Foster mother 'struck off' after Muslim girl converts
The carer, who has ten years’ experience and has looked after more than 80 children, said she was ‘devastated’ by the decision.
‘This is my life,’ she revealed. ‘It is not just a job for me. It is a vocation. I love what I do. It is also my entire income. I am a single carer, so that is all I have to live on.’
The foster mother said she had recently bought a larger car and had been renting a farmhouse, with a pony in a field, so that she could provide more disadvantaged children with a new life.
‘That was always my dream and then suddenly, bang, it was gone. I am now in a one-bedroom flat,’ she added.
The girl is understood to be back with members of her family, who have not been told of her conversion. A second girl the woman was fostering has been moved to another carer.
The woman insisted that, although she was a Christian, she had put no pressure on the Muslim girl, who was 16 at the time, to be baptised.
But council officials allegedly accused her of failing to ‘respect and preserve’ the child’s faith and tried to persuade the girl to reconsider her decision.
The carer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is now preparing to take legal action against the council with the support of the girl, now 17, who also cannot be named.
Her case follows the controversy over Caroline Petrie, 45, the Christian nurse in Somerset suspended without pay in December for offering to pray for an elderly woman patient. She was reinstated this week.
Yesterday, Christians expressed outrage over the foster carer’s treatment, saying that it was a basic right for people to be able to change their religion and the woman should be praised, not punished.
Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute, a pressure group which is funding her case, said: ‘I cannot imagine that an atheist foster carer would be struck off if a Christian child in her care stopped believing in God.
‘This is the sort of double standard which Christians are facing in modern Britain. In recent months, we have seen grandparents, a nurse, adoption agencies, firemen, registrars, elderly care homes and now a foster carer being punished because of the Christian beliefs they hold. It has got to stop.’
The carer, a mother-of-two in her 50s, has worked with young children for much of her life and became a foster parent for the local authority in the North of England in 1999.
In 2007, she was asked to look after the girl, who had been assaulted by a family member. She told council officials that she was very happy to support the girl in her religion and culture. ‘We had a multicultural household and I had no problems helping the young person maintain her faith of birth,’ she said. ‘I have always prided myself in being very professional in what I do. If something works for a young person, whether I agree with it or not, I am happy to support them in that.’
But the girl, whom the foster mother describes as caring and intelligent, defied expectations by choosing not to wear overtly Muslim clothes or to eat Halal food.
The girl, whose interest in Christianity had begun at school some time before her foster placement, also made it clear that she wanted to go to church.
The carer, an Anglican who attends a local evangelical church, said: ‘I did initially try to discourage her. I offered her alternatives. I offered to find places for her to practise her own religion. I offered to take her to friends or family. But she said to me from the word go, “I am interested and I want to come.” She sort of burst in.’
The carer said that the girl’s social workers were fully aware that she was going to church and had not raised any objections.
The girl had told her auxiliary social worker of her plans to convert before she was baptised in January last year, and the social worker had appeared to give her consent.
‘At that point the brakes were off,’ the carer said. ‘I couldn’t have stopped her if I had wanted to. She saw the baptism as a washing away of the horrible things she had been through and a symbol of a new start.’
Three months later, however, senior officials complained that they had not been fully informed of the girl’s intentions to become a Christian.
They said that she should have undergone counselling to ensure that she understood the implications, especially as such conversions are dealt with harshly in some Muslim countries.
The foster carer said, however, that the girl had thought about her decision very carefully and was aware that members of her family might react strongly, so she was adamant that they should not be told.
The carer said that as the auxiliary social worker knew about the baptism, she had not thought it necessary to tell the fostering team as well.
But she received a phone call from the fostering manager who was ‘incandescent with rage’ that the baptism had gone ahead.
The carer said: ‘Up to that point, we had had a good relationship, so I was quite taken aback. I was very shocked.’
In April, council officials told the girl that she should not attend any church activity for six months, so that she could reconsider the wisdom of becoming a Christian.
The carer was also instructed to discourage the girl from participating in any Christian activities, even social events. The council then told the carer there had been a breakdown of trust and in November removed her from the register.
‘It never occurred to me that they would go that far,’ she said. ‘I was concerned that the council seemed to view Christianity in such a negative light. I wonder whether if it had gone the other way – if one of my Christian young people had decided to embrace another faith – there would have been this level of fuss.’
She added that the girl has been devastated by the experience.
The carer’s solicitor Nigel Priestley said: ‘There is no doubt that the event that provoked the council was the decision by the girl to be baptised. This girl was 16 and has the right to make this choice, so for the council to react in this way is totally disproportionate. Even at this late hour, we hope that the council will resolve the issue.’
A council spokes-man said: ‘From the details provided, we believe that this information relates to a child who is the subject of a final care order in favour of the council. In those circumstances, we are unable to pass any comment.
‘We would never be able to comment on sensitive issues surrounding a child in care. ‘To do so would be irresponsible and in this particular case may put the child at risk of harm.’
For further information, contact Nigel Priestley at Ridley & Hall Solicitors Tel: 01484 538421 or email info@ridleyandhall. co.uk
I think the girl could have a case unner human rights law to take on this dhimmi social services department.