her second foster placement to be placed in the care of the maternal grandmother at the end of August 2017:

“very sadly, this had to be undertaken with police presence and assistance, because of the numbers of press in attendance at the foster carer’s address. The child did not have the opportunity to have a proper goodbye with her carers. It would have been entirely in her best interests to do so. If all that is correct, and the court had no reason to conclude otherwise, the court could not see how such circumstances could be regarded as being in the child’s best interests.”

The court found that on the day the child was removed by the police using their protection powers pursuant to s.31(2) Children Act 1989,

“the child had suffered and was likely to suffer significant harm and that the harm suffered or likely to be suffered is attributable to the care given her or likely to be given to her if an order was not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect her parents to give to her.”

In conclusion:

“Addressing the welfare checklist in s.1 of the Children Act 1989 the court concluded that the mother’s capacity to provide adequate and appropriate care for the child long term is severely compromised and the child would be placed at risk of significant harm if returned to her care. The child’s welfare requires that the court override the fact that the mother did not consent to the orders proposed by the local authority. The court further concluded that there was no level of realistic support which could be put in place continuously to manage the risks identified by the court.

The court was satisfied that the child’s global needs would be met by the maternal grandparents. The child loved her grandmother and was well attached to her. The child would be returning to a familiar carer and a familiar environment.”

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Foster-care, “the religious background of the child” and inaccurate reporting: a postscript" in Law & Religion UK, 10 September 2018, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2018/09/10/foster-care-the-religious-background-of-the-child-and-inaccurate-reporting-a-postscript/

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