The UK’s Children’s Act 1989 requires a local authority to give consideration to “religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background” when making decisions about a child who has been taken into care as a result of a court order (Representational Image) Top News

A five-year-old Christian girl placed in foster care with a British Muslim family in east London will be returned to her own grandmother after a UK judge ruled on the case in a family court. Judge Khatun Sapnara, a Bangladeshi-origin British Muslim herself, said yesterday that 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 case was first highlighted through media reports and triggered alarm over reports that the English-speaking girl had been forced to live with an Arabic-speaking family and that they had forced her to remove a necklace bearing a crucifix. The UK’s Children’s Act 1989 requires a local authority to give consideration to “religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background” when making decisions about a child who has been taken into care as a result of a court order.

The Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield had expressed concern over the case of the girl who cannot be legally identified, and said she would be ing Tower Hamlets Council – the local authority involved in the case. “I am concerned at these reports. A child’s religious, racial and cultural background should be taken into consideration when they are placed with foster carers,” Longfield said.

However, the council has claimed that the case has been misrepresented in the media and that the interests of the child had been taken into account while placing her into foster care. “While we cannot go into details of a case that would identify a child in foster care, there are inaccuracies in the reporting of it. For example, the child is in fact fostered by an English-speaking family of mixed race in this temporary placement,” said a spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council.

“We would like to give more details but we are legally restricted to do so. We have always been working towards the child being looked after by a family member and we continue to do so,” the spokesperson said. The Times newspaper which first reported the case based on access to some casework documents involved has also come under attack from Muslim organisations in the UK who feel it amounted to vilifying the community.

“Demonisation of the foreigner (especially the Muslim foreigner) is the clear undercurrent in this entire piece. It is appalling. What about 100s of Muslim children fostered with Christians?” Miqdaad Versi, the assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, tweeted. The family court in London was told this week that the family’s wish for the girl to be placed in the temporary care of her grandmother had been under consideration for a number of months.

Judge Sapnara said her decision to order the child’s removal from foster care 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. Meanwhile, she is allowed supervised visits with her mother until a permanent decision on her care is taken.

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