Nova Scotia

Halifax imam working to get more Muslim foster families

A Muslim leader in Halifax has been raising awareness on the importance of fostering children by providing counselling and sermons in an effort to provide more homes to children.

'We believe that this is an act of worship in Islam,' says imam Abdallah Yousri

Imam Abdallah Yousri speaks about the importance of fostering children in one of his sermons. (CBC)

The Department of Community Services is turning to Muslim communities and other diverse groups to help increase the number of foster families in the province.

Six years ago, there were around 800 foster families, but that number dropped to 580 last year.

The decline has been due to an aging population and the challenge in recruiting younger families and individuals to foster.

"I'm really excited that this year we're seeing those numbers start to increase again, but we never have enough homes," said Wendy Bungay, director of placement services for the department.

Currently, there are very few Muslim foster families, so the department contacted the imam of Ummah Mosque and Community Centre in Halifax in an effort to include more families in the fostering process.

For the past two months, Abdallah Yousri has been encouraging families to register by providing counselling and preparing sermons that stress the importance of fostering children.

Afaf Elamassi, left, and Nahil Sadaqa already have four children, but are working toward becoming foster parents. (CBC)

He raises awareness about the shortage of foster families when the mosque is most crowded — usually on Fridays — reaching a congregation of 700.

"It's not just for the Muslim kids. We believe that this is important in general, to adopt children from all backgrounds because we believe that this is an act of worship in Islam," said Yousri, whose recruitment efforts are working.

'I want to give them love'

One Muslim family recently took the first step in the process of becoming a foster family by registering for an information session conducted by Foster Care Nova Scotia.

Nahil Sadaqa and Afaf Elamassi are parents to four children. They decided to become foster parents after realizing they have the space and ability to offer help.

Muslims perform one of the five daily prayers at Ummah Mosque in Halifax. (CBC )

"When you see that there are children who are in need, you should act, it shouldn't matter what religion you're in," said Elamassi.

"I want to give them love, to care for them and to give them a home because when you're moving from place to place you're not feeling safe," she added.

Average timelines for becoming a foster family

Bungay was happy to hear that members from the Muslim community are responding.

"We really want to ensure that we have a broad and diverse resource of foster families that are available to children of different cultural backgrounds," she said.

The average time it takes to complete training sessions and assessments can vary between six and 18 months.

Bungay said officials are working to shorten the timeline.

"When people are interested, we want to keep them interested ... so that they don't become frustrated by the process," she said.

Despite the long wait, Sadaqa and Elamassi are very excited and committed to carrying on with the process so that others might follow.

About the Author

Aya Al-Hakim

Reporter

Aya Al-Hakim is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. She can be reached at aya.al-hakim@cbc.ca.

now