By Sheila Mckenzie-
Social Services failed young Sara Sharif, her eventual death under the charge of her father shows.
The heartbreaking story of 10-year-old Sara Sharif, whose life was tragically cut short, has cast a spotlight on the complexities of family dynamics, the failures of social services, and the inadequacies of the child protection system.
Sara’s story is one that leaves us questioning how a young girl could have fallen through the cracks, with a complex family set-up contributing to a devastating outcome.
The judgement of the Family Court which authorized the decisions and arrangements for Sara’s placement with her father and his partner has proved unfortunate.
The failures of the child Child Protection System in accurately assessing and anticipating major safeguarding issues such as the suspected murder of a ten year old is of great concern,
Olga Sharif, Sara’s mother, recently shared in an interview that she had separated from her husband, Urfan Sharif, in 2015.
For several years, Sara and her older brother had been living with their mother until 2019 when a family court issued a ruling that they should reside with their father.
The details surrounding the court’s decision remain shrouded in mystery, leaving many to ponder the factors that led to this significant change in the children’s living arrangements.
Now obvious is the fact that the ruling proved fatal.
Immediately apparent in this case are the several issue which should have been glaring to social services in this case is the religious and cultural divide within the family, and the tension it produced.
Olga Sharif told The Sun that her daughter’s behaviour changed when she moved to live with her father. She said that her ex-spouse, Urfan, had informed her that their children would be raised as Muslims, and as a result could not eat certain foods at home.
In contrast, she expressed her desire for the children to be educated about both religions, ensuring a balanced perspective.
This ideological divide likely played a role in the family’s challenges.
Despite the change in living arrangements, Olga Ms Sharif maintained equal rights to see her children.
Initially, this arrangement was manageable.
However, Sara’s mother over time found it increasingly difficult to exercise her parental rights.
In a heart-wrenching revelation, Olga Ms Sharif disclosed that she was unable to see her daughter for four long years, a gap that would later prove to be problematic.
This prolonged separation raises critical questions about the role of social services in Sara’s life. How did they let this happen without being alarmed?
If they were aware of the circumstances that led to this extended estrangement, it should have raised alarm bells.
Inadequacy on the part of social services is nothing new in the UK, despite the expected expertise of social workers in the field.
One social worker who advises this publication on these sort of matters, spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying: ”the dynamics of this family were very complex
”You have a situation where four other children who do not share the same mother as Sara were living in the same family. You have the issue of a clash of different faiths, and this being known to be an issue, then you have the stepmother syndrome.
”We don’t know how the young child felt about the step mother or how the step mother felt about Sara’s mother, and how those feelings may have clashed.
”What was the child’s feeling about not being able to eat certain foods, or not being able to see her mother for four year’s? She voiced her aspiration’s of wanting to be a model, what was the reaction of everyone towards that?
”Sara by her headteacher’s account was a confident child with a beautiful smile, so will appear to have had the tendency to resist anything she did not like.
”We also do not know why the courts gave custody to the father, but can assume that the mother was deemed unfit in some form or another.
”However, this does not mean she should gone to the father. This would have been on the advice of social workers and the child’s guardian, but we now know in hindsight that they failed her woefully. All other avenues should have been exhausted to safeguard the interest of the child”.
Red Flags Missed
Sara’s inability to consume certain foods against her will should have been a red flag, signaling potential issues within the family dynamic.
Adding further complexity to the family structure, four other children were part of the household, not biologically related to Sara’s mother.
The intricacies of this setup remain unclear, but it is undeniable that such dynamics can influence a child’s feelings and behavior, potentially affecting their overall well-being.
The family court’s decision to grant custody to the father, Urfan Sharif, suggests that the mother may not have been deemed fit to have her child under her care.
However, the precise reasons behind this decision remain shrouded in secrecy, leaving many unanswered questions.
Possible explanations are numerous, including past neglect or mental health issues on the mother’s part.
Nevertheless, it is evident that alternative solutions should have been explored before leaving Sara in her father’s custody.
One critical element of the child protection system that plays a significant role in cases like Sara’s is the involvement of social services and the children’s guardian who is appointed by the courts and represents the interests of the child where there are safeguarding concerns and serious, complex issues.
Their role ensures that social services decisions and arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children are appropriate and adequate.
These entities bear the responsibility of advocating for the child’s best interests, ensuring their safety and well-being. The tragic outcome of Sara’s case underscores the dire consequences of any failures within this system.
Regrettably, Sara Sharif’s story is not an isolated incident. Throughout history, there have been numerous cases of children let down by social services, leading to devastating outcomes, including fatalities.
These incidents serve as stark reminders of the urgent need for reform and improvement within the child protection system.
Sara Sharif’s dreams of becoming a model may never be realized, but her story will ignite a broader conversation about the complexities of family life, the shortcomings of social services, and the paramount importance of safeguarding the well-being of vulnerable children.
Surrey Council was contacted by The Eye Of Media to explain the failure of social services in this tragic case.
They promised to respond, but are yet to do so.