Foster Parenting

Category: Americas, Featured, World Affairs Topics: Children, Parenting, Parents Values: Compassion, Integrity Views: 9155

It is one of those phone calls I dread. A social worker is asking if I know any Muslim families who would be interested in caring for a foster child. This one is a nine-year-old boy described as "a Muslim boy of Middle Eastern descent." He needs long-term placement. The last call was for three siblings, Muslim children who needed temporary placement. I dread these calls. As one of the few (if not the only) current Muslim foster home in our area, I am frequently asked if I know of other families who would be interested in caring for a Muslim foster child. Sadly, the answer is most often no.

There are an estimated five hundred thousand children in the foster care system in the United States ranging in age from newborn infants to older teens. Some children are taken into state custody because of abuse or neglect by their birthparents; some enter because of an illness or the death of their parent. Some orphaned refugee children come to this country as unaccompanied minors and are placed in foster care. 

Foster parents may care for a child for a short period, perhaps only overnight, or they may care for them for years. While the system varies from state to state, temporary or permanent custody of the child is held by the state or a private agency. Foster parents are responsible for the day-to-day care of the children but social workers and the courts make major decisions, sometimes with input from birthparents. 

All states have some system of reimbursement to help foster parents cover costs, usually consisting of several hundred dollars (depending on the difficulties of care and the age of a particular child) per month, medical coupons, clothing vouchers and counseling. The process of becoming a foster parent may also vary from state to state, but much of it is similar. Foster parents typically need to pass background checks, have their home inspected for safety and space considerations, be interviewed and attend training programs. These requirements may seem intrusive but in reality are not terribly difficult. 

Foster parenting is not adoption. Michelle Mohamed, a former foster parent, thinks it is important to remember that the first and primary goal of foster care is to protect and care for children while addressing the issues in their birth families that resulted in the child's entering foster care. She says, "The first goal is to re-unite children with their birth families, if possible." She notes that there are many issues faced by the Muslim community that can cause stress and depression in parents of young children or of challenging teens. "Feelings of isolation, of being overwhelmed, and depression are not uncommon for any of us. Unfortunately, many traditional support systems may not be available for Muslim parents here. Extended families, stable, long-term friendships and supportive older relatives may be far away. Foster care can provide a respite when parents feel like they just can't cope anymore, and services are available to relieve some of the pressures traditional supports would have done at one time. If Muslims don't fill the role of foster parents, Muslim foster children will not only be separated from their birth parents but also from their religious and cultural supports." 

While recruitment of foster parents is difficult in general (there are more foster children than licensed foster home beds for them), it is especially difficult in the Muslim Community. According to Muslim social workers, the barriers they face in recruiting Muslim foster families are a lack of familiarity and fear of the system, a feeling that it is somehow "un-Islamic," a fear of appearing to take sides against other Muslims, and a fear of the commitment involved. 

Most of us hate to think that there are Muslim children in foster care. After all, Muslims can't be "those" kinds of parents. We can't believe there are problems with drugs, alcohol or physical abuse and neglect in our community. If Muslim kids are taken into foster care, it is often believed that Child Protective Services must be unjustly accusing the parents.

According to Dr. Basheer Ahmed of the Muslim Community Center for Human Services in Arlington, Texas, "Muslims tend to blame CPS, but sometimes there is a reason for removal." If so, he says, CPS workers have no option but to remove a child in order to protect them. The sad reality is that Muslim parents are human beings and are not perfect. 

A non-Muslim American family had originally adopted a beautiful little girl of Iranian descent, but when the Iranian Revolution occurred the family returned that beautiful little toddler to the State. Because of her religious and ethnic heritage, they no longer wanted her in their home. Will it become even harder in the light of recent events to find good foster homes for Muslim children?

At this point there are no statistics as to the number of Muslim foster children. It would be natural to assume, however, that as the number of Muslims in North America has grown, so has the number of Muslim kids in the foster care system. Anwar Khanam of the Hamdard Center for Health and Human Services in Wooddale, Illinois, has found that there is "a lot of need" for foster parents, but to the Muslim immigrant community it is "a new idea, they don't fully understand." She observes, "We need to be more open-minded. There is a dire need for Muslims to open their homes to foster children. It is a service to humanity."

There is no doubt that becoming a foster parent is a tremendous responsibility and a 24-hour a day job. Foster care is not for the faint-hearted. One way or the other, foster children come with issues that the foster parent will have to cope with. While most foster children are normal, healthy children, some may bring with them emotional or physical challenges. On top of that, there are regulations to meet, social workers and court appointed guardians to satisfy, judge's rulings to abide by, and birth families to deal with. Acknowledging this, Molly Daggett, a social worker with Lutheran Community Services says, "There is no way around the inconveniences, they may be intrusive, but the rewards surpass the inconveniences. The chance to give a child a home, to stay within their own culture and religion-how can you measure that?"

Fatimah Yousof and her husband, Ali, changed their life dramatically when they became foster parents to four Muslim children, brothers and sisters. The children had lived in as many as five other homes, in some foster homes they were placed together, and in some they were separated. Most of the homes were not Muslim. Fatimah Yousof learned quickly that emotional problems sometimes are the root of behavioral problems. She advises, "Become familiar with the difference between normal development and problem behavior. Get as much training as possible and prepare yourself. If you are not of the same culture as your children, learn as much as possible about their culture in order to help that child." She further notes foster parents "must be willing to be proactive and involved in counseling and therapy with the children." She also advises those interested in foster care to consider the advantage of working with private agencies since they have more resources and, she feels, a greater stake in success. 

Michelle Mohamed's husband, Ibrahim, acknowledges that being a foster parent can be difficult. It is "absolutely not an easy commitment. But it is not about you. It is about the child-providing love and compassion for a child." Mohamed and his wife were foster parents for a little boy whom they eventually adopted, adding to the four biological children they already had. Mohamed also understands the concerns of the immigrant Muslim community. He acknowledges that for many immigrant Muslims foster care is a concept that is foreign to their upbringing. "We can adapt to many things in our life that we didn't grow up with. Muslim foster parents have to have an understanding of how this society works, want to be involved and feel that they can make a difference." Ultimately, he says, "these children are in the category of orphans, they are the beloved of Allah." . 

Some Muslims are concerned about maintaining an Islamic environment in their home. How do foster parents meet the requirements of hijab and modesty between non-related sexes and still care for these beloved orphans? Fatimah and Ali Yousof struggled with this issue. They ultimately, and very happily, adopted their four foster children. Their solution is that the mother and girls wear hijab at home and have curtains hung for privacy. "If we didn't do it, we would feel like hypocrites, but it is a part of daily life now, like praying. This is a matter of compromise and being flexible. Not to say that I don't have moments. But it is not a reason not to have any one of my kids. The amount of blessings far outweighs any inconvenience." She wants people to remember that "your intentions are all for Allah. He will help you."

Muslim communities must develop systems to help families at risk for disruption, but also provide Muslim homes for children when needed. To help overcome the hesitancy Muslims may feel over religious issues, Islamic scholars need to study the foster care system in relation to Islamic teachings and inform the Muslim community in how they can accept the responsibilities of caring for Muslim foster children within the guidelines of Islam. The leaders of Muslim Communities in North America must familiarize themselves with this issue and become advocates for Muslim children in the foster care system. Dr. Bashir Ahmed feels community leaders must be proactive. "The Qur'an says, 'take care of orphans.' It is our responsibility to care for them. We must keep raising the issue." 

A number of years ago, I met a Muslim family who had adopted a beautiful little girl of Iranian descent. A non-Muslim American family had originally adopted her, but when the Iranian Revolution occurred the family returned that beautiful little toddler to the State. Because of her religious and ethnic heritage, they no longer wanted her in their home. Will it become even harder in the light of recent events to find good foster homes for Muslim children? 

Each potential foster parent must look into their own hearts and decide if they can make this commitment. Difficult and important issues revolve around foster care. But as I watch my two year-old foster son proudly move up and down next to my husband in salah, or listen to my four year old daughter trying to verbalize her struggle to understand who she is as a Muslim and what it means in relation to the rest of the world, I know that this is the right thing to do. There are good and loving non-Muslim foster families working for all children in their care. However loving and capable, they cannot help our children be Muslims.

Source Azizah Magazine - A unique publication that presents the issues, accomplishments and the interests of Muslim women in North America.

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  Category: Americas, Featured, World Affairs
  Topics: Children, Parenting, Parents  Values: Compassion, Integrity
Views: 9155

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Older Comments:
Working as social worker with private fostering agencies in United Kingdom. we have most of same cases in our local area but in here same Muslim NGOs running their fostering homes to provide the support and good option to handle this type situations search and contact with your local Muslim NGOs they defiantly know those families or given you better option to handle it.

We have 4 grown up children who already not staying with us. They are either oversea, university and colleges. We are glad to assist or be a foster parents as our duty to God, Rasulullah and Muslim community.

Please note, having been involved in The System from Both sides, and now learning more than I thought I wanted to know-my Children are Native American, and trying to get their Cultural/Religious concerns even considered to be addressed was quite a battle at first. Also, I see alot of Reliogious Groups trying to Absorb and Eradicate the Muslim faith by absorbing the Children into their Religions, and Immersing them in American culture-very bad indeed! You need to seek Federal Mandates and Policies to Insure Cultural inclusion and Continuance of Ethnic Inclusion:and to Keep Parent/Child Interraction regular, and active in Case Planning and Management, similar to the Indian Child Welfare Act-so too now we Need anMuslim/Ethnic Child Welfare Act.
Yours in His Service to All Families/Children, Catherine Summers Denver, Colorado

Asalaamu Alaykum Warahmatulaahi Wabarakaatu.
I praise and glory is due to Allah, the Sustainer and the Merciful. And may peace and blessing be upon our beloved Prophet S.A.W.

I am greived to hear that any muslim child has been forsaken no matter what color or nationality. I brakes my heart that a muslim child has been abandanded by all muslims. How can we call ourselves muslims when we can't even take care or our infants. For example, what if you were that child being deserted by muslims and now by a non-muslim. You would never want to hear the name Islam or want to do anything with it. May Allah forbid, that child may even take another religion instead of Islam because the non-muslim would raise that child into his/her religion. I ask Allah to forgive my sins, the sins of our parents, and the sins of muslims around the world. Aamiin.

Asalaamu Calaykum Warahmatulaahi Wabarakaatu.

As an American and convert to Islam, I can say that this is the BEST thing for the children. In my family (American, Christian), I was raised with 2 children my parents adopted in addition to my 2 biological brothers. I have 4 children of my own now but would love to have more....I was never aware that Muslim children would be in the foster care system. As much as I want more children, this would be a greater blessing to me to help them, maybe raise them and know that I actually made a real difference to someone else's life. I believe it is right Islamically, from the heart. How can anyone ignore what a child needs...wherever they are from? They are innocent souls, not to blame for thier parents and from others around them. How can anyone claim to be Muslim and not see the needs of others? In Shallah, each of us can make a difference.


Dear Readers,

it is truly sad to read the article and the responses. Rather than worry about the the future of "Children" the great faith of Islam is now mroe concerned with "MUSLIM CHILDREN". Why is it important that a child has to have a religion for us to be concerned for the welfare of the children without home.

We should be concerned with the future of humanity and not ISLAM. Adults can make up there mind what religion to follow.

I wish that this article was about future of childern and not future of MUSLIM CHILDREN and that in my mind would have reflected the greatness of ISLAM.

thank you.

Assaalamulaikum . Dear Brothers/Sisters in Islam. I am not against the article but against the posters which you are publishing on the front page,Is it allowed in Islam to show the face of a women. Do u want to follow islam or follow other relegions.Please i request you not to post any type of photos of women.I dont get any logical understanding of yours.It is totally unislamic to show the face of a muslim women.Once again i strongly recommend you to stop these publishing of photos as soon as possible.May ALLAH give all of us hidayath and to follow the straight path.

After earthquake or other natural disasters or wars, there are helpless children left behind.

The best solution for these children would be immediate family members, but if they are not capable then the community should help one of the family member to take responsibility. example uncle, grand father etc etc.

Now if you send these children to other countries or western countries then who will be responsible. The Answer is no one will be truly responsible.

Here in the west people have very hard time raising their own kids. Having ample of resources or wealth is not enough.

The family who adopts for generous purpose or any other purpose, if God forbid one of the foster parents dies or gets critically sick or gets any other major problem, then it is just devastating for the adopted child. Then there is no one to take responsibility for the child's brought up.

And extended family does not take responsibility and many do indeed discriminate the adopted child right from the begining.

I think the only solution is Not adoption but orphanage. and early marriages in case of orphan girls.

Yes, I agree fully with the article. It is sad indeed if Muslims children are left in the foster care of non-muslims and ended up becoming non Muslims. These children are our next generation. If there are Muslims in the vicinity and they do not undetake this responsibility, in the end the Muslim ummah as a whole will be held responsible for not performaing our obligations. If these children are young and have not reached puberty, there is,in my view, no issue of hijab. Adoption is also not wrong in Islam in my view so long as the adopted child is aware that he/she is adopted. What is not pemissable is to pass off the adopted child as your natural child as this is a form of lying which is not permissable.

Dear sister, I'm a muslim woman who could not have any children. I've so much love in my heart that I'd love to give it to a muslim orphent who needs a home and an open heart. My husband has kids from his first marrige and they are all grown up and live away. I'm an orphent myself and so is my husband, and I know how sad and lonely that can be. I wish we can all as muclims get togethe and help those children who needs our love and faith in Allah to put their own little feet on the ground with no fear of tomorrow. Do we have same system here in Canada, Can we adopt some of those kids. I've always dreamed of having a girl and I will be more than happy to have one if possible. I do believe that Allah has send us in each other's way for a reason, and that is to be his own messangers and deliver his mercy and love through each on of his true believers. Allah be with you for bring up this issue wide open to open our eyes as muslim on what our childern may have to go through. Salaam

I am a licensed foster parent and a Muslim. I have not fostered children other than my own grandchildren when they were removed from the custody of their non muslim mother. However, I have remained a strong propoent of foster parenting and have kept my license even though my grandchildren have been returned to their mother. I do not beleive that children should be permanently separated from their parent, especially their mother unless it is a dire, unchangeable situation that will harm the children for the rest of their lives.

I want to make a point though, in Islam we are charged to help make a difference in the world. You make a difference by identifying and/or solving problems. We have a tendency as Muslims (and this is why the Christian faith in the US is in a crisis) to say, well I see the problem, but you know in Islam, or We as Muslim have rules . . . I want to wait to see what I should be doing under the rules -- i.e. what the scholars say. At some point as a beleiver, you should be able to see a problem and help to solve it, you should be able to see the inherit good and justice of your own actions. I fear that the real issue is that people may want to take RESPONSIBILITY for solving social ills, because they see themselves as "saved" and worthy of the comforts and good life they imagine they have.

These are words for consideration, for use to ponder. Please my prayer is that they are used for such and if they were offensive, I deeply and sincerely apologize.
Allah knows best

We need to make our muslim sisters and brothers understand more about foster care because i have seen muslim children raised by christian families and they later leave our glad you posted this article

i will be more then thankful to be a foster parent to a infant little girl and hope to adopt her.

Excellent article. I am a social worker and therapist working with children in foster care, some are Muslim foster children. It is sad to see our children in the foster care system, but sadder to see Muslims not helping to resolve this issue. Many of these chilren go to Christian homes and the only focus is to destroy their Muslim identity. "The Making of A Christian: Converting Muslim children to Christanity while in Foster CAre" Good practising Muslim adults are the only ones who can prevent this. It is about saving the next generation of Muslims. We have an obligation to these children and we must redefine what our definition of orphan is in order to reach out to a class of children who for all logical purposes have been orphaned outside of their parents being dead. Azizah magazine has done an excellent job and is a great representation of Islam.

Alhumdulillah that this topic has been addressed. I feel that too many muslims are hung up on (1) culture and (2)misinformation. The idea of adopting and fostercare is seen by most Muslims as Haram. However, in this day and age the only way to care for the Orphans as ordained in the Qur'an, is to either adopt or be a foster parent. I know of many times muslims have not wanted to report domestic and/or child abuse because they didn't want the children to end up in foster care with non-muslims, yet they were unwilling to become foster parents themselves. Thus allowing the cycle of abuse and hiding the abuse continues. Imams, Muslim Women's Groups and Islamic Social Service Agencies need to do more to educate the (Muslim)public about adoption and foster care in order to care for those muslim children who are in need. Other wise, groups like Feed the Children, Catholic Social Services etc will continue to take care of "Our" children and more generations of muslims will be lost.

Dear Sister,

This is an extremely delicate issue which needs to be addressed by the Muslim Umah. And I thank you for giving it the initial exposure it requires. Muslims are not indifferent to the needs and sufferings of the children of this world. Yet, there is that urgent call which we must respond to, and which our Prophet(SAWS)so effectively showed the Umah what to do. However, we have to consider the pros and cons regarding this issue, since Muslims are governed by the Allah, and their mode of conduct by the examples of our Rasool. This may or may not sit well with a non-muslim child. The Quran establishes the Law regarding Orphans, and adoption. However, the question still remains whether a Muslim family who would want to care for a foster child, should seek to address the issue of child's religion,and whether or not they should try to? There are several important issues that have to be looked at to properly establish a foster home for children. May be, we need to establish an Islamic forum where we can discuss the need of such an entity. May Allah guides us to this path so that we could effectively contribute, to the care of His creation.

Thank you for the input!

Jazakamullah khairan,


Very touching article, i am married and due to medical reasons we
dont have childres, me and my wife would love to foster a child, if
anyone knows any muslim foster care services in central california i
would like some information please, my email address is
[email protected] , JazakAllah

I think we need to understand the concept of foster parent the context of islam, there should be a way which we can help these children to get islamic knowledge as well as the love which they dont get in the instutions. i do hope that our scholars can give a way to handle the situation.As muslims i think we only have one culture and that is Islam. So lets keep this for Allah's sake and He will reward us!!!

I am happy that someone has brought up this important matter. What surprise me is how a lot of Muslims people and scholars alike do not want to do anything about it when it is an important part of being a Muslim is taking care of needy and week. I have been looking for many months now for a way to adopt a Muslim child or foster care for Muslims children, but I got no where in my search. I and my husband would love to adopt a child or two, and perhaps foster care some Muslim children when we are available in town.
The problem is that you hear about a lot of Muslim children end up with non Muslims families and even adpoted, but all I hear is it is "HARM SISTER TO ADOPT" knowingly that when we adopt we do not mean intentionally to change the child family name or deny his heirs,..etc.
wassalm alykum...