Of the 35,000 children monitored by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, there are approximately 600 children with severe medical needs in dire need of foster parents. “If anyone ever calls us and says, ‘This kid needs to go home on hospice,’ there’s only one name we think of,’ says Melissa Testerman, a DCFS intake coordinator.
And that person is Mohamed Bzeek – a devout Libyan-born Muslim who is the only foster parent in the county willing to take in terminally ill children. In 1991, Mr. Bzeek first experienced the death of a foster child who was born with a spinal disorder, and was barely a year old when she died at his home. By the mid-1990s, Mr. Bzeeks and his late-wife, Dawn, put all their energies into taking care of terminally ill children.
Through the years, Mr. Bzeek has buried a total of ten children, some having died in his arms. And now he cares for a bedridden 6-year-old foster girl who is blind and deaf, suffering from a rare brain defect. He says that the hospital has become a second home and spends much of his time talking to doctors, fighting over medical bills with insurance companies, and coordinating with lawyers who represent the child and her social workers.
“The key is, you have to love them like your own,” says Mr. Bzeek whose biological son was born with brittle bone disease and dwarfism. “I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.”