Children in Care: Preserving the Muslim Identity

Children in Care: Preserving the Muslim Identity

By Shadim Hussain

Last week, we sadly lost dear brother Yusef Paul McCormack who had played a significant role in the community and in helping the Muslim Fostering Project. There are many lessons that can be drawn from brother Yusef’s life and his lived experiences of growing up in care in the UK. Yusef’s experiences show a greater need for the perseveration of children’s identity when going into care.

It was extremely disturbing to hear that Yusef’s name had been changed when he was going into care to the name ‘Paul’ as the agency felt that it would increase his chances of being accepted by a foster carer. This clearly shows the need and demand for foster carers and adopters from diverse backgrounds and faiths to ensure that children in care are placed with carers who are sensitive to their faith and cultural needs. These gaps must be addressed in the latest government care review to ensure that no other child has to experience having their identity changed.

Yusef’s story

Yusef was born in a Muslim family with ethnic routes somewhere in Persia and grew up in care in the 1960’s. His name was changed to Paul McCormack to make him more likely to be accepted by foster carers. He went through many challenges throughout his life. However, after leaving care he got married and had children.

It was Yusef’s lived experiences which spurred him to become a foster carer and adopter himself. Yusef focused most of his time on training social workers to be more sensitive towards children in care and he supported the development of The Muslim Fostering Project. Yusef has helped many people on their journey to fostering and adoption and has been actively campaigning for the care experienced community. Yusef was also passionate about art and expressed his lived experience, feelings and identity through his painting and sculptures.

He had rediscovered his birth name, faith and cultural identity only as an adult when he was able to trace his original birth certificate.  On his first visit to Regent’s Park Mosque, Yusef said, ‘I love the architecture and felt connected to Islam, a sense of belonging to the community. It was interesting to see how so many strangers from diverse backgrounds came together to pray.

We can see from the tributes on social media that Yusef has touched and inspired many lives, his legacy will continue in all the people who met him.

Lessons in the importance of identity

The identity of a Muslim is important not just by having a Muslim name but also by understanding our roots and acting according to the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him.

The Qur’an clearly states that, ‘Call them by (the name of) their (real) fathers; It is more equitable in the sight of Allah. And if you do not know their fathers, then they are your brothers in faith and your friends. There is no sin on you in the mistake you make, but in that which you do with intention of your heart; and Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. good of his own soul.”  [Surah 31, Ayah 12]

Children going into foster care should not have to change their name that gives them the Islamic identity neither do they have to change their surname. In addition, their faith must be nurtured and encouraged.

There is a real shortage of Muslim foster carers and adopters and it is pivotal that more foster carers and adopters take this role on to ensure that children from an Islamic faith are able to have foster carers who can meet their faith and cultural needs and comfortable in their own skin.

Our thoughts and prayers go to Brother Yusef and his family. May Allah SWT grant him Jannathul Firdous and enable his legacy to live on.

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