You may have seen the news about the fostering of a five year old girl arranged by Tower Hamlets children's services
I have asked the Council to confirm whether these reports are correct or not. Newspapers often sensationalise story's but unfortunately neither do I trust the judgement of Councils childrens service since they failed their OFSTED inspection.
I have no issue with Muslims fostering Christian (in fact I have experience of this in my own wider family) although as an atheist I believe no child should have religion imposed on them especially a foster child.
It is clear that much of the information comes from contact centre reports. This is where the child is allowed to meet its birth parents in a strictly controlled and supervised centre. A social worker is present in the meetings to supervise and will write up afterwards what happened. These reports are then shared with children's services and the parents normally. It is clear the parents have shared them with Andrew Norfolk, the Times reporter. They are written by a social worker and not the parents so should be an accurate record of meetings.
To summarise what the newspaper reports say
- Arabic routinely spoken at home of first carer which child did not understand
- a necklace containing a cross was removed by the carer and not returned
- child regularly expected to eat meals on the floor (in some societies this is normal)
- Child encouraged to learn Arabic, child told mother that she needs to ask her social worker if she can learn Arabic
- "The social services employee heard the child whispering Arabic words to her mother that she was allegedly told must be said aloud to ensure that “when you die you go to heaven”.
- Both foster families, the women concealed their faces when outside
- Not allowed to eat pork (her birth mother had cooked her Carbonara with pork to take home)
- Child allegedly told 'Christmas and Easter are stupid'
- Child allegedly told 'Euopean women are stupid and alcoholic'
- Girl was always distressed at the end of each meeting
The parents are objecting to the fostering arrangement so will understandably be doing everything they can to both ensure the safety of their child but also bring the process into disrepute.
This is what the OFSTED report said about fostering in Tower Hamlets.
"Choice and availability of placements are limited, particularly in meeting older children’s needs. However, most children live within 20 miles of home in stable placements that meet their cultural, ethnic and religious needs. The fostering service is actively recruiting new carers, and it supports carers well.” page 17 of the report
The key word here is ‘most children’ not all children and this maybe the case with this child. In January 2017 we had 243 children living with foster families, of whom 81% live outside of Tower Hamlets (also from OFSTED)
I will be providing the following quote to the newspapers
"The fostering process is about ensuring the least disruption and trauma in what must be an incredibly difficult time for a child as they move between different ‘parents', homes and surroundings. It is also essential that a child can continue to develop and learn. I know many Muslim families who would make great foster parents for any child. However this case does raise some troubling questions about the suitability of at least some of our foster parents and the judgement of Tower Hamlets Childrens Services who recently received a "Requires improvement" grade for their ability to look after children in care.
The report does not suggest it was an appropriate environment for any young child regardless of faith if the home language was not English, that the culture was so alien to their previous experience and personal possessions were removed and not returned for religious reasons. Foster families also have a duty not to impose their own beliefs on a child unless they are the universal principles of good parenting. We have asked the Council for more information on this case, the accuracy of the reports and what lessons can be learnt"
But please consider fostering if you are in a position to do so, this report shows that children need you. Their details are here;
Recruitment and Assessment Team
5 Clove Crescent
Tel: 0800 279 9850
Next month I had planned to start a major piece of work on childrens social services so if you have any insider knowledge please get in contact by PM (confidentially of course)