What Would Theodore Dalrymple Say?

Another bureaucratic travesty from Britain. These stupidities happen with such regularity that one wants to turn away rather than watch common decency disappear repeatedly into the void.

British bureaucrats have created a dystopian hell run by small minds with too much time on their hands.

The latest idiocy:

A foster mother has been struck off by a council after a teenage Muslim girl in her care became a Christian.

The carer, who has ten years’ experience and has looked after more than 80 children, said she was ‘devastated’ by the decision.

‘This is my life,’ she revealed. ‘It is not just a job for me. It is a vocation. I love what I do. It is also my entire income. I am a single carer, so that is all I have to live on.’

This story has particular resonance for me because I was once a social services agency foster care supervisor. Due to an extreme lack of resources, this is a high-burnout job.

Most people last about two years in the job before the mountains of paperwork, the huge caseload, the questionable decisions one is routinely required (by federal law) to make, the dysfunctional “clients” who form one’s caseload, etc., ad nauseam, start to cause cracks. One begins to skip lunch hours, to come in on weekends (without compensation) just attempting to stay even. Finally, defeated by a corrupt system, one resigns… leaving needy kids to their fate.
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I would have killed to get someone as competent as this woman appears to be. As the supervisor, I was also responsible for “certifying” foster care homes. There was always a shortage of decent alternatives. Oftentimes I would have no place to put them, or the homes that we “certified”, while meeting the bare standards laid down by the state, were not places that made my heart sing. Some of the foster care mothers were obviously chronically depressed; I often thought some of them needed a dose of foster mothering themselves.

There were a few good ones. There were a few times we managed to recruit excellent, energetic, (often single) women without children of their own who were willing to take on teenagers. I found their optimism amazing. After all, adolescence even in the best of circumstances can be difficult, and they were taking in kids who’d been removed from chaotic, sometimes dangerous home environments.

A few foster care children were grateful for the rescue, but a lot of them were angry at the “home invasion” because they were used to doing what they wanted when they wanted. They didn’t care how cheerful this new Mother Hubbard of a foster home was. As far as they were concerned, it was prison. Sometimes it felt as though I were working with a crazy crew of angry Displaced Persons.

Carol Burnett once said during her teenager’s stormy years, “Let’s face it. Teenagers are all psychotic”. Interestingly, biopsychiatric medicine is bearing her out. Functional MRI’s of adolescent brains show that during adolescence we are laying down the finishing connections between the two halves of the brain. The parts concerned with impulse control are a bit wobbly. That’s the neurological reality behind some bizarre adolescent behaviors. Often, the kid can’t even tell you why he laughed and pointed at the policeman. He doesn’t know himself; it just seemed like a good idea at the time. An honest one will tell you that it scares him to have become a stranger even to himself.

This description fits even teenagers in optimal family situations. For those unlucky ones whose parents aren’t functioning well, whose homes are chaotic and violent (can you say “lots of drugs and alcohol”?), or who are for all intents and purposes on their own when it comes to meals, school attendance, clothing, etc., rational choices become even harder. They may be disruptive in school, come in with unexplained bruises or bald patches or burns, or they may be ridiculed for wearing the same clothing for a week.

After years of such environments, these kids are tough nuts to crack. They are not full of gratitude for being removed from their homes. At best they are ashamed and deeply depressed. At worst they are angry, defiant, and determined to make you hate them. After all, everyone else dislikes them — why should you be any different?

It takes great patience, skill, and dedication to be a good foster mother. The best ones consider it a kind of vocation, some have said that in providing a nurturing home for children they felt that they were contributing to the community in a way not many people could do. They were proud of their competencies.

That is what makes this particular disgrace so immoral:

The foster mother said she had recently bought a larger car and had been renting a farmhouse, with a pony in a field, so that she could provide more disadvantaged children with a new life.

‘That was always my dream and then suddenly, bang, it was gone. I am now in a one-bedroom flat,’ she added.

The girl is understood to be back with members of her family, who have not been told of her conversion. A second girl the woman was fostering has been moved to another carer.

The woman insisted that, although she was a Christian, she had put no pressure on the Muslim girl, who was 16 at the time, to be baptised.

But council officials allegedly accused her of failing to ‘respect and preserve’ the child’s faith and tried to persuade the girl to reconsider her decision.

The ignorance of those “council officials” is breath-taking. I used to get a lot of grief if I placed a black child in a white home. Never mind the fact that I couldn’t get enough certified black foster homes. What was I supposed to do instead? Sleep with the kids in my office? Put them in institutions? I don’t think my critics cared one way or another about the kids themselves. Ideology trumped reality in their tiny world. So I learned to quit responding other than suggest that they recruit some black foster families for me. I also requested that they find some black adoptive families for me while they were at it.

It sounds like these bureaucrats don’t have sufficient Muslim foster care mothers so they can’t do their p.c. thing and place the children in an ideologically correct environment.

Here is a page from one agency’s site which has pictures and short bios of teenagers who need homes. If more agencies did this, there would probably be more volunteers. IMHO. Others may scream that the privacy of these children is being violated, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the loudest screamers have never done the stoop labor of foster care. However, they are masters of correct-think and experts on what others should do.

Notice there is no mention of religion on that page of children’s pictures. In my experience, when a child goes into a foster home, he or she participates in everything. If the foster parents go to church, so does my “case” — unless the child is old enough to have strong opinions on the subject and expresses a desire not to go. At that point, the foster parents and I work out some kind of supervision for the child while they attend services.

If the parents don’t attend church, then my child wouldn’t either, unless he or she requests it. In that situation, a competent case worker finds out the denomination the child wishes to join and then asks someone from within that faith community to volunteer for rides. Of course, any volunteer has to have the usual background check before being approved. More paperwork, but in that case, it’s very important to know a child is in safe hands.

In this story, the foster child is unusual. She has been removed from her Muslim home. You’ll notice that these politically correct council officials didn’t place her in a Muslim foster home. How come? Why are they permitted the freedom to use a Christian family for a Muslim placement while the girl, aged 17, doesn’t have the freedom of choice to decide what faith she wants to be?

Suppose a child had been removed from its Christian family of origin at this age and subsequently decided to join some other religion. Would the council officials have their knickers quite so twisted? I doubt it. Oh, wait a minute, I forgot: what if the teenager insisted on going to a synagogue for lessons from the rabbi? Heh… can’t you hear the resulting cries of outrage?

The carer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is now preparing to take legal action against the council with the support of the girl, now 17, who also cannot be named.


Yesterday, Christians expressed outrage over the foster carer’s treatment, saying that it was a basic right for people to be able to change their religion and the woman should be praised, not punished.

Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute, a pressure group which is funding her 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.

Hmmm…notice the reporter’s wording here. The Christian Institute is a “pressure group”. How is a pressure group different from an advocacy group? Or in the UK does one have to be Muslim to belong to a religious advocacy group? What in the world they term a Jewish group interested in protecting Jews? Here is the Institute’s site. Judge for yourself.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for this “pressure group” says:

‘This is the sort of double standard which Christians are facing in modern Britain. In recent months, we have seen grandparents, a nurse, adoption agencies, firemen, registrars, elderly care homes and now a foster carer being punished because of the Christian beliefs they hold. It has got to stop.’

Back to the foster mother and the girl:

The carer, a mother-of-two in her 50s, has worked with young children for much of her life and became a foster parent for the local authority in the North of England in 1999.

In 2007, she was asked to look after the girl, who had been assaulted by a family member.

The “assault”? Probably sexual in nature, given her age at the time of her placement in foster care. At 15, that was the most usual cause for girls in my caseload, though often the younger sexually assaulted children could be boys or girls.

The story continues:

She [the foster mother] told council officials that she was very happy to support the girl in her religion and culture.

‘We had a multicultural household and I had no problems helping the young person maintain her faith of birth,’ she said. ‘I have always prided myself in being very professional in what I do. If something works for a young person, whether I agree with it or not, I am happy to support them in that.’

But the girl, whom the foster mother describes as caring and intelligent, defied expectations by choosing not to wear overtly Muslim clothes or to eat Halal food.

The girl, whose interest in Christianity had begun at school some time before her foster placement, also made it clear that she wanted to go to church.

If Britain were still able to support a normal culture, that would have been the end of it. A caseworker is mandated to visit the children on her caseload. In a normal culture, if this situation arose, the social worker would have spoken to the girl privately and at length about her wishes to change her religion. If she was satisfied with the teenager’s explanations, that would have been the end of it. At this age (17) the particular individual’s expression of her religious beliefs is her private business, even when she is a ward of the state.

This whole situation is thuggish and brutal:

The carer, an Anglican who attends a local evangelical church, said: ‘I did initially try to discourage her.

‘I offered her alternatives. I offered to find places for her 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.” She sort of burst in.’

The carer said that the girl’s social workers were fully aware that she was going to church and had not raised any objections.

The girl had told her auxiliary social worker of her plans to convert before she was baptised in January last year, and the social worker had appeared to give her consent. [my emphasis — D]

So we have a whole series of nodal points here, places where the bureaucrats knew what was going on and offered no opposition. So why the sudden about-face?

Well, the story isn’t quite finished. Here’s the foster mother again:

‘At that point the brakes were off,’ the carer said. ‘I couldn’t have stopped her if I had wanted to. She saw the baptism as a washing away of the horrible things she had been through and a symbol of a new start.’

Three months later, however, senior officials complained that they had not been fully informed of the girl’s intentions to become a Christian.

They said that she should have undergone counselling to ensure that she understood the implications, especially as such conversions are dealt with harshly in some Muslim countries.

The foster carer said, however, that the girl had thought about her decision very carefully and was aware that members of her family might react strongly, so she was adamant that they should not be told.

The carer said that as the auxiliary social worker knew about the baptism, she had not thought it necessary to tell the fostering team as well.

But she received a phone call from the fostering manager who was ‘incandescent with rage’ that the baptism had gone ahead.

The carer said: ‘Up to that point, we had had a good relationship, so I was quite taken aback. I was very shocked.’

In April, council officials told the girl that she should not attend any church activity for six months, so that she could reconsider the wisdom of becoming a Christian.

The carer was also instructed to discourage the girl from participating in any Christian activities, even social events. The council then told the carer there had been a breakdown of trust and in November removed her from the register.

‘It never occurred to me that they would go that far,’ she said. ‘I was concerned that the council seemed to view Christianity in such a negative light. I wonder whether if it had gone the other way — if one of my Christian young people had decided to embrace another faith — there would have been this level of fuss.’

She added that the girl has been devastated by the experience.

I can imagine that the girl indeed was “devastated”. You can see her welfare being crushed by the needs of the bureaucratic steamroller. You can also see the obvious distress of the foster mother. There goes all her hard work of establishing a bond with an abused teenager, right down the bureau-tube. So what started the steamroller’s engine? What put it in motion and permitted it to run over the girl?

As a former insider to the workings of the machine, here’s my guess regarding the whole situation: Everything was peachy-keen as far as the case worker was concerned. Here was a good kid — “good” as in she didn’t run away, didn’t set fires, wasn’t punching her foster family, etc. She didn’t give anyone trouble.

But let’s not forget the agency’s vulnerability: they mustmaintain their p.c. credibility, even if it means destroying a kid here and there. Complaints that come into the agency are often anonymous, but not always. In any case, they are by law to be treated with utter confidentiality. If there are any leaks, the agency can get sued by the complainants, the family of origin, etc. Anyone who sees a chance to make some free money while getting Grievance Attention from the press.

This complaint probably came from a Muslim pressure group… or are they Muslim “advocacy” groups in the UK? Whatever. Militant atheists (and there are a few) seem unlikely candidates for this situation since the choice was between religions, not between religious practice and atheism. Thus, they don’t have a dog in this fight.

But the Muslims do. And if any of the extended family got wind of this child’s decision to turn herself into an infidel, they’d likely find an eager lawyer who would have no problem pounding on the agency door. The legal threats to the agency “officials” would result in a pounding on the social worker’s supervisor who would hastily kick the can down to the individual caseworker and she in turn, ‘incandescent with rage’ would pound on the foster mother, take the children out of the home, and de-certify her.

The end of the story: several girls are damaged by yet another family disruption, a woman loses her beloved job, and the agency is free to run amok the next time something happens.

Or maybe not:

The carer’s solicitor Nigel Priestley said: ‘There is no doubt that the event that provoked the council was the decision by the girl to be baptised. This girl was 16 and has the right to make this choice, so for the council to react in this way is totally disproportionate. Even at this late hour, we hope that the council will resolve the issue.’

A council spokes-man said: ‘From the details provided, we believe that this information relates to a child who is the subject of a final care order in favour of the council. In those circumstances, we are unable to pass any comment.

‘We would never be able to comment on sensitive issues surrounding a child in care.

‘To do so would be irresponsible and in this particular case may put the child at risk’…

Oh no, they’d never do anything to “put the child at risk”. Except that these idjits did just that. These girls and their foster mother have been irreparably damaged. Even if everything were decided in their favor tomorrow, it wouldn’t be enough to heal the wound caused by being jerked around by a bunch of cowards in fear of losing their jobs.

The reality is that by the time this is decided, the girl in question will have “aged out” of the system. Here in the U.S., that occurs at age 18. Even though she becomes too old to be a ward of the state, that doesn’t mean she’s not at risk for being assaulted again by her family of origin.

I doubt the agency will help her set up a life somewhere safe. That’s not in their job description, is it?

Stupid, stupid bureaucrats. They just threw away a perfectly good foster mother. They ought to be sacked themselves.

What has gone wrong with Britain? Some skewed purity of ideology is eroding of the rule of law and stuffing common sense and common decency into the oubliette.

This post is not about Christian beliefs per se. It is about common sense.

Thus, the recent story in Britain about a nurse being sacked for asking her elderly patients if they want her to pray for them is not in the same category. This woman also passes out explicitly evangelical prayer cards to her patients.

In my opinion, such behavior is intrusive. It is one thing for a patient to request that a medical professional pray for them. It is quite another for the medico to intrude. Several of her patients complained, and rightly so.

For a Christian, the efficacy of prayer does not depend on a performance with the patient. If one feels inclined to pray for others, simply doing so silently while attending to their needs is enough. Besides, it is respectful of the other to maintain that kind of boundary unless asked by the patient.

Yes, both stories are about Christianity and Britain. But their premises and conclusions put them in different categories.

The foster mother and the girls were brutalized by the system.

The nurse, on the other hand, was out of line.

8 thoughts on “What Would Theodore Dalrymple Say?

  1. Christian Churches were almost empty when we visited England – 18 years ago-Sad-
    Christians will either obey the command of Jesus to ‘occupy’ LK:19 KJV-in other words -hold the ground He won…via the arts-business-medicine-engineering et.al. or – the high ground will be allowed to be taken from us – for a time–Christians-DECIDE NOW….

  2. Christian soldier–

    In any place where there are a variety of religions there must be mutual respect for other faiths.

    The Constitution wanted religion free from the state. Unfortunately, too many people with an allergic reaction to religion (they prefer their own orthodoxies) have taken that to mean the state may muzzle religion.

    I don’t evagelize and I’m not comfortable with having it done to me in public. I figure one’s spiritual experience is to be shared within one’s faith community or family, but not forced on others in public.

    No polity world wide can any longer be considered “Christian” and that is to the good for both the state and Christianity.

    Historically, any religion that co-incided with the state, or was made the “official” religion of the state, has suffered from the process and become irrelevant, but not before doing a lot of damage to “heretics” and the like.

    Christianity is the antithesis of political power. It needs to guard its own interests in the public square, but it should never be in charge of the public square…

    …Those Christian churches you visited are no doubt beautiful cathedrals, built with state money. While they are gorgeous monuments to by-gone eras, they are not living organisms in the way that a small, lively church is.

    Monuments are great to visit, but who wants to live there?

    BTW, if you look at the paradigm established by Christ, it was 12 apostles and a larger number (72, probably symbolic) of disciples who weren’t part of his core group. In human terms, that seems an optimal number.

    There was an American business I read about some years ago (can’t remember which one) that decided 60 was the max # for the most efficient operation. As soon as the business grew large enough to need more people and more room, they started another plant or office and that group would grow to sixty and then spin off into another office, and so on. I wish I had kept the information since it seemed inspired to me: everyone knew everyone else but it was still big enough to get the work done.

  3. islam o’phobe–

    In that post script I didn’t link to anything. I was relying on memory and, iirc, there were several people who didn’t like it the prayer cards.

    The thing is, they complained to those taking care of them, but none of them told the nurse to stop, so I’m sure she was taken by surprise.

    In my experience, personally and professionally, old people are reluctant to say anything directly for fear they may pay for it in terms of services, etc.

    Being frail and elderly (and often forgetful or a bit demented), they are mor apt to remain silent. And for good reason: I investigated some ugly cases of “elder abuse” during my time as a social worker. Sometimes it was family members who had lashed out from sheer weariness of carrying their burden. We would come up with respite care on a regular basis for those families. Other times it was nurses’ aides, etc.

    There is a much bigger iceberg of unreported cases of elderly people being ill-treated. Unless they have regular visits from volunteers, they are at risk, so they shut up.

    Now there is at least oneold guy I wouldn’t worry about at all. He can — and does — speak his mind.

    See here:

    Grouchy Old Cripple.

    Some of the posts on the current main page are amusing, though not PG13. For example he has one called “Barf Bag Alert” re the fantasies women report having about the One…Bill Clinton redux.


  4. btw, pardon the errors I’m making in comments. In a fair amount of pain and it makes me careless. otoh, the pain meds make me stupid and careless, so it’s a no-win around here…

  5. Dymphna,

    I only read one article on the incident and I would not be surprised if important details were left out of the story.

    As far as I remember the Daily Mail – which is not a reliable news source, I think Lawrence Auster has established that – only reported that one colleague of said nurse had complained about the prayer cards and one carer complained about the offer to prayer.

    btw, pardon the errors I’m making in comments. In a fair amount of pain and it makes me careless. otoh, the pain meds make me stupid and careless, so it’s a no-win around here…

    I sympathise. I was on morphine for two weeks recently after extensive dental surgery and found it very difficult to stay awake or even think properly. I hope that you get better or at least feel better.

    I will pray for you if you like and if you don’t like that you can always write a letter to the newspapers. 🙂

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