Group seeks Mus­lim foster par­ents

Ottawa Citizen - - NEWS - olivia Bowden

TORONTO• Shahzad Mustafa re­mem­bers think­ing of his own child­hood when a worker from the Chil­dren’s Aid So­ci­ety vis­ited his mosque to talk about the im­por­tance of Mus­lim fam­i­lies fos­ter­ing chil­dren of the same faith.

His mother had taken in three Mus­lim foster chil­dren for a few months when he was young — an ex­pe­ri­ence he said had a pro­found im­pact on his life.

As the CAS worker told the con­gre­ga­tion in Markham, Ont., last year about the scarcity of Mus­lim foster fam­i­lies in the re­gion, Mustafa says he was struck by a need to act — a feel­ing that even­tu­ally mo­ti­vated him to launch an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to en­cour­ag­ing Mus­lims in the Greater Toronto Area to be­come foster caregivers.

“We should be look­ing af­ter our kids and we should be part of a big­ger so­lu­tion,” the 50-year-old told The Cana­dian Press.

“As im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties be­come more prom­i­nent within Cana­dian so­ci­ety, there needs to be more out­reach within those com­mu­ni­ties to bring more fam­i­lies into the foster-care move­ment.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion, called FosterLink, launched in March with sup­port from Mercy Mis­sion Canada, a Mus­lim com­mu­nity devel­op­ment group that Mustafa is the direc­tor of.

FosterLink hosts events at mosques to raise awareness about fos­ter­ing and con­nect with po­ten­tial caregivers, Mustafa said. So far, it has re­cruited about 50 peo­ple who are go­ing through a months-long ap­pli­ca­tion process that could see them be­come foster par­ents.

“We’ve def­i­nitely seen a huge in­ter­est,” he said. “The in­take process is very rig­or­ous ... foster care isn’t meant for ev­ery­one and there are strict re­quire­ments.”

The Chil­dren’s Aid So­ci­ety of Toronto said there was a need for more caregivers of the Mus­lim faith.

“We un­der­stand that when we take kids from one cul­ture and put them in homes that are of a dif­fer­ent cul­ture, that is not in their best in­ter­est,” said Ma­hesh Pra­japat, Chief Oper­at­ing Of­fice of CAS Toronto.

Fos­ter­ing chil­dren in­volves look­ing af­ter a child who is un­der the tem­po­rary care of Chil­dren’s Aid un­til their orig­i­nal guardians are deemed fit enough to take them back or the child is adopted.

For Reshma Ni­azi, one of a few Mus­lim foster par­ents in the Greater Toronto Area, pro­vid­ing a sup­port­ive tem­po­rary home for a child of her faith is a way of fol­low­ing the teach­ings of her re­li­gion.

Is­lam, she said, teaches the im­por­tance of car­ing for your neigh­bours, some­thing fos­ter­ing al­lows her to do.

“You know in your heart that you’re purely do­ing this for the sake of the child, this isn’t about you any­more,” she said. “This is about giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity, giv­ing back to th­ese chil­dren who just need tem­po­rary homes.”

Ni­azi and her hus­band Kam­ran be­came foster par­ents 13 years ago and have cared for be­tween 15 and 20 chil­dren, she said. The cou­ple also have a son and two adopted chil­dren, one of whom is a former foster child she cared for.

Kam­ran and Reshma Ni­azi

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