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Judge steps in to remove Christian child from Tower Hamlets Muslim foster carer

PUBLISHED: 09:15 30 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:10 31 August 2017

Row over Christian child, 5, placed with Muslim foster carers. Picture: Mike Brooke

Row over Christian child, 5, placed with Muslim foster carers. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The row over a Christian child placed with a Muslim foster parent by Tower Hamlets Council has been settled by a judge who has ordered the five-year-old to be removed and sent to her grandmother’s home.

Concerns over Christian child, 5, placed with Muslim foster carers. Picture: Mike BrookeConcerns over Christian child, 5, placed with Muslim foster carers. Picture: Mike Brooke

But the fall-out continues at the town hall over how the sensitive case was leaked to the media, with calls by all three opposition groups for a full investigation.

The judge’s ruling was made in the High Court Family Division last night after the girl had spent six months in Muslim households in the East End in what the media reported as being “against the wishes of the girl’s family”.

It follows criticism of the Tower Hamlets children’s services by the government’s Ofsted watchdog in April over its lack of knowledge about children in its care.

The opposition Tory group yesterday declared it was “shocked” at reports of the child being taught Arabic words to ensure “when you die you go to heaven” and that her necklace containing a cross was removed. They feared it suggested proselytising.

Andrew Wood: Andrew Wood: "Foster families have a duty not to impose their own beliefs on a child." Picture: Mike Brooke

“This raises troubling questions about the suitability of some foster parents,” Cllr Andrew Wood tells tomorrow’s East London Advertiser.

“Foster families have a duty not to impose their own beliefs on a child unless they are the universal principles of good parenting.”

Council members were not opposed to Muslim parents fostering children of other faiths, nor vice versa, as child care was “not faith dependent”.

People’s Alliance opposition group leader Rabina Khan said: “Ofsted has raised serious safeguarding concerns about the fostering service. But it’s disturbing to see bigots using this story about the child to whip up hatred against immigrants.”

People's Alliance opposition leader Rabina Khan on Tower Hamlets council's child services failures. Picture: Mike BrookePeople's Alliance opposition leader Rabina Khan on Tower Hamlets council's child services failures. Picture: Mike Brooke

The third opposition group on the council, the Independent group, described it as a “catastrophic failure” and is demanding to know if the council discharged its duty “to find out and take account of the wishes of the child and her parents” in making decisions about the care placement.

It wants to know why the child’s religion, racial origin, cultural and linguistic background were “not taken into account” in her placement.

The opposition groups say a confidential report was leaked inside the Labour administration in “a breach of data protection” and are calling for a full investigation.

The Labour administration defended the decision to place the child “temporarily” with Muslim foster carers.

A town hall spokesman insisted: “The child is fostered by an English-speaking family of mixed race in this temporary placement.”

But within 24 hours of the statement, a High Court judge decided otherwise and made an order for the child to be removed from the foster carers, a proposal actually put forward by the local authority itself.

The Children’s Services director Debbie Jones explained: “Our proposal for the child to be cared for by a family member has been approved.

“We had to find the best placement available at the time, once the decision was taken to place the child into temporary care.

“Cultural background is always a consideration, like other factors including remaining in the area to promote contact with the child’s family and for the child to continue at the same school to give as much stability as possible.”

Endemic failures in Tower Hamlets children’s services were found by Ofsted inspectors in April, with too many youngsters in care in “actual or potential harm” because of lack of scrutiny in private fostering.

This failed to consider whether children had even been trafficked or abandoned by their parents, it was found.

The child in this latest case was removed from her mother who had been sentenced for a cocaine drug offense, according to yesterday’s Family Division judgement.

But there was “no culturally matched foster placement available at the time” back in March. The court directed the local authority on June 27 to address “the cultural appropriateness of the foster care placement”.

The grandmother who is being given custody has said she wants to “return to her country of origin and care for the child there”.

The maternal grandparents state that they are of “a Muslim background” but are non-practising, although the mother says they are of “Christian heritage”.

Tower Hamlets Council has been told by the Family court to translate the mother’s final statement into the maternal grandmother’s language and to translate a previous wardship application into English.

The mother’s solicitors are being permitted to file segmented hair strand test results for cocaine and hair and liver test results for alcohol for the next Family court hearing.

The Met Police have also been ordered to disclose all papers on criminal proceedings on the mother to the local authority, including sentence and pre-sentence reports.

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