Finding homes for foster children can be difficult, especially if they’re older, come with other siblings, or are known to have behavioral issues – but finding homes for terminally-ill children can be downright impossible.
That’s where Mohamed Bzeek comes in.
The 62-year-old foster parent from Azusa, California, is determined to make a difference in these children’s lives.
The Libyan-born Muslim has been fostering children since 1989 with his then-wife, Dawn. The couple often took in sick children and experienced the death of one of their foster children back in 1991.
After that, the couple turned their attention toward specifically fostering children who were sick or terminally ill.
The need for foster parents for these children was high, and both Mohamed and Dawn couldn’t bear the thought of terminally ill children not getting the proper love and care they needed at the end of their short lives.
“The key is, you have to love them like your own,” said Mohamed.
“I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.”
While Dawn and Mohamed split in 2013, Mohamed continued to foster and care for the sick children of California.
He has buried roughly ten children, some of whom died in his arms.
Currently, Mohamed devotes his days and nights to caring for a 6-year-old girl with a rare brain defect. She’s blind, deaf, and paralyzed in her arms and legs, has daily seizures, and requires round-the-clock care.
The little girl might be seriously ill, but she deserves to be loved like any other child- something which Mohamed feels strongly about.
“I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her,” he said. “I’m always holding her, playing with her, touching her. … She has feelings. She has a soul. She’s a human being.”
Mohamed has cared for the girl since she was a month old, and has cared for others before her with the same condition.
At two years old, doctors decided that there were no more medical interventions that could be done to save her life. But four years later, it’s all thanks to Mohamed’s devoted care that she’s still alive.
“When she’s not sick and in a good mood, she’ll cry to be held,” Roberts said. “She’s not verbal, but she can make her needs known. … Her life is not complete suffering. She has moments where she’s enjoying herself and she’s pretty content, and it’s all because of Mohamed.”
Of the 35,000 children requiring a foster home, there are around 600 who have severe medical needs.
Caring for a terminally ill child is time-consuming, not to mention emotionally straining.
But Mohamed recognizes that the alternative is for these children to pass away without a place to call their home- and no child deserves such a lonely ending to their life.
Mohamed’s actions have been recognized by the California adoption community, and he’s earned his reputation as a man who can always be relied on.
“If anyone ever calls us and says, ‘This kid needs to go home on hospice,’ there’s only one name we think of,” said Melissa Testerman, a DCFS intake coordinator who finds placements for sick children. “He’s the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it.”
Often, children with complex conditions are placed in a hospital environment, or with foster parent nurses. Thanks to Mohammed, these children get to live out the end of their lives in a comfortable, loving home.
He’s a true hero.