A Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) resident has been made an MBE for services for fostering and adoption.
Emdad Talukder, who has been an NHG resident for 15 years and lives in Kensington, has received the award for his tireless work over the years to encourage fostering and adoption within hard-to-reach communities, including the Muslim community. He was presented with his MBE at a ceremony in November.
Mr Talukder explained: “My wife and I have been foster carers myself since 1999 and have fostered five children, one of whom is deaf. Through my own experience and through my job as a community resource officer, I know that there are thousands of children that need homes. But I also know that fostering and adoption are not usually considered or even discussed within certain communities and there is a lot of confusion about it. In the Muslim community, for example, while fostering is considered acceptable (the prophet Mohammed himself was fostered), it is not the same for adoption. The Quran bans children from taking the name of their adoptive father, which has meant that many in the Muslim community have felt unable to adopt.
“Over the years, I have visited churches, mosques, GP surgeries, and community and children’s centres, anywhere really where I think I will have the opportunity to reach people. I ask them to consider adopting or fostering a child or – in the case of an Imam [Islamic leader of a mosque] or a similar community representative - I ask them to promote the idea to others. Although I am a community resource officer, I don’t usually identify myself as such as I find that this means people are less wary and more open with me.”
As well as translating dozens of documents into Bengali to help spread information, Mr Talukder also helped get a new legal tool called 'special guardianship' approved by the Sharia Council of Britain. A special guardianship order (SGO) is intended for children who cannot live with their birth parents and would benefit from a legally secure placement. Under the order, one or more individuals are appointed to be a child’s ‘special guardian’ and have parental responsibility until the child is 18.
Mr Talukder continues, “I explain to people what an SGO is and how it works as this is often the quickest route to getting a child into a loving and supportive family. Although Government law tries to place a child within a matching background [30 percent of children are from black communities], this is not always possible so I also ask those I speak to to keep an open mind as all children requiring adoption or foster care need a loving and supportive family, regardless of their culture.”
The first that Mr Talukder learned of his MBE was back in May when he received a letter:
“When I saw the letterhead on the envelope for Her Majesty’s Office, I thought is was a summons for jury service! When I opened it and saw what it actually was, I was speechless! I took the letter upstairs with me and sat and cried. It took me about half an hour before I could come back downstairs and tell my wife and children that I had received an MBE. I just couldn’t believe it!”
Mr Talukder joined the other invitees at the ceremony at Buckingham Palace in November where he was presented with his MBE by Prince Charles.
“Visiting the palace and meeting Prince Charles was one of the most remarkable days of my life. Fostering and adoption is not like getting an item from M&S that you can then return if you change your mind. This is a permanent commitment and it is still seen as abnormal within certain communities, so it’s important that we should continue to encourage this.”