An application was brought under Section 47 of the Child Care Act to the District Court by a Muslim father whose five children had been made the subject of Full Care Orders late last year. The father, who did not attend court, had instructed his solicitor that he wished the two older girls to attend at the mosque twice a week and attend Arabic lessons.
The CFA solicitor told the court that the CFA were setting out various steps to promote the girls’ religion within their environment. The foster carer was reading books on Islam to them. The children did not wish to attend at the mosque and the CFA would not force children to do anything against their will. Their father was looking to adjourn the Section 47 for six weeks to allow his proposal to take place, but the girls were adamant they did not want to attend.
The father’s solicitor told the court that while the father did recognise the efforts of the CFA in preserving the girls’ cultural identity, he saw it as a duty to pass on his religion and considered too much deference was being shown to the girls and their reluctance to go to the mosque. The father wished to adjourn the application to enable further progress to be made. If no progress was made he would then seek the court to make directions and he would give evidence.
Judge: “What does the client propose be done to force the children to attend the mosque? What he may want, I can appreciate it and I have no difficulty with that, but the CFA are telling me what the children want, how do I square that circle, how does he propose I do that?”
The judge wanted to know what steps the father was suggesting. It had been put to the children the opportunity was there to visit the mosque. The judge asked for concrete proposals by the solicitor’s client as to how it could be achieved.
Father’s solicitor: “It may be they have to visit even if it’s not something they want to do.”
Judge: “Make an order and hold the children in contempt if they don’t wish to do it?”
The father’s solicitor said the father was not asking the court to make any order today, but in due course on the Section 47 application he would ask for appropriate orders, but not to compel the girls to go. It might be to compel the CFA to do everything possible to compel their attendance. His client was not proposing that anybody be held in contempt of court.
The CFA solicitor told the court that one access meeting with the girls’ siblings (the first since the Care Order had been made) went well at the mosque but the girls did not want to go back there. The foster mother was working to try and encourage the children to be more open to their culture. The involvement of the head of the mosque was sought. He was a cultural advisor to the CFA and he was not suggesting the children should be made attend.
The judge requested that two sibling access meetings be arranged. “If those take place at the mosque then so be it, perhaps if the focus is on the contact and less on the location the two older girls could be persuaded to attend, taking into consideration it is to foster their cultural identities,” he said.
The Section 47 was adjourned for six weeks. The judge said that the father was to attend on the court date or the application would be struck out.