Islam &Muslim Fostering – Misunderstandings within the Muslim community – Foster Care Link and the Islamic Fostering Service
Despite Islam and the Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be upon him) clear call to Muslims to foster and adopt orphans and children who cannot be cared for by their parents. Sections of the Muslim community have some questions about the permissibility of fostering in Islam. Foster Care Link appreciates individuals may practice at varied levels and interpret their commitment to religion differently. FCL recommends consultation with your regular trusted source of Islamic guidance for you to make an informed choice. However, please find some information below you may find useful:
One barrier for members of the Muslim community is based on issues of the child’s identity. Do fostered and adopted children assume the name and identify of their foster and adoptive parents? Islam is clear that foster and adopted children must retain their name, knowledge and heritage of their biological family. Also, as per contemporary social care practice, they must also not under any circumstances be led to believe that they are the biological child of the foster or adoptive parents.
Children’s entitlement to inheritance
Another potential barrier for members of the Muslim community is based on the issue of inheritance. Do fostered and adopted children have an entitlement to the inheritance of their foster and adopted parents? Again, Islam is clear on the ruling that foster and adopted children are not entitled to inherit the wealth of their foster and adopted parents. For children who are adopted there are recommendations to include a share for an adopted child from the one-third part open for general allocation.
A question also arises for families that follow Islam’s concept of the “Mahram”. This ruling restricts men and women to have informal relationships with individuals of the opposite sex who do not fall within the following categories of people; their spouse, their linear descendants and ascendants (i.e. grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren etc.), their siblings and their linear descendants and ascendants (i.e. uncles and aunties, great uncles and aunties, nephews and nieces etc.), all the ancestors of one’s spouse, all the descendants of one’s spouse and pre-pubescent children. Anyone who is not amongst the above categories would be deemed – non mahram. Some sections of the Muslim community question how they can foster young people of the opposite sex who have passed the age of puberty that are not from these permitted categories.
Many contemporary Islamic scholars have studied this question broadly and in detail in the following context:
the need for religiously and culturally appropriate foster carers for Muslim children in care; and
how professional foster care practise reflects and upholds the Islamic requirements of behaviour between the sexes as proposed in the concept of “Mahram”.
Firstly, these scholars have assessed the situation in light of the huge shortage of Muslim foster carers and the subsequent shortage of religiously and culturally appropriate carer options available to Muslim children in care. Based on this they have ruled that it is more beneficial for the preservation and development of the faith, religion and cultural identity of Muslim children to be cared for by a Muslim family than a family who does not follow Islam Also, these scholars have analysed the expectations of the UK Children’s Social Care Safe Caring Guidelines when caring for children of the opposite sex. Among other examples they found that the Guidelines recommend that; female children and young people are bathed by female carers where required, carers and children should avoid staying in each other’s company in their pyjamas/underwear/inappropriate clothing, the child should sit in the backseat when travelling in a car alone with the opposite sex, close physical contact should be avoided/minimised etc.
Their study has led these scholars to conclude that the UK Children’s Social Care Safe Caring Guidelines recommended practise reflects many of the dimensions and the essence of Islam’s teachings of the “Mahram”, which protects the dignity, personal space and social space of each of the sexes. Based on these two bodies of information, these scholars have ruled that it is permissible for Muslim Foster Carers to foster young people of the opposite sex who have passed the age of puberty. Foster Care Link and the Islamic Fostering Service, aims to meet this need by providing the Muslim community with a service in which Muslim families can provide high quality foster care for vulnerable and needy Muslim children, in an environment that is compliant with the teachings of Islam.