Have “Faith” to Foster
The diversity of the population in England is represented by many different beliefs and faiths, from all sections of the community, and this needs to be reflected in the people coming forward to be assessed to enter the fostering population. Every child deserves the right to allow their own heritage and faith to be explored and developed whether in the care system or not.
It is vitally important that children are placed with foster carers who can meet their needs and they are more likely to thrive if their religious and/or ethnic background is taken into consideration. Local authorities can only exercise this if the opportunity to place a child in the best environment exists. The Fostering population desperately requires more potential foster carers to come forward for assessment from as many varied backgrounds as possible. Local authorities and agencies will try to recruit a wide variety of foster carers who will be best able to meet the cultural and faith needs of the children that enter the care system but the biggest stumbling block is that they need you to come forward to be assessed.
It does not matter what your religion is and this should not affect your application to foster. However you would need to consider, how you would feel about discussing issues such as alternative religious belief or sexuality with a child, or how you would respond to a child who did not want to take part in any religious ceremonies with your family.
Below are case studies from existing foster carers that have strong beliefs, faiths and diverse cultural backgrounds.
If you would like to submit your story please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
Jewish Foster Carer’s Perspective
Firstly, I should mention that although writing about religious foster children from a Jewish perspective, the key points mentioned here similarly apply to all religions.
It is important to understand that when a child comes from a religiously, strictly-observant home, their religious practice is a core part of their daily life. For example, from a Jewish, orthodox perspective, their day may include prayers, blessings and synagogue attendance. There will be complex food laws, strict Sabbath observance and more. Their first language may be Yiddish or Hebrew, they are likely to attend a faith-based school and may follow a specific dress code.
In fact, it is fair to say that the more observant the child’s original home was, the more likely it is that their religious practice and upbringing is an integral part of their whole day, their culture, their life and their existence.
Picture the scene…. When a child is placed into foster care, it is sadly, usually in very painful circumstances. Suddenly, a child is uprooted from their home and placed in a new one. Traumatised and distressed at suddenly being apart from their family, their religious practice might be their major – if not their only – routine and comfort. As their lives are subsequently, dramatically changed and they are deprived of much that was familiar and gave them security, their religious practice may be the only constant that they have left to cling to.
However, because of a lack of approved, religious foster carers, regretfully there is often no choice but to place this child in a non-religious or alternative-religion-based home. To this child, this will be felt to be an alien placement. In effect, this is dramatically ripping away what may be his/her only constant in their lives. Bad enough that this child is no longer with their own family, he/she is likely to already have serious emotional and other problems, so being placed with families that don’t have a closely-matched ‘religious approach’, certainly adds deeply to his/her trauma.
However well-meaning fostering services and foster carers may be, and I say this with the greatest respect to both, unless the carers are ‘living’ the same religion and share a similar level of observance as the child, although better than nothing, it is unrealistic to think that one can simply recreate an authentic, religious environment. To be blunt, buying a Christmas tree does not create a Christian home. Buying Halal meat and a prayer mat does not create a Muslim home. Buying kosher meat does not create a Jewish home. It is so much more than that.
The solution is simple… there needs to be a pool of observant, religious foster carers (from all religions) that are available when needed. As well as offering the usual, incredible care and love; foster carers will also be offering vulnerable children a genuinely, appropriate placement – a placement where their cultural/religious needs are closely matched – a placement whose religious practices and subsequent familiarity to the child, assists him/her to thrive, providing much of the vital security, structure, boundaries and comfort that he/she so desperately need.
So, to conclude, if you are a religiously observant Jew (or a religiously-observant follower of any religion), and you are considering fostering, then this should be an added reason for you to do so.
Is fostering easy? Definitely not! Trust me! It may well be the hardest thing you ever do. It will take over and change your life. You may sometimes cry. But more often you will smile! And you will be doing an incredible job!
There is a very profound quote from the famous Jewish text, the Talmud:
“Whoever saves a life is considered as if he has saved an entire world” (Sanhedrin 37)
Have you saved your life yet?
Christian Foster Carer’s Perspective
Fostering is a huge part of what makes our family special, and so is our faith. It saddens me when I read high profile and well publicised articles which lead Christians to think they will face discrimination, and may even be rejected if they want to become Foster Carers due to their faith. It goes without saying that any Foster Carer should be accepting of children, young people and other adults irrespective of their culture, religion or sexuality and I would hope my faith makes me more accepting not less! In my experience my faith not only sits hand-in-hand with my decision to foster but makes me more resilient to cope with the daily challenges fostering presents and enhances the lives in the children in my care.
Fostering children who are not able to live with their birth families is not itself mentioned in the gospel, but I feel it does reflect the essence of the gospel message and gives us an opportunity to hopefully ‘do good’ at a time when the care system is struggling under the strain of children waiting for temporary or forever homes. John 13:34 says “A new commandment I give to you, that you love another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”. Fostering gives us the chance to do just that….
As a family we have fostered children of all ages, ability, culture and religion over the last 15 years. Our home is inclusive to all beliefs and we make the appropriate changes to ensure children and young people can continue to practice their own religion in our home. That said fundamentally Christianity is the driving force behind the care we give.
Taking into consideration birth families wishes and feelings, where possible, our foster children quickly become part of the church community. I am a firm believer it takes more than just one or two people to raise a child and our church community provide a wealth of love and guidance for all our children. Assuming there are no barriers to attending church due to a foster placements religious beliefs or wishes, we attend church most weeks together as a family. This week, following a new sibling group arriving last week, we arrived at church with two new children, six in total. We didn’t meet with the stares we might in other environments, or a list of probing insensitive questions but with open arms, warmth and acceptance.
We are very fortunate to have an active Sunday School which our children seem to love. Not only does it provide religious and moral guidance but also provides a wealth of other opportunities such as public speaking, drama, singing and exploring their creativity. I love that our children, whatever their background, come to understand the real meaning around Easter and Christmas, as well as enjoying the chocolate and presents these special times bring!
The UK Church has the potential to make a significant impact on the children waiting for a family to care for them and hope that more families and churches like ours can open their hearts to children who need temporary and permanent homes.
Muslim foster carer’s perspective
More foster carers are required to meet the demands of our care system. We currently have a shortfall of foster placements to meet the number of children entering the care system, it is not only the quantity that is required but also the diversity of backgrounds and cultures that needs to be addressed.
Children come into care from every conceivable ethnicity and culture but more often than not there are too few current foster carers to match that of the child. Foster carers are unique people that often look after children of different heritages to their own and will look after more than one child of a different backgroud to their own during their vocation as a foster carer. Due to the nature of the people that make good foster carers every effort is made to respect and promote the ethnicity and beliefs of the children that come into care but it is often the case that their needs would be better met when placed with foster carers of the same ethnicity or faith.
The case for increasing the recruitment from as diverse a spectrum as possible is very much highlighted from the Muslim community in the U.K. Some local authorities have had the view to place Muslim children into non- Muslim foster placements has helped to integrate better into British lifestyle but at what cost to the child. Muslim foster carers would be able to protect the child’s culture and identity as well as not only the integration into British lifestyle but the influence on British lifestyle.
How would non-Muslim foster carers ensure a Halal diet (including takeaways etc) and it is also important for the child to have foster carers who prayed regularly and knew and respected the timings of religious festivals?
We all know that stability, a sense of identity and belonging are important for children of all faiths and ethnicity and that is why when children are unable to live with their birth families and come into care of the local authority we must be able to match them as closely as possible to their background.
There is a desperate need for Muslim foster carers in England and Fosterline would urge all who are considering becoming a foster carer to contact us for further investigation on the matter. We have been talking to Active Care Solutions around the issue of attracting more Muslim foster carers.
‘The most famous orphan in Islamic culture is, without doubt, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. His father died before he was born and by the time he was eight he had lost both his mother and the grandfather who named him. He was subsequently raised by his uncle Abu Talib who continued to be his protector until his own death, when Muhammad was an adult of almost fifty years of age.
When Muhammad’s wife Khadijah gave to him a slave named Zaid, Muhammad freed the boy and raised him as if he were his own son. The importance of taking homeless children to care for them is well-established in Islam.
The Islam form of “adoption” is called kafala, which literally means sponsorship, but comes from the root word meaning “to feed.” It is best translated as “foster parenting”.
Source: The Islamic View Of Adoption And Caring For Homeless Children by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
As can be seen, foster care is well established in Islam as a means of providing care to children. Fostering allows a child to benefit from the care of a good home, while at the same time not losing his/her rights from birth parents.
Sabbir is a foster carer with Active Care Solutions and has provided us with a brief insight into why he became a foster carer.
My dear father who died in 2006 lost his mother just after he was born.
He lost his father too at the age of 11. He was then fostered by friends and family.
My father would always say that all children are special and that we should be kind to all children and take the opportunity to foster if and when the situation presented itself.
During our fostering career we have come across so many children that have had their rights to religion neglected or not sufficiently met. We have been taught by our children that they themselves are eager to learn about their religion; however there is a national shortage of Muslim foster carers.
We have had Muslim children who were placed with us who had been previously been placed with non-Muslim carers and despite the best efforts of those carers have gaps in their cultural identity. The fostering community strives to always try to promote, propagate and further enhance a child’s religious and cultural beliefs.
This being said, however practising Muslim carers are the ideal people to truly understand and implement a Muslim child’s religious needs. We have had children come to us and thank us for teaching them what Islam truly is. These foster children are craving for a loving, caring family. Love and care doesn’t just mean feeding, clothing, safeguarding and ensuring their educational needs are met. It also means looking after their faith.
My wife and I started fostering 2 years ago. As Muslims we have a duty of care and responsibility towards the next generation. There are so many Muslim children in the UK that need Muslim foster carers. Our beloved prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was also an orphan and had been fostered.
As Muslims we are taught to have extreme love for our prophet and follow his ways. One way we can show our love and devotion to our prophet is by fostering.
Like it or not the current generation of children will be the next generation of parents. We need to ensure that these children are equipped to deal with life and are able to pass on the message of our beloved prophet to the next generation. Let’s not just sit back and watch our future generation slip away from our hands. Allah will question us. We have a duty.
Please help us to inspire others by fostering before we expire ourselves. Fostering will enable us to fulfil one of our religious duties of dawat.
First Islamic Adoption and Fostering Guide Published
The Penny Appeal Adoption and Fostering team have collaborated with over 60 Islamic scholars from across the UK to compile an Islamic Adoption and Fostering Guide. The booklet covers the faith’s perspective and virtues on adoption and fostering. Tailored speciﬁcally to the Muslim community, the guide is designed to highlight the position of the Muslim faith for those who are unsure about becoming foster carers or adopters.
Find out more about the guide here.