Muslim converts ‘not Islamic enough’ for their adopted son to have a brother

Moroccan authorities were happy for boy to make a home in Britain but officials in Surrey were not so sure.

When Robert and Jo Garofalo decided they wanted to adopt a child in Morocco they knew it would not be easy. Although the law in the Muslim state had been changed to allow foreign adoptions, the couple were required to convert to Islam first. But in the end it was not the Moroccan authorities that proved the biggest hurdle for the film director and his wife — it was their own local social services. For three months, during which Mrs Garofalo lived with their adopted son in a rented flat in Tangier, the couple were subjected to a series of what they believe were unecessarily harsh and intrusive interviews in which every aspect of their lives was scrutinised. Finally they were approved and were able to bring young Samuel back to their home, where he has thrived. So when, earlier this year, they approached Surrey social services for approval to adopt again from the same Moroccan orphanage, they were surprised to discover that they would have to go through the whole process again. The couple were particularly concerned that, in order to assess Samuel’s “attachment” to them, he would have to be monitored and even filmed while playing. Equally disconcerting was that even though social workers indicated in an initial report that they would be prepared to support the second application, the couple were left with the impression that they were being asked to do more to show they were living a Muslim lifestyle. “The Moroccan orphanage felt it would be good for Samuel to have a brother and were very positive and encouraging. They were happy with the way we dealt with Samuel’s cultural and religious needs,” Mrs Garofalo, a 40-year-old actress, said. But this was not enough for Surrey, who made clear that an assessment would go ahead only if the couple proved that they were making enough effort to live a Muslim lifestyle. In their report, social workers noted that although the couple had stated their religion was Islam “there is no outward sign that this is a Muslim family . . . Joanne and Robert are aware that the socio-religious element is an aspect of Samuel’s identity and heritage which this agency takes very seriously.” It recommended that “particular attention be given to sharing techniques and strategies with Joanne and Robert that will enhance their children’s sense of identity and legacy, particularly in view of their very public statement they made deciding to convert to Islam in order to adopt”. Rachel Kaufman reports.

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