Now there’s a push to change that.
Looking for a sense of belonging
Najla Almayaly entered the foster care system at 13 years old when her parents divorced. She and her three sisters were separated as a result. Now 20 years old, she has lived in seven foster homes, five of which were not Muslim.
“There was no halal food. There was no going to the masjid on Friday. There was no salat, no what I was used to,” she said.
Almayaly says she felt that her non-Muslim foster parents didn’t care about her religion. Food was not prepared a certain way, she didn’t go to the mosque for the traditional Friday prayer. She wasn’t comfortable wearing hijab to cover her hair.
“I felt like I wasn’t home,” she added.
About 240,000 Muslims live in Michigan.
Jessica Sweet recruits foster parents for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She says the state doesn’t collect religious information when placing children in foster care, which is why many Muslim kids end up in non-Muslim homes.
“Right now, it really is based on, the anecdotal information that we’re getting, reaching out to county offices and having them hand count this information and send it to us,” she said.
Sameena Zahoor became a foster parent in 2012, after learning about the need from a sermon at her local mosque.
Her friend, lifelong educator Ranya Shbeib, became licensed in 2015.
Shbeib says they realized many people were not aware there was a need for Muslim foster parents.
“There were some gaps within the foster care system and the Muslim community. And with my fostering experience, I knew that with the insight that I had as a foster parent, Sameena and I could work to bridge those gaps,” she said.
That’s why they created the Muslim Foster Care Association in 2016.