The launch of the first Islamic guidance document on adoption and fostering, commissioned by Penny Appeal, was held on March 21 at The House of Commons, and Brown Girl’s London division was honored to be among those invited to the event.
The guidance document extensively clarifies commonly misunderstood topics regarding faith teachings, making it clear that caring for orphans and vulnerable children in Islam is an admirable endeavor and, circumstantially, a requirement. The document also provides solutions for prospective foster caregivers, Muslim communities and social workers.
British Conservative Party politician (and MP) Nadhim Zahawi, Labour Party politician (and MP) Naz Shah and CoramBAAF, an adoption and fostering association, supported the creation of this groundbreaking achievement. The association’s members include Tay Jiva, adoption and fostering manager for Penny Appeal; Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, senior researcher and fellow at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at the University of Coventry; and Savita De Sousa, a consultant for BME and private fostering at CoramBAAF.
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The research conducted for the Islamic guidance document included involvement on behalf of leading UK scholars, community leaders and sector professionals. It further responds to a 2015 Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which revealed that more than 4,000 Muslim children make up the foster population each year and that more than half of these children spend time with non-Muslim families. It is aimed specifically at Muslim communities and is designed to highlight the faith’s position on adoption for those who are unsure about becoming foster parents or adopters.
For this purpose, the document focuses on six main themes:
- The emphasis in Islam on caring for orphans
- Definition of fostering and adoption in Islam
- Preservation of a child’s identity
- Managing familial relationships with a child who is not biologically related
- Formation of parent-child relationships
- Cross-religious placement
These six themes were chosen, and the full document was written, after substantial dialogue, expert witness statements and research.
“The clarity on the communal obligation upon the community to address the disparity of caregivers to children in care is a major shift in the understanding of the problem,” said Penny Appeal’s CEO Aamer Naeem, who launched the document. “It takes it from voluntary to compulsory. Penny Appeal has a referral service where potential adopters and foster parents can get advice, and we assess suitability in order to ensure those are passed on to appropriate authorities. As important as this clarity is, the process of getting opinions was equally exciting, and we will now be adopting it again to look at other areas of development and humanitarian work.”
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Imam Dr. Abdullah Hasan is one of 100 UK leading Imams, community leaders and social care professionals who have endorsed the findings and recommendations of the guidance document.
“Caring for vulnerable children is, of course, encouraged by all faiths and societies,” he said. “Bringing together a cross-section of Muslim scholars and leaders to hear the witness testimonies of those in care and people working with individuals in care is a humbling experience. Our faith and humanity require us to act, and this is what the guidance document is designed to promote.”
Savita de Sousa also spoke on CoramBAAF’s behalf.
“CoramBAAF welcomes this development,” she said. “From experience working in Muslim communities on adoption and fostering, and with experts around the country supporting them, we know that children from Muslim backgrounds must preserve their identity and lineage and be cared for and homed in the most suitable placement that can meet their ethnicity, culture, religion and language needs.”
Penny Appeal has commissioned additional research through the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, led by Dr. Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor.