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Tower Hamlets comes under fire for fostering Christian child, 5, with Muslim family

PUBLISHED: 11:27 29 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:36 29 August 2017

Tower Hamlets children's services under fire. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets children's services under fire. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Politicians in London’s East End are accusing “bigots” of whipping up hysteria over a white Christian child being placed by Tower Hamlets Council into care with a “niqab-wearing foster carer” in a Muslim household.

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

The five-year-old girl had spent six months in two Muslim households “against the wishes of the girl’s family”, the national media reported at the weekend.

The row follows criticism of the children’s services by the government’s Ofsted watchdog in April over its lack of knowledge about childcare cases.

The Opposition Tory group was shocked at reports of the child being taught Arabic words to be said aloud to ensure “when you die you go to heaven” and that her necklace containing a cross was removed, which they feared suggested proselytising.

“This raises troubling questions about the suitability of some foster parents,” Cllr Andrew Wood told the East London Advertiser today.

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

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

The opposition group was 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 and former deputy mayor 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

Both opposition groups are calling for an investigation, claiming a confidential report was leaked from inside the Labour administration in “a clear breach of data protection”.

The child was taken into care earlier this year. Her mother was said to have been “horrified” by the cultural, religious and linguistic environment in which her daughter had spent the past six months.

But a town hall spokesman told the Advertiser: “We give absolute consideration to our children’s background and their cultural identity in every case. The child is in fact fostered by an English-speaking family of mixed race in this temporary placement.”

The council could make no further comment on the case for legal reasons.

Tower Hamlets 10 years ago needed to recruit foster carers “taking ethnicity, religion, language and culture into account”. Communities targeted in 2007 included Caribbean, African, Bangladeshi and white.

Failures in children services were found by Ofsted inspectors in April. Too many children remained in “actual or potential harm” because of lack of scrutiny and understanding in private fostering arrangements which failed to consider whether children had been trafficked or abandoned by their parents.

The council is investing an extra £4.8m in children’s services for improvements required by Ofsted.

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