WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)–Mustafa Muhammad is a bright and curious nine-year-old. When he was just six, he began to look around at the people in his family. He looked at pictures of his grandparents, his cousins and other relatives and asked his mother, “Why don’t I look like everyone else?”
His mother, Aishah, knew this day was coming, but was totally unprepared. She tried to stall him until she could ready herself to tell him that he was adopted. But Mustafa wouldn’t wait.
He came home one day and without a pause asked, “Mommy, was I found?”
Mrs. Muhammad’s mouth dropped and her heart skipped a beat. “All I could say was, ‘sweetie, wait until your daddy comes home and we’ll talk about this.’
“When my husband arrived, we asked Mustafa if he knew what adoption was and his response was that it was just like having a stepson,” she recalls. “He was not making this easy for us.”
“I took a deep breath and told him that he had another mom that birthed him and we picked him out especially to be our son. That answer seemed to satisfy him then, and over time we’ve given him more and more information about his adoption,” says Mrs. Muhammad.
Mustafa says, “I wanted to know where I came from. I don’t look like anyone else in my family, not even my sister, and I wanted to know why. I’m glad I was adopted, because they picked me and she’s the best mommy in the world.”
A time to consider adoption
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Organizations all over the country are focusing time and attention on educating the public on the need for more families to open their hearts to children in need of families.
Since 1991, November has been used to highlight increasing numbers of children in the child welfare system, waiting to be adopted.
Of the approximately 588,000 children currently in foster care, more than 134,000 children are waiting for permanent families, according to the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse. Of these children, 67 percent are children of color, 61 percent are over the age of five and 25 percent have been in continuous foster care for more than five years.
Children with “special needs” range in age from infancy to 18 years. They include teens, children of color, and children with physical, emotional, behavioral or learning challenges. They may have endured abusive or negligent home environments and may have been exposed to drugs and alcohol. Others are brothers and sisters who want to grow up together.
Special needs, or special children?
Mustafa was initially classified as a “special needs” or hard- to-place child.
“We started our adoption process with the D.C. government but it was taking so long,” explained Mrs. Muhammad. “I kept calling, and finally they told me about the Barker Foundation, who had a baby that was hard to place.”
The Barker Foundation is a private agency that has a long-standing, well-established reputation for successful adoptions. It was founded in 1945 and is the nation’s first cooperative adoption agency.
“When I spoke to the social worker, she explained that they had a baby that was hard to place because he was very dark. That piqued my interest immediately,” explained Mrs. Muhammad, whose complexion is a dark Hershey chocolate brown.
“My husband and I went to see him. We were expecting a dark child, like they said, that we could teach to love and appreciate his color.”
The couple sat nervously awaiting this hard-to-place, dark child. When the social worker brought out a caramel colored bundle of joy, the Muhammad’s looked at each other in amazement.
“He’s not dark,” said Eric Muhammad, who mirrors his wife’s complexion. As they pointed at each other they said, “We’re dark.”
“We realized from that moment that we wanted him for our own,” said Mr. Muhammad.
The couple went through the process and adopted Mustafa. While they were in the throes of adoption, Mrs. Muhammad got the good news that she was pregnant.
“Some people may have discontinued the adoption process with a new baby coming but that thought never crossed my mind. I just thanked Allah (God) again and got ready for two babies,” said Mrs. Muhammad.
So how does eight-year-old Shakura feel about having an adopted big brother?
“I’m glad he’s my brother,” she said with a smile. “It doesn’t even seem like he’s adopted, he’s just my brother.”
(Next week: Home study, siblings and open adoption.)