BASW has issued an official complaint with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) over the inaccurate, biased and inflammatory articles about a Christian child being fostered by a Muslim family, printed by The Times, The Sun and The Daily Mail this week.
The Times claimed on Monday 28th August that a “white Christian” child had been “very distressed” in her placement by Tower Hamlets Council with “Arabic-speaking” foster carers. The article went further, reporting claims that she was denied food with bacon in it and a carer removed from her a crucifix necklace.
The Sun and The Daily Mail followed suit and printed further stories claiming the council and its social workers had been warned about this kind of case before.
However, we now know from further developments and a court order published two days ago that the child was, in fact, fostered by an English-speaking family of mixed race.
Also, the child’s guardian, having visited the child in the foster carer’s home and spoken to the child alone, had “no concerns as to the child’s welfare and reported that the child is “settled and well cared for by the foster carer”.
Not only does BASW condemn the inaccuracies and irresponsible reporting by these publications, but also feels it was wholly misleading that there was no reference to the robust assessment of social workers or approval processes for foster carers.
“There are a host of important issues that need to be considered as part of a holistic assessment by social workers, which include a child’s identify, culture ethnicity, language, wellbeing and physical needs,” says Maris Stratulis, BASW England manager.
“Responsible reporting would have ensured the public was aware that matching of placements is complex and successful foster care is frequently provided by wonderful foster carers who may seem to be of different background to a child.”
“Children's feelings are central to ensuring good foster care, this in undeniable, but there was no attempt to understand and portray how the local authority and foster carers were dealing with the child's best interests in this case.”
BASW CEO Ruth Allen, added: “That these newspapers hung the notion of 'match' on stereotyped reporting of religion and ethnicity, potentially undermining trust in our well-developed foster system, is the shame of these news items.”
The council at the centre of this controversy has also disputed further media claims, stating that the court report shows it was the council’s proposal for the child to go to her grandmother but she needed to be vetted first, thus temporary foster care for the child was required.
The child is now in the care of the grandmother, who happens to be a non-practising Muslim.
Eddie O’Hara, an independent social worker, said this case unfortunately highlights the toxic manner social workers are often portrayed in certain sections of the media.
He said: “I would have thought that if some of these publications were so concerned about child welfare that they would be more supportive of the people that are charged with safe-guarding children.