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.
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Yours in His Service to All Families/Children, Catherine Summers Denver, Colorado
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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.