Imagine being a young girl and being taken from your home and parents and put into the foster care system. A new home, strangers to live with, a new life. In any circumstance, this would be traumatic for a child. Now imagine, in addition, a whole new and foreign culture. A new religion. A new language. A new way of dressing. Even a new way of eating.
Being put in foster care is a very scary experience for children. For various circumstances, children are moved into a system designed to care for them while their parents can not. I’m grateful such a system exists. Those who take children in that are not their own are doing a great service for society. I applaud anyone willing to make that sacrifice to help a child.
In America, there are close to 500,000 children in the foster care system. In Britain there are around 70,000. Managing such a system is no small task. But placing children into foster care should be thoughtful and take into consideration the child’s culture and background, to the extent possible. Keeping children with foster parents who are similar to their own background can help the child adapt to what is already a very distressing situation.
That’s why I can’t even fathom the fear and distress of this little 5-year-old girl who was placed in a Muslim home, stripped of her cross necklace, told to learn Arabic and subjected to “opinions” of her foster family that conflicted with her own family’s beliefs.
“A white, Christian, five-year-old girl has been forced to live with Muslim foster carers who removed her cross, encouraged her to learn Arabic, and told her European women were alcoholics.
The five-year-old girl was put into the foster care system by scandal-ridden Tower Hamlets borough council, and has spent six months in two Muslim households against the parents’ wishes, reportsThe Times.
In local authority reports seen by the newspaper, a social services worker describes the sobbing child begging to not be returned to the foster home, saying “they don’t speak English”.
Another report, which describes the girl as “very distressed”, reads that the girl was not allowed to eat a carbonara meal because it had bacon in it (forbidden in Islam), and recorded claims she had her necklace and Christian cross pendant removed by one carer, and was allegedly encouraged to learn Arabic.
During a visit with her mother, the girl said she was told that “Christmas and Easter are stupid” and that “European women are stupid and alcoholic”.
Both of her female carers covered their faces with Islamic veils when they accompanied the child out of the house, indicators of a Salafi-influenced, puritanical form of Islam. The first foster carer, who she was with for four months, wore the niqab; the carer she is currently living with wears the burqa.
A friend of the child’s family told The Times: “This is a five-year-old white girl. She was born in this country, speaks English as her first language, loves football, holds a British passport and was christened in a church.”
“She’s already suffered the huge trauma of being forcibly separated from her family. She needs surroundings in which she’ll feel secure and loved. Instead, she’s trapped in a world where everything feels foreign and unfamiliar. That’s really scary for a young child,” they added.”
While I can understand the need, at times, to put a child into a foster home that isn’t an ideal fit, this is extreme. Cultural considerations need to be made when moving a child from not only what she is used to in her own home, but even what she is used to in her entire community. They might as well have moved her to another country the changes were so extreme! Further, to impose on her their culture, religion, food restrictions and beliefs about mainstream society, and this is just cruel.
Foster care shouldn’t be just about meeting basic physical needs. Being uprooted is hard enough on a child without moving them in with a family that not only bears no resemblance to their own family, but no resemblance to their culture and community. I truly hope the powers that be correct this situation and help this little girl find a place she can feel comfortable, safe and secure.
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