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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

“They call us ‘Auntie’ and ‘Uncle’” says Muslim couple who have fostered kids since 2013

Mr and Mrs Tai have looked over fourteen children since becoming foster parents almost ten years ago.

For the tens of millions of Muslims marking the holy month of Ramadan throughout April, it is a time for fasting, prayer and spiritual reflection.

It is also an opportunity to offer services to the community, by helping those in need and sharing whatever one has with others.

For families like Kaushar and Anisa Tai, fostering local children has been one way to fulfil those values whilst reaping the many rewards that come with it.

Since 2013, the Dewsbury couple has fostered 14 children of all ages and ethnic backgrounds on a long and short-term basis through Kirklees Council.

Since 2013, the Dewsbury couple has fostered 14 children.

In England last year, there were 80,750 children in care, up 1% on last year and continuing the rise seen in recent years.

This is a rate of 67 per 10,000 children – the same as last year and up from 64 per 10,000 children in 2018.

According to Home Office statistics, only 15% of foster carers are from a non-white background. In Kirklees, there were 610 looked-after-children in March 2021, a rate of 82 per 10,000. This is in comparison to Bradford where the number of looked-after-children was 1,348 with a rate of 167 per 10,000 children.

In Leeds, 1,279 children were cared for by the state, a rate of 159 per 10,000 kids.

The number of children looked after by local authorities who were adopted fell by 18% in 2021, continuing a fall from a peak in 2015.  The large decrease last year is likely driven by the impact on court proceedings during the pandemic, where cases progressed more slowly or were paused.

The couple is hoping others will offer a loving home to some of the many vulnerable children who enter the care system.

Mr Tai said: “I came into fostering having previously worked in public health and as a children’s social worker, so it seemed like a natural progression. Throughout the assessment process, our social worker was so supportive, and we actually found it to be quite therapeutic.

“We had considered fostering Muslim children only so that we could help to meet their cultural and religious needs. When children come into care, they come from all backgrounds and usually need to be placed with a foster family immediately.

They foster children of all races and backgrounds.

“Also, Islam teaches us to help every human being regardless of their faith, ethnic background, colour or race. In Islam, fostering is considered a highly desirable practice, or Sunnah, and is equal to caring for an orphaned child – for us, it’s a blessing knowing that we are fulfilling a Sunnah.

“Over the years, we’ve fostered both Muslim and non-Muslim children – some of whom know us as “Uncle” and “Auntie”, as is customary among Asian and Muslim communities – and we feel this has been the best decision we made.

“We loved being parents to our own children, but looking after other people’s children, who have been through a lot of trauma and neglect, means there are inevitably additional challenges. As well as the support we’ve received from our social workers, our Islamic faith has given us the strength and courage we’ve needed to help the children overcome their past traumas.

“We once looked after a boy who, because of what he’d been through, was fearful of men. After a lot of reassurance and spending quality time with him, his self-esteem increased, and he was eventually able to overcome this fear.

“We strongly believe that if you put your heart into fostering and providing love and care for a child, you can receive it back only with goodness.”

The couple gives their foster children the same opportunities their biological grown-up children had growing up.

For the couple – who have three children and three grandchildren of their own – becoming foster carers has been life-changing.

Mrs Tai explained: “Over the years there have been so many memorable moments. Most weekends we take the children out for meals, and we go on long walks together.

“There have been family weddings and birthdays together, and Kaushar has come to enjoy many of the activities they enjoy, such as football, swimming, and trampolining. Just as we took our own children on holiday, we have wanted to give these children the same chance to experience things they’d never tried before.

“Seeing their joy and happiness at being able to try things for the first time has been so heart-warming and it’s something we’ll never forget.

“We’ve made so many fantastic friends. We belong to the Asian Fostering Network and Kirklees Fostering Network, who have been hugely supportive, and we’ve been on many training sessions to help enhance our skills.

“Whilst fostering is challenging and no two children are the same, the rewards are immense. You feel a real sense of achievement when the children enjoy being with you and when you can help them to grow in confidence, overcome their issues and, ultimately, flourish as individuals.”

Mel Meggs, Strategic Director for Children’s Services at Kirklees Council, said: “Kaushar and Anisa are a shining example to us all. They’ve put their heart and soul into fostering and what they’ve achieved with the children they’ve looked after is a testament to this.

“With love and encouragement, it’s possible to turn a child’s life around no matter how difficult a start they’ve had. At Kirklees Council, we need more foster carers so that local children can stay in the area and have the best support available – please get in touch.”

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