Bzeek is a single foster father to the very sickest children in Los Angeles County’s sprawling foster care system.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on September 16, 2022. It has since been updated.
Mohamed Bzeek came to the U.S. from Libya more than 40 years ago to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. In 1997, he wed Dawn, his now-deceased wife, and became a citizen. The Bzeeks fostered many children during their marriage, offering a home to those who would never find homes otherwise.
Adam, 19, their biological son, was born with dwarfism and brittle bone condition. He was so delicate that even simple actions like changing his diaper could cause his bones to fracture. Despite this, the Bzeeks accommodated his unique requirements. Dawn became seriously ill in 2000 with incapacitating seizures brought on by blood clots in her lungs. She succumbed to her disease and died in 2015. Mohamed bravely made the decision to carry on his wife's legacy on his own.
As a single father, Bzeek continues to foster the sickest children in Los Angeles County’s sprawling foster care system. “In 1995, we decided to adopt orphans left at hospitals or taken from their families by the state because of violence and pressure” explained Bzeek. “The only house that accepts orphans and children who are about to die in Los Angeles is my house. I have dealt with 80 children since 1989. Ten children lost their lives in my arms.”
Do you remember TRT World’s award-winning documentary “Guardian of Angels”? The guardian, Mohamed Bzeek, paid a surprise visit to TRT World. Let’s revisit his heartwarming story pic.twitter.com/sQCK7djqNa— TRT World (@trtworld) September 12, 2022
The widower lives in Los Angeles where he is one of the few foster parents who solely provides care for youngsters who are near death. His story came to the fore when the Los Angeles Times published a piece on his efforts in 2019. The Diyanet Foundation gave him the International Benevolence Award and Ensar Altay filmed a documentary on him.
Bzeek has California state licensing to provide medically vulnerable children with care when their own families are unable or unable to do so. The Los Angeles Department of Child Services works closely with him. “They tell me when children are about to die and ask if I can adopt them. They know that I do not hesitate to accept. If I don’t, they are sent to hospitals and don’t have a family or house. However, when I take them, they feel a family atmosphere. They feel safe and are loved until the end of their lives.”
Mohamed Bzeek, a widower with a disabled son, has been a foster parent in Los Angeles since 1989, he has cared for over 80 terminally ill children. Even while going through cancer treatment himself.— Abdul Razaq Narwal (@AbRazaq) December 1, 2019
He only fosters terminally ill children.
More info in links below. pic.twitter.com/PzPIyIiuxW
According to Rosella Yousef, an assistant regional administrator for the unit, of the 35,000 children overseen by the county's Department of Children and Family Services, about 600 are currently under the care of the division's Medical Case Management Services, which provides care for those with the most serious medical needs. Foster parents are desperately needed to take care of these kids.
“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, who finds places for these terminally ill children in her work as a DCFS intake coordinator. “He’s the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it.”
Bzeek is currently caring for a blind, deaf and paralyzed 6-year-old girl with a rare brain condition who needs round-the-clock assistance. He said, "I know she can’t hear, can’t see, but I always talk to her. She has feelings. She has a soul. She’s a human being.”
According to Bzeek, taking care of those who are so unwell is a terrible task, especially when you're constantly aware of how little time together you have, and how valuable that time together is. “I know it’s heartbreak. I know it’s a lot of work and I know it’s going to hurt me sometimes. You know, I feel sad. But, in my opinion, we should help each other, you know?”
“The key is, you have to love them like your own,” Bzeek said recently. “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.”