An eight year-old Muslim girl should remain with foster carers after her mother’s mental health began to fail, a High Court Judge has ruled.
The mother in question was a Sunni Muslim from a family with an Indian background. She claims that she was sexually abused during childhood by an uncle but did not report the incident or receive any help.
She met the father, a Muslim from the minority Shia community, at university and they had a brief relationship. The father objected when she threatened to have an abortion but she eventually decided to continue with the pregnancy. Her family disowned her and she moved to London. ‘Z’ was duly born in November 2008.
Afterwards the mother, now ill, returned to her family with Z.
The father saw his daughter on one occasion a few months after the birth. But then his student visa expired and he was deported back to India.
In 2015 the mother’s family became concerned about her mental health. Z began missing school and social workers intervened.
In the Family Court at Bristol, Mr Justice Baker explained:
“Z told the social worker that her mother said unusual things to her. The mother started filming people visiting the house.”
In June 2015, in an alarming incident the mother assaulted her own mother and struggled with social worker before attempting to hide. She was then detained under the Mental Health Act for a month.
But, following her release, social workers suspected she was not taking her medication. She told one during a visit that her mother and sisters were witches and had been controlling her.
Later the same year the mother was again sectioned after attempting to fly to Turkey with Z without any travel documents. Z was taken into police protection and then placed with a foster family where she remains.
The Judge noted:
“An assessment of the mother concluded that she was fit to be treated in the community but subsequently she returned to Heathrow again and tried again to buy a ticket for Istanbul. It was at this point that social workers and police became concerned that she may have become “radicalised”.”
She was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Consideration was given to placing Z with her grandmother even though the relationship between her and her mother was strained.
Z’s father was contacted and social workers considered whether he might be a viable carer despite being unable to travel to the UK. He applied for a declaration of parental responsibility when plans were made to leave Z with her foster family on a long term basis. He also sought to have his name added to his daughter’s birth certificate.
Then the mother intervened, insisting that her mental health had improved and said she wished to resume care of Z. Arrangements were made to reassess her parenting abilities and state of health. Visits were also arranged between her and Z.
But the girl then threw a spanner in the work and said she did not wish to see either of her parents, preferring instead to remain with her foster carer. She became “very distressed” at the prospect of seeing her mother or father, the Judge explained.
“Nevertheless, a number of contact sessions were arranged with Z and her mother and members of the maternal family. On some occasions, Z refused to get out of the car and on the occasions when contact took place it did not go particularly well. In September a number of contact sessions were cancelled when Z refused to go.”
The increasingly delicate situation came before Mr Justice Baker for a ruling on Z’s best interests.
After careful consideration he concluded:
“The only realistic option for Z’s care at this stage is to remain in her current foster placement. The preponderance of the evidence, which I accept, is that she has thrived with her current carers. Although they are by no means a precise cultural match, they have been able to support Z in following her Muslim faith and in all other respects have plainly provided her with excellent physical and emotional care which has helped Z to recover after the harm which she had previously suffered, at least during the latter period of her time at home when her mother was unwell, behaving erratically, and in conflict with other members of the family.”
Read the full ruling here.