The very first Islamic Guidance Document on Adoption and Fostering was launched at the House of Commons on 21 March. The report was commissioned by the UK charity Penny Appeal, who are actively involved in recruiting Muslim carers and adopters.
The Islamic Guidance document research which included the involvement of leading UK scholars, Community leaders and sector professionals, underlined the communal obligation to care for vulnerable children in the care system. This clear position is then expanded via six main themes which will help answer and explain some of the cultural barriers that Muslim adopters and carers may face with this new emphasis on the obligation of the community to engage positively in this area.
The six themes stated in the document include:
- The emphasis in Islam on caring for orphans (definition and status)
- Definition of fostering and adoption in Islam (In the UK and terminology).
- Preservation of a child’s identity (preservation of lineage).
- Managing familial relationships with a child who is not biologically related (including marriage and inheritance issues).
- Formation of parent-child relationships (non-biological breastfeeding).
- Cross-religious placement (Looking after non-Muslim children).
Ten recommendations have also been made for Muslim Communities and their leaders in the UK, some include:
- If you’re are able too, become adopters or foster carer (in the tradition of the Prophet) to act as a role models to the communities.
- Invite sector professionals or Islamic scholars who are involved in this work to mosques and local community centres
- Ensure children in care, their adoptive or foster parents, and professionals who work with them, feel welcome and supported in mosques and community centres, regardless of their gender, race, culture or any other demographics.
The six main themes and full document published by Penny Appeal has come about through bespoke symposia and extensive consultation, expert witness statements and research.
Imam Dr Abdullah Hasan who has been involved in the development and conclusions of the guidance documents is part of a list of 100 UK leading Imams, community leaders and social care professionals who have put their names to endorse the findings and recommendations of the guidance document, Imam Hasan says: Caring for vulnerable children is of course encouraged by all faiths and societies and bringing together a cross section of Muslim scholars and leaders to hear the witness testimonies of those in care and those working with those in care, was a humbling experience. Our faith and humanity require us to act and this is what the guidance document is designed to promote.
Penny Appeal CEO Aamer Naeem who launched the guidance said: “The clarity on the communal obligation upon the community to address the disparity of carers to children in care is a major shift in understanding of the problem. It takes it from voluntary to compulsory. Penny Appeal has a referral service where potential adopters and foster carers can get advice and we assess suitability in order to ensure those passed on to appropriate authorities and agencies are more likely to be successfully matched with a child. As important as this clarity is, the process of getting the opinion was equally as exciting and we will now be adopting it again to look at other areas of development and humanitarian work.
Penny Appeal has also commissioned additional research through the Centre for Trust Peace and social relations at Coventry University which was led by Dr Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, research fellow in faith and peaceful relations at Coventry University.
In conclusion, The Guidance document aims to comprehensively clarify commonly misunderstood topics regarding faith teachings and will make it clear that caring for orphans and vulnerable children in the Islamic tradition is a praiseworthy endeavour and, in some situations a necessity. The document will provide solutions for prospective carers, Muslim communities and care providers.