Caring for Muslim Children
There are currently more Muslim children looked after by the local authority than there are Muslim foster carers in England. Muslim children in England are from the most diverse of backgrounds, ranging from those that have ancestry in the highlands of Scotland to those from ethnic backgrounds spanning right across the globe. Like all children they deserve and have the right to be cared for in a culturally and religiously sensitive manner.
Stability and a sense of identity and belonging are important for children. When children are unable to live with their birth family and are in the care of the local authority it is important to match them with foster carers that can promote their cultural heritage. Unfortunately due to the lack of Muslim foster carers it is not possible to place all Muslim children with Muslim carers. This does not mean that non-Muslim carers do not have a duty to provide an environment that best supports the child’s cultural and religious heritage.
Below is a useful sample guide taken from publications by Mercy Mission full publication found here.
Supporting Muslim children
A child’s religious and cultural identity forms a large portion of the emotional, intellectual and physical wellbeing of any child whether Muslim or non-Muslim. A child that follows the Muslim faith will not only require the basics of fulfilling an obligation to eating halal food, fasting and praying but also the renewal of connections, continuation of connections or even the initiation of connection within the Muslim community.
It is essential, age and understanding permitted, to ascertain the wishes of the child and where possible the birth parents as to the role Islam means to the individual. As a Muslim the practice of Islam can vary dramatically from one Muslim to another in their everyday life. When advice is not forthcoming from either the child or family members then it would be highly advisable for the foster carers to practise the basic tenets of Islam, which are highlighted below.
Enabling a child to be proactive in their faith
Promoting a child’s role within the Muslim community can be supported by encouraging some of the following:
- Visiting the local mosque
- Attending congregational prayers such as Jumu’ah (Friday) and Tarawee (evening prayers during Ramadan)
- Participating in annual festivals such as Eid
- Enrolling in after school Islamic educational programmes
- Joining Muslim run family day care
- Taking the child to Muslim play groups
- Attending a Muslim school
These are a few examples that can be easily achieved to support the child in your care.
Islam prohibits all forms of games of chance, especially where money is involved which includes raffles and lotteries. The reason why gambling is prohibited in Islam is similar to the prohibition of alcohol and drugs all of which are addictive.
You would need to consider your own habits surrounding gambling and betting as many foster carers would be involved in games of chance such as the National lottery etc.
Your Muslim foster child may not agree with this and so they may find it offensive if you wanted to involve them in choosing the numbers or to go to the shop to buy the lottery ticket.
Visiting the GP
Muslims are required to look after themselves physically, intellectually and spiritually. This includes seeking medical help when required and following through with prescribed treatments as instructed. Wherever possible, a female doctor should be sought for females and male doctors for males. However, if this is not an option then it is permissible for a Muslim to be administered medical treatment by the opposite gender.
There is no prohibition on Muslims to keep pets with the exception of dogs and pigs. Guide dogs, guard dogs and hunting dogs are acceptable however for the specific purpose that they are needed.
Please note, however, that dogs are not to be allowed to enter a place of prayer, whether that is in the young person’s bedroom or in the mosque. If the young person would like to keep a pet, then the pet’s welfare is paramount. Many Muslim children are afraid of dogs due to a lack of exposure to them. If you see an ‘irrational’ fear of dogs in your foster child, it is most likely a genuine dislike for being near dogs.
Inside the family home
Muslim children may react and interact differently with different family members due to the inter gender relationships of Islam. It may seem that a Muslim teenager is being unsociable or distant towards certain members of the family. This may simply be indicative of them not wanting to breach Islamic etiquettes in the home. This does not mean that they may not interact with the opposite gender; rather, that they may wish to limit their interaction with the opposite gender to collective gatherings and avoid one to one discussion when other family members are not physically present.