Five-year-old Christian girl placed into foster care of strict Muslim families

A report in The Times newspaper today alleges that a five-year-old girl, a native English speaker, was placed in the foster care of two Muslim families in Tower Hamlets who did not speak English and encouraged her to learn Arabic.

The placements happened over a period of six months.

‘Sobbing and begging’

A confidential Tower Hamlets report seen by The Times describes the child ‘sobbing and begging’ not to be returned to the foster carer’s home.

This news comes only five months after a damning Ofsted report into the borough’s Childrens Services. One of Ofsted’s many criticisms at the time was that “Insufficient scrutiny by the chief executive, the Director of Children’s Services and politicians has meant that they did not know about the extent of the failures to protect children until this inspection.”

It is also alleged that the child was told to remove a necklace with a Christian cross, denied her favourite food of pasta carbonara because it contains bacon, and that neither of the foster care families were fluent in English.

The towers of Canary Wharf financial district, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

She was also told by her foster mother(s) that “European women are stupid and alcoholic” and that “Christmas and Easter are stupid”.

In both fostering families the women wore the niqab or burqa, this a typical indication of adhering to a more conservative interpretation of Islam.

The foster placements were made against the wishes of the child’s mother. Neither the child or the families concerned have been identified.

Local authorities are required by law to consider religious, racial, cultural and linguistic background when making fostering decisions, under The Children Act 1989 which states the authority should “have regard to the different racial groups to which children within their area who are in need belong.”

Debbie Jones. Corporate Director of Childrens Service

Corporate Director of Childrens Service at Tower Hamlets since July 2015 is Debbie Jones, formerly Ofsted’s director of social care (2013 – 2015) and before that Executive Director of Children and Young People’s Services at Lambeth Council (2010 – 2013).

Ms. Jones admitted that the work of Ofsted during the Rotherham child abuse scandal was ”not good enough“ and blamed ”inadequate frameworks” for Ofsted’s failure to spot systematic child abuse in South Yorkshire over many years.

Cllr. Amy Whitelock Gibbs (Bethnal Green, Labour) is Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services.

Five-year gap in Ofsted inspection of children’s services

Ofsted has confirmed to Love Wapping that there were no inspections of Tower Hamlets Council children’s services between 2012 and 2017.

Tower Hamlets Council children’s services were inspected in June 2012 towards the end of that inspection schedule. A new schedule began in November 2013 and runs to December 2017.

Tower Hamlets Council has been contacted for an official statement but this was not available at the time of publication.

Statement from Tower Hamlets Council

“We are unable to comment on individual cases or those that are subject to court proceedings.

“Tower Hamlets Council’s  fostering service provides a loving and stable home for hundreds of children every year, and in every case, we give absolute consideration to our children’s background and to their cultural identity,

“All our foster carers receive training and support from the council to ensure they are fully qualified to meet the needs of the children in their care.

LW Comment

Borough residents who first heard of this story via BBC Radio News as they woke this morning may have thought they were dreaming.

They were not.

Even for Tower Hamlets, now routinely referred to as ‘the scandal-ridden borough of Tower Hamlets’, this latest failure of care is beyond the pale.

If these reports are true – and there is no reason to believe they are not – and our borough’s Children’s Services are incapable of looking after a five-year-old child who is completely dependent on those legally charged with protecting her then control of Children’s Service should be taken away from Tower Hamlets Council and handed over to Commissioners from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Many have observed that the DCLG Commissioners who were sent in to run the borough because of the catastrophe that was the Rahman administration left too soon.

On the evidence of this case alone they did.

The national media has made much of the religious aspect of this story and quite rightly so. The UK may be a secular society but religious considerations are still fundamental.

A Muslim child has the right to be fostered with a family that respects the childs faith and upbringing.

A Christian child has the right to be fostered with a family that respects that childs faith and upbringing.

This is basic stuff. No qualifications required to work this out.

It stretches credulity to believe that only one child has been failed by Tower Hamlets Childrens Services. It is just the one we know about thanks to the person who contacted The Times newspaper with documentary evidence.

How many more of our children have woken up this morning in an alien or unsafe environment?

How many children continue to be at risk as a direct result of a failure of care?

Tower Hamlets cannot wait until a child pays with its life for the incompetence of its Childrens Services.

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3 thoughts on “Five-year-old Christian girl placed into foster care of strict Muslim families

  1. I don’t pay to access The Times newspaper so only read the second hand reports. I work in education and have weekly contact with children’s services, although not in Tower Hamlets. The court papers are now available which I think prove that the nature of this reporting has been somewhat skewed. The grandmother has now been assessed as an appropriate carer, although in my experience this process has taken longer in TH than it would have done in my LA. I really value the work you do. It’s just that I had a hunch that this story could not be taken at face value. I’m not trying to defend TH, as I say, I have no direct involvement with them professionally.

  2. I don’t have experience of Tower Hamlets children’s services. However, this story has clearly come from the parent. For a child to have been taken into foster care there will have been considerable neglect/abuse happening – by that same parent. Generally children taken into the care system are placed with family members, so it must also have been decided that no family members were suitable to ensure the wellbeing of the child. Children’s services do make mistakes, but I’m not sure that much proper journalism has gone on here.

    1. Thanks for your comment Maria. You state that ‘this story has clearly come from the parent’. What makes you think this? The original story in The Times was written by Andrew Norfolk, its Chief Investigative Reporter who clearly states his source as “a social services supervisor”. Andrew Norfolk is one of the best investigative journalists in the country and was responsible, amongst other work, for breaking the scandal of decades of child abuse in Rochdale. This destroys your second argument.

      You state that there will have been considerable neglect or abuse by the parent for this child to have been taken into care. This is incorrect. Children are sometimes placed into foster care because their birth families cannot cope with their current situation. You also say that ‘children taken into the care system are placed with family members’. Really? Again, what evidence do you have to back your claim up?

      If you have hands-on experience of working with children at risk / are a professional social worker or are otherwise qualified then please provide evidence for your assertions which we will consider for publication.

      For our part it seems that not much coherent thought has gone into your comment.

      From our own professional experience working with children at risk and social services departments we know that social workers are faced with impossible challenges on a daily basis which the vast majority deal with in a professional manner. If and when mistakes are made it is frequently because the social worker concerned is either overworked or not provided with the correct level of professional support.

      There is no allegation that a specific social worker is at fault here, indeed from the original Times report which has only come to light through a social worker contacting the newspaper, it would seem that it is Tower Hamlets Council’s child protection *system* which is at fault. Any local authority has a legal duty of care to children. If it was not possible for Tower Hamlets Council to place the child in question in a fostering environment compatible with the child’s basic cultural needs then the Council should have admitted this and gone outside their own area to remedy this. It is possible that the Council tried and failed to do this. We do not know and the current official comment from the Council is of little use.


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