DUBAI // A new law will make it easier for Emiratis to give a child a home - but expatriates keen to adopt must still do so from overseas.
The rules, passed by the FNC last month, are going through the legislative process.
The law will enshrine the status of permanent fostering for Emiratis, while observing the Sharia-derived cultural resistance to full adoption.
But this will not be available to expatriates. Instead, they can turn to the likes of Dr Andrea Tosatto, a psychologist who runs international home study programmes at Dubai's Synergy Integrated Medical Centre.
The sessions help couples prepare for the process of international adoption. He also has clients from Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.
More than 100 couples have seen him for information or "out of curiosity" since he began working at Synergy in 2009. At least 70 per cent - from South Africa, New Zealand, Britain, the United States, Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Pakistan and Japan - proceeded with an adoption.
Prospective parents must check with the government of their home country, through their embassy, about the restrictions on adoption while living abroad. They need a no-objection letter stating their home country recognises the adoption.
In Dubai, the two most popular countries from which children are adopted are Ethiopia and Mexico, said Dr Tosatto.
Couples must submit copies of their passports and visas, a police clearance certificate and marriage, birth and medical certificates, among other paperwork.
Ten hour-long parent preparation sessions are followed by a home visit, after which Dr Tosatto reports on whether the couple is suitable.
"I don't look for the ideal parent," he said. "There is no manual or kit for that."
Once approved, couples can either contact an adoption agency or go to a lawyer or orphanage in the country from where they hope to adopt.
There are no agencies in the UAE, but Dr Tosatto refers couples to the Adoption Support Group in Dubai, founded in 1990 by couples who had already adopted from overseas.
It has more than 300 families on its mailing list and supports couples considering adoption.
Meetings are held on the first Friday of every month for adoptive families to socialise and to offer hope and encouragement to newcomers.
Gerlinde Krupp, managing director at Match-Box Consultancy in Dubai, and her British husband, Steve Allinson, adopted a three-year-old girl, Sofiya, from Ethiopia in 2010.
She has guided about 130 families through the process, with 45 to 50 couples proceeding with adoption.
Parents should be emotionally stable and have realistic expectations, according to Dr Tosatto.
"They have to be united in their intentions and if one is hesitant to adopt, it is better to stop," he said.
"If you go through adoption thinking, 'We'll get a child', but you feel that having an adoptive child is just another way to get your own child, then it's not the right attitude."