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Helping children who are fostered develop a strong sense of identity: Shopna's story

Friday 04 March 2022
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Foster carer Shopna is supporting a young Muslim child from Afghanistan. She talks about her role in helping young people to feel confident in themselves, their identity and their religion

Choosing to foster with Action for Children

Shopna always wanted to foster, having been inspired by both her faith and work with children and parents.

“As a practicing Muslim, the Quran has played a big part in inspiring me to foster. Our Prophet Muhammad adopted an orphan child,” explained Shopna.

“In Islam, we're told to look after our community and look after children, and we do this by fostering.”

Shopna reached out to Action for Children fostering services in London when the time was right.

There are so many children out there who need that support and upbringing

Shopna

"When my children had grown up, I felt I'd given them the best of everything. There are so many children out there who need that support and upbringing, I decided I wanted to support those children directly by fostering.

"When we looked at agencies, Action for Children came up first. I started to research the charity and found they'd been around for a long time. They also had a good reputation, and so we chose them.

“I’ve seen how parental support can grow a child’s confidence and once a child is confident, they can do anything.”

Reflecting back, Shopna said, "I never felt pressured to say yes to a child waiting for a foster family. The team supported us throughout and even helped us to settle in the young person."

Children playing basketball

Respecting children’s identities

“For me, a child’s identity is so important, and they need to hold onto that. If a child has a strong identity, they know who they are and will be confident adults later in life. Children in care can really struggle with their identity, it's important that we support them to feel confident with who they are.

"You can’t change who you are. As a foster carer, I’m able to support young people to hold onto their religion and cultural identity. We would always encourage children to practice their religion and be confident in what they believe in.”

Shopna describes her family as 'home people'.

“So, for my family, there weren't any barriers preventing us from fostering. My husband and family have been very supportive through the whole process. My extended family are also supportive of what we are doing."

Children in care can really struggle with their identity

Shopna

"We like to stick to routines and spend a lot of time together as a family. I think that's one of the reasons my children have grown up secure and happy.

“Culturally, Muslims are very busy with gatherings and family. It is normal to attend a lot of functions and visit family often. When you have a child come into your family home, you need to spend a lot of time with them to help that young person settle in.

“After some time, they may be happy to attend gatherings with you and your family. However, if they aren't, then that’s okay too. You as a family need to decide if there are events you don’t go to or who can stay back with the young person or even take it in turns to attend the event.”

Family gathering

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Fostering a child who is non-Muslim

Shopna worried that fostering a child who is non-Muslim would be challenging.

"We pray five times a day, and in the evenings together as a family. I would never tell a child who is not Muslim to pray, but I worried about them feeling left out. Younger children are more likely to model your behaviour and may want to join in or wear a head scarf.

"I wouldn’t want that child to think later in life that we’ve instilled our beliefs on them. Or [for their] birth parents to feel we’ve done this on purpose. There are times when I need advice on how to deal with these situations."

I would never tell a child who is not Muslim to pray

Shopna

Action for Children provide support through Fostering Social Workers, who are always at hand for support and advice, 24/7. We also provide diversity training for all our foster carers. This helps in times when they are matched with children who may not be the same ethnicity or religion as them.

“Eid is an important time of the year for our family. And what’s really lovely is our social worker will message us to wish us a, ‘Eid Mubarak’ on the day. Knowing she recognises it’s an important day for us makes us feel special, they’re truly fantastic.”

If you're have a question about fostering and have a faith, talk to us.

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