Abid and Shabnam live in Birmingham and have been foster carers for over 10 years.
Our two sons had grown up. They’d both gone to London, to university, to study. And here we were in this family house, just the two of us. Then Shabnam read an article in the paper saying that there was a shortage of foster carers for Muslim children – children whose needs could not be fully met because there aren’t enough carers from the same background. We are both Indian Muslims, and so that was another important reason for taking the step.
We’d had no experience of fostering whatsoever before, and we didn’t know anybody who’d been doing it. But we had shared a home with my brother’s family at one time, and we had lived with five children in the house. And my sister-in-law went out to work, so Shabnam had been caring for them all. That experience turned out to be very useful when we had our first placement.
There were two boys and two girls, brothers and sisters. The youngest boy was four; the eldest boy was 12. They were dual-heritage, white and Bangladeshi, and although they didn’t speak the language, they had been brought up to understand some things about their culture.
It was chaotic to start with! Very difficult in the beginning, because the children had been through some troubled times. And there was a lot of learning for us to do. The eldest boy found it hardest to settle. He had been like a father to the younger ones for a long time so he didn’t communicate well with us to start with. He was very guarded. So I took it slowly with him. He began to see for himself that we cared about them, and wanted to take good care of them all. And I started to bring him here into our sitting room every couple of weeks for our own time. A man-to-man talk. Sit him down. Talk to him and make him feel more relaxed and easy. So slowly, slowly it began to get better.
Now he’s 22 and he’s gone through a lot of changes in his life. Yet, every now and then he will phone and tell me what he’s doing. Then he’ll ask, uncle, what do you think I should do?
Communication is the key, just as it is with bringing up your own children. And keep on trying. Take them in as part of your family, and most children will come around and settle. Because children do understand. Given time, they will recognise that you mean well and that you want the best for them. That you believe in them. Give them time, and give them love.