You may remember the furore caused by the press (mainly The Times and the Daily Mail) back in the summer over the case of a Christian child in Tower Hamlets being placed with Muslim foster carers and allegedly being stopped from eating pork or wearing a crucifix.
You may also remember that a subsequent inquiry into the case rejected the press claims, seemingly putting the whole sorry episode to bed.
Well, the issue has sort of reared its head again. The Sun, clearly spotting an opportunity to stir up a bit of trouble, decided to carry out an ‘investigation’ of its own. For no apparent reason other than to try and make a story where there was none, it’s gathered up information from across the country on mixed faith fostering cases.
It presented the results in an article earlier this week which it claimed highlights a ‘crisis of faith’. The story, which appeared in Thursday’s edition of the paper as an ‘exclusive’ by Tom Wells, carried the headline ‘101 CHRISTIAN CHILDREN FOSTERED BY MUSLIMS’.
There are four things worth noting about this.
Number one, why is the headline focusing on the number of Christian children fostered by Muslims when the number of Muslim children fostered by Christians is nearly four times greater? The 394 Muslim children fostered by Christians are mentioned in the sub-header – almost as if the paper is proud of the prejudicial way in which it is presenting the information – but are then edited out of the article altogether.
Someone obviously had a word with The Sun about this as within 24 hours the paper had edited the headline to the online article.
Number two, the information is taken from 73 councils across England. So that works out as between 6 and 7 cases per council on average (just over one Christian child with Muslims and just over five Muslim children with Christians per council). Or, to put it another way, there are approximately 50,000 foster children in England, so the total number of cases highlighted here are less than 1%. If we focus purely on the cases of Christian children placed with Muslim foster carers (which are the ones that The Sun is trying to make its readers outraged about), it works out at around 0.2% of all fostering cases.
The Sun tries to make something out of the fact that just over half of the councils approached didn’t provide figures, saying that ‘the true total is likely to be far higher’. But even if that were to be true, it’s not going to amount to a particularly large number of cases when you put it into an overall perspective.
Number three, the paper frames its investigation within the context of the Tower Hamlets case. But although it broadly reports the claims that initially appeared in the press, there is no mention of the inquiry that rejected these claims because there was no evidence to support them. Why is the paper reporting on baseless claims as fact?
Number four, who cares if foster children are placed with carers who happen to be of a different religion, as long as they’re being cared for properly? By making a story out of this, The Sun is implying that there’s something unacceptable about fostering children from a different cultural background.
Of course, efforts should be made to find the most suitable carers for a child. But there is currently a shortage of foster carers in this country, with the Fostering Network stating recently that over 7,000 new carers are urgently needed to meet demand. In these circumstances, of course there are going to be instances where children end up being placed with people from different backgrounds.
If The Sun and its journalists had any interest in the plight of foster children, they would focus on highlighting this shortage and encouraging people to become foster carers. Instead they publish sensationalist drivel to stir up Islamophobia, which only serves to denigrate foster caring. Irresponsible journalism at its very worst.
Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at firstname.lastname@example.org to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.
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