Foster carer story statement

The outcome of the investigation below relates to the fostering case that was covered heavily in the media from late August, 2017 - writes

  • This information is from an investigation undertaken by a senior social worker from Tower Hamlets council. It forms part of the evidence filed on behalf of the local authority in two sworn statements before the Court in the public law care proceedings. This document is agreed between all parties and approved by the Court.
  • The mother raised concern about the cultural appropriateness of the placement directly with the social work team and formally via solicitors and in a statement dated 20 March 2017 in court proceedings. The only allegation referred to in that statement was that the child’s cross had been removed from her. It was explained to her by the social workers that, as the child was placed in an emergency situation following concerns she was at risk, this was the urgent placement available.
  • Following earlier hearings, the case was listed before HHJ Sapnara for the first time on 31 March 2017. There was no application on behalf of any party for an order which would involve a change of foster carer. Nor was there such an application at a further hearing on 9 May 2017.
  • At a hearing on 19 April 2017 Directions were given by the court to commence an assessment of the maternal grandmother. This assessment was delayed as a result of complexities relating to legal procedures, and international protocols required to be followed, as the grandmother was living in her country of origin at the time.
  • In June 2017, the original foster carer was going on an extended holiday overseas so a planned move to a respite placement was required. The mother applied to Court to on 23 June 2017 to have the child moved to her maternal grandmother (MGM) to avoid another foster placement and one which was not a cultural match. At a hearing on 27 June 2017, that application was dismissed because the outcome of the MGM’s full assessment was not – at that time – known. In those circumstances mother did not pursue a case (for a discharge of the interim care order) so that the foster care placement could be changed and instead awaited the completion of the assessment of her mother as a carer for the child. However, the position statement filed on behalf of the mother at the hearing on 27 June 2017 raised further allegations – in addition to the issue about the cross - as to whether the placement was culturally appropriate. These allegations related to the foster carer wearing burka; rejection of food cooked by the mother for the child and the child suggesting to her mother that she wants to be Muslim.
  • Throughout the child’s stay in foster care she had frequent direct and indirect contact with her mother, MGM and maternal aunt as well as professionals. All contact has been formally supervised. The child was visited in both placements by the independent Children’s Guardian who raised no concerns as to the care being provided to the child. The child was visited in the second placement after two days due to reports at contact that she was distressed and the social worker saw her happily playing and settled.
  • In response to the mother’s application in June 2017 and ongoing concerns raised by her, on 27 June 2017 the court directed the local authority to file a statement dealing with these issues raised by the mother as to the cultural appropriateness of the foster placements and the steps taken to address those concerns. An initial enquiry took place in July 2017, which consisted of an interview with the mother and a discussion with the first social worker. Following further allegations published in the media August 2017, the mother adopted those concerns at the hearing on 29 August 2017. The Court directed a further statement to address those concerns. A further enquiry took place in which both foster carers and MGM were interviewed across August and September 2017.
  • Age appropriate conversations were had with the child as part of the Local Authority’s statutory duties. The child also wrote a letter to the Judge in August being supported by the Children’s Guardian to do so, wherein she expressed always being happy in the placement.
  • The child’s original foster carer is Muslim and wears a hijab not a niqab or a burka. The child’s respite foster carer is also Muslim and wears a burqa in public but not in her home. The respite foster carer’s husband is White British Muslim.
  • The Mother initially raised concerns about the child’s crucifix going missing. the child is recorded to have stated on 2 occasions that the foster carer has removed the crucifix. The July investigation found that the child had not gone to the first placement with that crucifix. This investigation found that the child had most likely lost her crucifix before she was placed.
  • Tower Hamlets subsequent investigation found in accordance with MGM’s report, that the child has two crucifixes. The MGM states that she had one of the child’s crucifixes in the child’s bedroom in the MGM’s country of origin and that this had been given to her by the child’s mother in March 2017. The other is a large gold piece of jewellery that belonged to the child’s great grandmother, and was given to the child by her mother during proceedings but considered by the second foster carer to be inappropriate in size and value for a small child as it might be lost or broken. It is now in the possession of the MGM, who is in the UK; which confirms the second foster carer’s account about what she did with the second crucifix. The gold second crucifix has been seen by the social worker in the MGM’s home.
  • With regard to the allegation that the child was unable to eat pork / ham, Tower Hamlets found that there had been no rejection of food brought for the child by the mother for religious reasons. The foster carer stated that on one occasion the food was not put into a secure container so it spilled onto the buggy.
  • The allegation that the child was distressed as the foster carer spoke only in Arabic was found by Tower Hamlets not to be correct. It is recorded that the child stated during a contact session that the foster carers don’t speak English in the home and she was distressed prior to her return there. The foster carer’s first language is Arabic but her husband is White British born in the UK. The foster carer’s children’s first language is English and that is the language of the home. The child had greeted the carer with a traditional greeting which she may have heard the carer say on the telephone to her relatives as a normal greeting. When spoken to by the social worker during Tower Hamlet’s enquiry, the child said they only spoke English at home and outside the home.
  • The allegation that the foster carer had made derogatory statements about European women to the child was not substantiated. Conversations between the social worker the child found that the child does not know what Europe is. The MGM is clear that this is not something this child could or would have said.
  • In respect of the allegation that the child said “Christmas and Easter are stupid”; the social worker has talked to the child about the festivals and she expressed excitement and described having an Easter egg hunt at the foster carer’s home and receiving an Easter egg from the carer. She brought an Easter egg to contact to share with her mother. She expressed no negative views about Christmas, Easter or any religious festival to the social worker. The mother proposed that the child be taken to a Christian church but this was too far from the placement.
  • The allegations that the child was made to sit on the floor and eat has been explained; the child said she sometimes ate apples on the floor whilst sitting with the foster carer’s child. She also sometimes ate on the sofa and at the table. There was no question that this was not a matter of choice or that this was a cultural imperative.
  • The MGM has been distressed and angered by the allegations against the foster carers which she has said were false and lies. She has a good relationship with the carers and is grateful for the excellent care she says that they have provided to the child. The child has told the MGM that she is missing the foster carer and has asked the MGM if she can have contact with the family.
  • Although the mother disputes the findings, the Local Authority is satisfied that at all times the foster carers provided warm and appropriate care to the child. The Local Authority has been impressed with the care and commitment shown by the carers to the child. This is reflected in the child’s description and reaction to the carers and the MGM’s positive relationship with them.
  • The Local Authority remains concerned that the mother and contact workers were questioning the child repeatedly during contact about her foster carers. Enquiries into this are taking place.
  • The Local Authority does not accept the allegations as made in the National press for the reasons set out above.

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