“We estimate there is a shortage of 8,000 foster carers,” says Kevin Williams, chief executive of the Fostering Network which is the UK’s leading foster non-profit. “And there is a particular shortage of Muslim foster carers.” The Guardian profiles two British Muslim families who share their experience fostering children, both Muslim and non-Muslim.
Right before Christmas in 2010, Riffat and Sajjadtook took in three Caucasian children who were raised in a Christian household and were in urgent need of short-term care. “We are Muslims and we’d never had a Christmas tree in our home,” says Riffat who is of Pakistani heritage. “But these children were Christian and we wanted them to feel connected to their culture.” The couple quickly purchased a Christmas tree, presents were purchased and the home was made festive for the children. “I had never seen that kind of extra happiness and excitement on a child’s face,” recalls Riffat. The children were supposed to stay for a few weeks but seven years later, two of the three siblings are still living with them.
A British Pakistani, Shareen and her husband Asif, began fostering three years ago, and has looked after children from many nationalities including Afro-Caribbean, Syrian, Egyptian and Pakistani. “I just could not believe that there could be children so deprived of love,” she says. Shareen’s longest foster placement arrived three years ago, a boy from Syria. “It took ages to gain his trust… I got a picture dictionary that showed English and Arabic words and I remember one time when I pronounced an Arabic word wrong and he burst out laughing and told me I was saying it wrong – that was the breakthrough.” Now 18, the young man speaks English fluently and is applying for apprenticeships. And he still lives with Shareen and her husband.