This is the ‘distressed’ Christian five-year-old pictured with one of her Muslim foster carers and was sent to them because there were no white families in the area
A Christian girl was forced to live with Muslim carers who she claims couldn’t speak English because her borough had no white foster families available.
Tower Hamlets Council in east London, where two thirds of residents are from minority groups, last night returned the five-year-old to her family after a court ruling.
The girl’s parents were said to have pleaded with their local council to allow the child to live with friends or relatives, but officials had opposed their plans to place her into the temporary care of her grandmother.
Instead, social workers noted the British-born child’s distress as she begged not to be returned to a Muslim foster home where she said she could not understand her carers because they did not speak English.
The girl was taken to her grandmother’s house after a judge urged councils to seek ‘culturally matched placements’ for vulnerable children.
Tower Hamlets Council has defended the way they handled the case and its lawyer Kevin Gordon told the East London Family Court yesterday that no white British foster carers were available when the girl came into the council’s care
There has been a national outcry over Tower Hamlets council’s decision to place the five-year-old in two Muslim households – against the wishes of her family.
Tower Hamlets in London contains some of Britain’s most multi-cultural areas, including Whitechapel (pictured), and only a third of residents are white British
Friends of the child’s family said she spoke English as her first language, had a UK passport and had been christened.
But during an access visit she was said to have told her mother that ‘Christmas and Easter are stupid’ and ‘European women are stupid and alcoholic’, prompting questions over cultural attitudes expressed in at least one of her foster homes.
Judge Khatun Sapnara, a Muslim, told the council yesterday it was in the girl’s best interests to live with a family member who could keep her safe, promote her welfare and meet her needs ‘in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion’, The Times reported.
The Government has been urged to examine the case, which has seen the council place the girl in two Muslim households in the past six months (posed by model)
The judge even went as far as to order the East London council to conduct an urgent investigation.
Friends of the girl’s family told the newspaper they were hugely relieved by the decision to remove her from placements where everything was ‘foreign and unfamiliar’ into surroundings where she would feel much more at home’.
Judge Sapnara told lawyers representing the council that her ‘over-riding concern [was] the welfare of the little girl’.
She added: ‘You would presumably accept that the priority should be an appropriate, culturally matched placement?’
The hearing was told the family’s wishes for the girl to be placed in the temporary care of her grandmother had been under consideration for several months.
Judge Sapnara ruled the child should be removed from her current foster care, stressing that her decision was not taken ‘as a result of undue media involvement’.
‘It is taken because of the evidence available to the court today, that the grandmother is an appropriate carer for the child,’ she said. All parties, including Tower Hamlets, supported the decision.
A date is yet to be set on when the child’s future will be resolved. Until then, she will have regular meetings with her mother, supervised by council staff.
During yesterday’s hearing at East London Family Court, security staff tried to remove a journalist, but Judge Sapnara ruled that the reporter be allowed to stay.
The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said she had raised concerns with Tower Hamlets and would continue to monitor the case.
The council was criticised earlier by Ofsted inspectors who said its children’s services were ‘inadequate’.
Confidential reports seen by The Times described the five-year-old sobbing and begging not to go back to one foster mother who wore a headscarf and face veil in public. The girl claimed the foster carer had taken away her necklace, which had a Christian cross on it, suggested she should learn Arabic and had refused to allow her to eat food prepared by her birth mother because it contained bacon.
The placements were arranged by Tower Hamlets council in east London (pictured), where children’s services were criticised by Ofsted earlier this year
She was left in that placement for four months before being handed to her current foster mother, who reportedly wears a burka in public to cover her face. Sources at Tower Hamlets said the placement was temporary.
Former justice minister Shailesh Vara, Tory MP for North West Cambridgeshire, said the council’s decision was ‘completely wrong’
Miss Longfield said: ‘I have spoken to Tower Hamlets council and raised a number of concerns, and have asked about the wishes of the little girl. I have asked the council to ensure that this child has the support of an independent advocate so that her views are heard at the heart of this process.’
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said child safety was a priority and the Department for Education was conducting a ‘stocktake’ of national fostering. She said: ‘Councils have to bear in mind the ethnicity and religion of children when they are placing them in care, but they approach that on a case-by-case basis, which is right.’
Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, said councils normally tried to ensure children were placed with carers who would respect their beliefs. ‘Clearly something has gone wrong in this case,’ he said.
‘We can’t have a situation where a local authority respects all religious backgrounds except Christianity.
‘In my experience, Christian foster carers do all they can to respect the religious and cultural heritage of children placed in their care.’ Peter Golds, leader of the Tory group on the council said: ‘This case raises some troubling questions about the suitability of at least one of our foster parents and the judgment of Tower Hamlets’ children’s services.’
Before the court ruling, the council said: ‘The child is fostered by an English-speaking family of mixed race. We would like to give more details but we are legally restricted.’
Extremist Imam hosted foster care workshop in mosque attended by Lee Rigby’s killers
Shakeel Begg, the imam of the Lewisham Islamic Centre, held the foster carer meeting
An Extremist Islamic preacher hosted an event for would-be foster parents, just months after the High Court ruled he had ‘promoted and encouraged religious violence’.
Shakeel Begg, the imam of the Lewisham Islamic Centre, held the meeting at the mosque, which was attended by the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby.
While Mr Begg and the centre condemned Rigby’s killing, the Mail previously reported that he once told guests at a charity dinner that ‘jihad in the path of Allah is one of the greatest deeds a Muslim can take part in’.
And last year the imam lost a libel case against the BBC, which accused him of promoting extremism.
Ruling in the broadcaster’s favour, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave described Mr Begg as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde character’ and ‘an extremist Islamic speaker who espouses extremist Islamic positions’
But despite this, Mr Begg was allowed to host an event organised on behalf of Lewisham Council, with the aim of recruiting more Muslims to foster children.
Lewisham Islamic Centre was chosen as the venue for a workshop ‘on the importance and need of foster carers in the Muslim community’ in March this year.
But Tom Wilson, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society who has written a research paper on Mr Begg, told The Telegraph: ‘It is inconceivable that those who espouse extremism should be overseeing childcare of any kind, including fostering.’
Photographs show Mr Begg addressing a gathering at the event.
The imam was unavailable for comment yesterday, but has previously contested the High Court’s decision.
NRS Foster Care Recruitment, which organised the workshop on behalf of Lewisham council, told the newspaper it had no idea that Mr Begg had been branded an extremist and said he was not involved in the event.
‘We have no control over who may or may not be at information sessions,’ said a spokesman.
A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: ‘Like all councils we need foster carers from all parts of the community and we will continue to visit a range of groups to encourage more people to foster in Lewisham.’