Statement from third sector professionals on the reporting of ‘Christian child placed into Muslim foster care’ 4 September 2017

On Monday 28 August, The Times published a story titled ‘Christian child forced into Muslim foster care’. The story was highly critical of the foster carers, the fostering service and in particular the idea that a white Christian child should be placed with a Muslim foster family. The story has since been found to be inaccurate in many respects.

As organisations which work with highly vulnerable children as well as foster carers, we are concerned about the potentially detrimental impact of this article on the child in question, the foster carers, the birth parents and others involved directly with the child, as well as on the wider fostering sector.

We find the nature of the reporting to be divisive and concerned with sensationalism rather than ethical reporting. The comment sections of many papers following the story showed a worrying level of vitriol from those who took the details of the article at face value. Unfortunately many of the people who read those initial headlines will no longer be following this story and will have made up their minds about the sector, how it is decided which foster family a child should live with, and perhaps of Muslim foster carers in general, something that we consider to be desperately sad and unfair.

Ethnicity and religion are two very important factors that are taken into account when a child is placed with a foster family. They are, however, only two of a vast range of needs; for example, if a child has complex disabilities or presents with challenging behaviour, these needs will take priority over religious or ethnic matching. There is no set hierarchy of needs that must be met when placing a child with a foster family; instead each child will have their own personalised hierarchy of needs which will be considered when placing that child with a foster family.

As a result, many fostered children are placed with foster families with different religions and ethnicities. These foster carers go to great lengths to meet all of the identified needs of children in their care, including helping them to understand their birth culture and religion, and will be trained and supported to do this. None of the realities of fostering were addressed in the article, which has led to a highly biased and negative portrayal of the fostering sector.

We would also like The Times and related publications to note that hundreds of Muslim foster carers open their homes to both Muslim and non-Muslim children every year. These carers vary in terms of how they practice their religion, as do all carers of any faith group. Foster carers, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, work extremely hard in caring for children who are going through challenging times and as such, they are owed a great deal of respect and gratitude. It is wholly unacceptable that one of these fostering families was denigrated by The Times and related press outlets. We would encourage and welcome news outlets to use their resources to work with us to improve society, particularly for the most vulnerable, and to give credit to good work where it is due.

Signatories

  1. Penny Appeal: Tay Jiva, Adoption and Fostering Manager (and statement coordinator) 07920 097834 tay.jiva@pennyappeal.org
  2. Become: Natasha Finlayson, Become 020 7017 2781 media@becomecharity.org.uk
  3. CoramBAAF: John Simmonds OBE, Director of Policy, Research and Development 020 7520 7519 John.Simmonds@Corambaaf.org.uk
  4. The Fostering Network: Kevin Williams, Chief Executive, The Fostering Network 020 7620 6425 media@fostering.net
  5. Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers: Harvey Gallagher, Chief Executive 07807 760539 harvey.gallagher@nafp.co.uk
  6. UK Fostering: Tim McArdle, Head of Placement and Recruitment 01322 473244 tim.mcardle@ukfostering.org.uk