Christian foster mother struck off after Muslim girl converts
Added: Mon, 09 Feb 2009 00:00:00 UTC
A foster mother with 10 years' experience was struck off after a Muslim girl in her care converted to Christianity, it has emerged.
By Matthew Moore
Last Updated: 8:55PM GMT 08 Feb 2009
The woman has been banned by her local council for failing to prevent the teenager from getting baptised, even though the girl was 16 and made up her own mind to change religion.
The carer, a churchgoer in her 50s who has fostered more than 80 children, has now been forced to move out of her home.
She has lost the farmhouse she rented to look after vulnerable teenagers, due to the loss of income.
Another girl she was looking after has been taken back into care.
The woman, who has launched a legal challenge to the council's challenge, told the Daily Telegraph: "I just want to get my life back.
"I still hope to resolve this so that I can possibly foster again in the future as I simply enjoy helping young people."
Religious groups and fostering charities condemned the council's decision, which comes amid a nationwide shortage of foster parents.
Last year the Fostering Network launched an urgent appeal for more than 5,000 families to come forward.
The ruling has increased concerns that Christians are becoming victims of discrimination in Britain, following the case of Caroline Petrie, the nurse suspended for offering to pray for a patient.
She was subsequently reinstated.
The foster mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, insists that she did not pressurise the teenager to convert, and actually tried to discourage her initial interest.
The girl, who is now 17, was taken into care after being assaulted by a family member, saw baptism "as a washing away of the horrible things she had been through and a symbol of a new start," the woman said.
"I offered her alternatives. I offered to find her places 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 [to church]'."
The carer claims that social services were aware that the girl was attending her evangelical church, and council bosses only objected when she they found out she had been baptised.
Apostasy – the repudiation of one's faith – is strongly condemned in the Koran and is considered taboo in Muslim communities.
Officials advised the teenager to reconsider her decision and stop attending Christian meetings, and in November struck the carer off their register, claiming she breached her duty of care as a foster parent.
"They consider that in some way she should have taken steps to prevent the conversion," said solicitor Nigel Priestley, who is representing the carer.
He is demanding a judicial review into the council's decision, claiming they have breached Article 9 of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees freedom of religion for both the carer and the girl.
He said that the teenager, who is now back with her parents, was "distressed" that her private faith had had such repercussions, and is supporting her former carer's legal bid.
Mike Judge of the Christian Institute, which is funding the carer's legal 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 that Christians are facing in Britain."
Mr Priestley said that the council had now offered to review its decision, but said his client was prepared to pursue legal action if her case was not resolved.
The council in the north of Englandm, which also cannot be named, declined to comment on "sensitive issues surrounding a child in care".
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