Having children is wonderful, and there is no one ‘right’ way to have a family. Some have children the conventual way; others chose their family from their community, use a surrogate, adopt, and there the few who are foster parents for children “in-between homes.” Then there is this man who fosters and takes in terminally ill children. Doing this is not something many people would be comfortable with or even be able to do from an emotional standpoint. This is his story.
Foster father takes in terminal children
Mohamed Bzeek, originally from Lybia, is a Muslim immigrant living in Azusa, California. He knows that these children will die, and there is nothing he can do for them except provide unconditional love and human connection for however long they have on this earth.
“I’ve been a foster father for over 20 years and have had more than 10 of my children die. Some of them in my arms”Mohamed Bzeek
Bzeek is currently looking after a 6-year-old child with a rare brain defect that causes daily seizures. As a result, she is also blind and deaf. Her arms and legs are also paralyzed. So, Bzeek spends all day and night with his foster child, letting her know she’s not alone.
“I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her. I’m always holding her, playing with her and just touching her. She has feeling. She has a soul. She’s a human being”Mohamed Bzeek
One of a kind
Rosella Yousef, a regional administrator of the Medical case services, says that 35000 children are monitored by the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, and 600 children fall under her department’s care. She says that they are in dire need of foster families, but there are very few, and there is only one like Bzeek.
“If anyone ever calls us and says they have a kid that needs to go to hospice, there is only one name that we think if. He is the only one who will take in a child knowing they will die”DCFS intake coordinator Melissa Testerman
These children would ordinarily be placed in a medical facility, but Bzeek is the only one of his kind in the county. Living on a shoestring budget, he sometimes struggles to make ends meet and has to care around-the-clock.
Forstering terminally ill children is his life
The Times was recently granted access to an interview with Bzeek and his family but due to confidentiality laws, the young girl’s identity can not be revealed. The young child with long brown hair in a ponytail sits up in the corner of the living room couch and seems to be happy. Her head is to small for her body as a result of a birth defect, an encephalocele. This is an extremely rare malformation of the skull causing brain matter to protrude outwards. Neurosurgeons were able to remove the protruding brain tissue but much of her brain remains undeveloped. The child has been in Bezeeks care since she was a month old because he is familiar with this condition as he has looked after three others with similar maladies.
Bzeek is a 62-year-old man who came to America from Lybia as a student in the late 70’s. He would then meet his wife through a mutual friend. Her name was Dawn, and she had become a foster parent in 1982. Her grandparents had been forsters, and it inspired her to do the same. Before she had even met Bzeek, she’d opened her home and converted it into an emergency shelter for children in need and for protective custody.
The two began fostering children together in 1989, and Mohamed experienced the loss of his first foster child a few years later. It was a baby born of a farmworker who was subjected to toxic pesticides. It caused the child to be born with a spinal disorder that meant she would have to wear a full-body cast for the rest of her short life. She died on July 4, 1991. There was another little girl that Bzeek would care for with a similar condition as the current foster child. Sadly she only lived for 8 days before she died and was so small that a doll maker was commissioned to make a dress for her funeral; the coffin was the size of a shoebox.
Close to home and the heart
Bzeek has only one biological son. His name is Adam, and he is the reason Bzeek does what he does. Adam was born with a disease that causes brittle bones as well as dwarfism, and his father has taken care of him and loved him regardless of his disabilities; he even fashioned a full-body skateboard for him to move around the house more freely. Adam is now 19 and is the smallest person in his class at Citrus College, where he studies computer science. The young man was raised in full understanding of his own situation as well as those of his foster brothers and sisters and said, “I love my sister; nobody should have to go through so much pain alone.”
Years later Dawn and Bzeek would separate and she would die a year later. Bzeek has dealt with death in more ways than most of us can imagine and does it all in service to God.
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