A five year old Christian girl who was removed from her Muslim foster family was in “warm and appropriate care”, a court heard on Monday.
Known as AB in court, the child was placed into the care of a Muslim family, attracting media attention amid allegations that she was made to speak Arabic and remove her crucifix.
The hearing at East London family court found that the child missed one of the foster carers, as discovered in interviews with herself, her social workers and maternal grandmother.
Judge Khatun Sapnara found the local council’s findings to be “interesting and robust” and an “alternative narrative” to original reports.
It also emerged on Monday that the court heard that the child was christened, but did not attend church with any members of her family. She is also of dual nationality and has maternal Muslim grandparents, although they do not attend a mosque but instead pray at home.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, as reported by Eastlondonlines in September, Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs said: “I’m confident that we looked very carefully at the appropriate matching and that we found a family that would look after the interests of this child at this traumatic time.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with a child being fostered by someone who comes from a different faith but is sensitive to, and responds to that child, who communicates with them, shows their face to that child as well. I think those are all important factors.”
Questions began after a front-page article the August 28 edition of The Times reported that the foster placements were made against the wishes of the girl’s family, putting her in the care of two Muslim families. The girl’s mother objected to her placement, claiming that she was not allowed to eat her favourite meal as it contained pork.
The Times’ story attracted 178 complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), a majority of which were under the accuracy, privacy and discrimination clauses of the Editor’s Code of Practice.
The publication’s findings were based on a confidential local authority report, which contained a blurred photograph of the child and her apparent foster carer wearing a niqab or burka. Media stories alleged that the child was found to be sobbing, and asked not to be returned to one foster family, as they did not speak English.
The girl was subsequently placed into the care of her maternal grandmother, who is a non-practicing Muslim and plans to take the child back to their country of origin if granted custody. She was originally taken from her birth mother by police, who is undergoing alcohol and drugs testing.
Tower Hamlets council told Eastlondonlines in September: “The child is in fact fostered by an English-speaking family of mixed race… We would like to give more details but we are legally restricted to do so.”
Authorities have put together a redacted version of the Tower Hamlets report for it to be published. A further hearing will be on November 3, and a final hearing in December.