Foster-care and the paramountcy of child welfare in religious disputes


In A Health and Social Care Trust v A Mother Re (A Child) [2024] NIFam 4, SE, the child of a single mother, was placed in foster care by the Trust as a result of her mother’s mental state and drug misuse. The mother is an agnostic, while the foster-carers are Pentecostal Christians. Difficulties arose about SE’s ability to engage in public acts of worship, private acts of family worship and general engagement with the foster family’s social activities, which are largely centred around their church.  The mother objected to SE receiving any form of religious instruction [1-12]. The Trust asked the Court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction to resolve an issue arising from conflicting provisions in the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 relating to religious upbringing [1] and sought a declaration that SE be permitted to attend church services and church-based social activities with a spiritual content while in her foster placement and to engage in spiritual activities in the foster home [3].

The 1995 Order includes the following: Continue reading