The parents of a five-year-old Christian girl forced to live with a fundamentalist Muslim family begged the council to allow her to stay with her grandmother as she became increasingly distressed.
The foster family, selected by the London borough of Tower Hamlets, removed the child’s crucifix necklace, wore full-face veils around her, spoken in Arabic which she did not understand, and banned her from consuming bacon, an investigation by The Times found.
Her family has spent the past six months pleading with the council – which has previously been accused of corruption and favouring Muslim interests – to allow the girl to be cared for by family or friends.
Most recently, the council resisted a call to temporarily place her in the care of her grandmother.
The child’s distress was recorded by a Tower Hamlets employee who supervised regular meetings between the girl and her family. In a written report of one meeting, the contact supervisor described the girl as “very emotional and tearful”.
One social services supervisor for Tower Hamlets described the child sobbing and begging not to be returned to the Muslim foster family because “she doesn’t understand the Arabic”.
Another employee heard the child whispering Arabic words to her mother that she was allegedly told must be said aloud to ensure that “when you die you go to heaven”.
The child is also understood to have said she was regularly expected to eat meals on the floor, a cultural practice she was not used to.
The council failed to respond The Times’s request for comment on the individual case, but a spokesman insisted they “give absolute consideration to our children’s background and their cultural identity”.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that any state agency considering a foster placement must pay due regard to “the desirability of continuity in a child’s upbringing and to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background”.
Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, questioned the council’s decision and said that her office would contact the director of children’s services at Tower Hamlets.
“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,” she said.
In 2015, the borough’s elected Muslim mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was removed from his position after he was found guilty of corruption, bribery, and using “undue spiritual influence” over voters.
The council was also accused of fostering tribal divisions and identity politics, frequently rewarding Muslim organisations with resources in return for their support.