Touching story of a single father who fosters only terminally ill children

Bzeek is a single foster father to some of the most seriously ill children in Los Angeles County’s vast foster care system.

Mohamed Bzeek immigrated to the United States from Libya over 40 years ago to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. He married Dawn, his now-deceased wife, and became a citizen in 1997. During their marriage, the Bzeeks fostered many children, providing a home for those who would not otherwise have one.

Adam, their biological son, is 19 years old and was born with dwarfism and brittle bones. He was so delicate that even simple tasks like changing his diaper could fracture his bones. Despite this, the Bzeeks accommodated his special needs. Dawn became seriously ill in 2000, suffering from incapacitating seizures caused by blood clots in her lungs. She died in 2015 as a result of her disease. Mohamed made the courageous decision to carry on his wife’s legacy on his own.

As a single father, Bzeek continues to foster the sickest children in the sprawling foster care system of Los Angeles County.  “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.”

The widower lives in Los Angeles, where he is one of the few foster parents who only cares for children who are dying. His story was brought to light in 2019 when the Los Angeles Times published an article about his efforts. He received the International Benevolence Award from the Diyanet Foundation, and Ensar Altay recently completed filming a documentary about him.

Bzeek is licensed by the state of California to provide medically vulnerable children with care when their own families are unable or unwilling to do so. He collaborates closely with the Los Angeles Department of Child Services.  “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.”

According to Rosella Yousef, the unit’s assistant regional administrator, of the 35,000 children overseen by the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, approximately 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 look after these children.

“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 6-year-old blind, deaf, and paralyzed girl with a rare brain condition who requires round-the-clock care. “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.”

Taking care of those who are so ill, according to Bzeek, is a terrible task, especially when you’re constantly aware of how little time you have together 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.”