An innovative project to encourage and support more Muslims to become foster carers was launched last night at a charity gala dinner.
The event raised funds for the new Muslim Fostering Project and was hosted by the Better Community Business Network (BCBN), a Muslim-led organisation that identifies and supports worthwhile community projects. The Muslim Fostering Project will be established and run by the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, and the prominent community development charity, Mercy Mission UK.
Through the Muslim Fostering Project, the two charities will partner to undertake new research into the extent of the challenges around recruiting and retaining Muslim foster carers, as well as delivering community outreach aimed at increasing the number of Muslim foster families.
The project will also provide good practice advice to help remove barriers to the recruitment and retention of Muslim foster carers, and provide tailored information and support foster carers who are not from a Muslim background and are caring for Muslim children.
Every day there are 64,000 fostered children living with 55,000 foster families in the UK. A child comes into care needing a foster family every 20 minutes. Many of these children come into care because of neglect or abuse. A small but growing number need care because they are seeking asylum in the UK from places like Albania, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Syria. There are currently over 4,500 unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the UK.
Thousands of new foster families are needed every year, from a range of backgrounds, including those from the Muslim community. Alongside the task of caring for children and young people on a day-to-day basis, foster carers also need to support their emotional, physical, educational, cultural and religious needs.
At the gala dinner, speeches were given by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families, Edward Timpson. There was also entertainment from comedian Paul Chowdhry and a charity auction that will contribute towards funding the project.
Edward Timpson, Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families, said: ‘As someone who grew up as part of a large foster family, I know that fostering can be one of the most rewarding experiences, both for foster carers and the children and young people they look after.
‘The Muslim Fostering Project is an important piece of work and I look forward to engaging with The Fostering Network and Mercy Mission UK as we progress our national fostering stocktake, a fundamental review of fostering in this country.’
Tariq Usmani, BCBN Chairman, said: 'The Muslim Fostering Project has been launched to ensure that, in the face of the potential shortage of Muslim foster carers, vulnerable children from a Muslim background get the support they need.
'The project aims to assist foster carers from all faiths and backgrounds to provide a placement which ensures a degree of cultural continuity, so that Muslim children can feel understood, accepted and connected to a familiar community. With help and advice, this can be simple to achieve - but it can make a world of difference to an unsettled child, struggling to make a new life far from all they have known. BCBN is proud to be part of the excellent work undertaken by the Muslim Fostering Project in supporting foster carers in the UK.'
Chief executive of The Fostering Network, Kevin Williams, said: 'Thousands of new foster families need to be recruited across the UK each year. Currently there is little information about the religious background of children in care or of foster carers themselves. We are eager to research the situation to help us build a picture of the experiences of Muslim foster carers and those who enquire but do not proceed.
'We also want to better understand what barriers, if any, stand in the way of Muslims becoming foster carers and to highlight good practice in overcoming these barriers. This is all with the aim of giving fostered children the most stable placement possible, which in turn will give those children the best chance of fulfilling their potential.'
Chief executive of Mercy Mission UK, Azim Kidwai, said: 'This is an unprecedented piece of work which will dramatically enhance the Muslim community’s ability to care for the most vulnerable of its children. We will be working with our partners to dramatically improve the Muslim community’s participation in foster care and help mature the cultural competency of services to better reach them.'