DUBAI // Social workers with special-needs support groups called for psychological advice and genetic counselling for families yesterday, as the parents who abandoned their six-month-old baby in hospital because he has disabilities finally took him home.
“The family must be counselled right away so they don’t take it as a curse,” said Safia Bari, founder of Special Needs Future Development Centre. “Constant interaction with the family will help them accept the child rather than it becoming a source of tension and pressure.”
Neena Nizar, a volunteer with Special Families Support, said: “In this part of the world where you have marriages between blood relatives, people need genetic counselling. People don’t know about such counselling, they have no idea.”
The baby boy was born prematurely in Dubai Hospital in August, and transferred to Latifa Hospital with respiratory complications. He is suffering from a neurological disorder and epilepsy. The parents, who have an older child with disabilities, stopped visiting the baby late last year.
Police had sought advice on prosecuting the Emirati couple for abandoning their child. “We don’t want people to hate our department,” said Col Mohammed Abdullah Al Mur, director general of Dubai Police’s Human Rights Department.
“We are just doing our job because we must tell parents not to leave their child even if it has problems in the hospital. But we will follow the baby every month in the future. Our staff will visit the home and make a report.”
Social workers said constant follow-up would ensure that the parents came to terms with the child.
They have called for long-term medical aid, not only for Emirati families but also for expatriates who have children with disabilities. Education and genetic counselling was vital, they said, particularly in cases where marriages take place within the same family.
Ms Bari – who has three daughters, the eldest a slow learner – said the integration of people with disabilities into mainstream society, particularly among Emiratis, was required.
“Compared with 30 years ago, you do see some special-needs children or adults on the streets, but you still don’t see many local children with special needs. They must be encouraged to take their children outside instead of leaving them at home with nannies.”
Mrs Nizar, who has the Jansen disorder that is characterised by skeletal and joint abnormalities, said: “A second child also with special needs comes as another shock to parents. They think, ‘How will we cope?’”
Mrs Nizar said the need for genetic counselling was never made clear to her during her pregnancies. Her condition has passed on to her two young sons. The boys will require multiple operations to correct bone growth, as she did.
“The spotlight is now on the parents, and they need counselling to deal with all these emotions. If you already have one child with special needs, genetic counselling can help parents take an informed decision about a pregnancy.”
The father of the abandoned baby had told the police that although the child had trouble breathing at birth, he did not at first have any other disabilities. He also told police that he had complained to the department of health in Dubai that although pre-natal tests did not show any sign of disability, the child’s condition had worsened later.
After the parents abandoned the baby, hospital authorities contacted the police force’s women and children department.
The hospital said the child could be taken home since he required no further medical care. The police have offered to help financially, but the father has declined to accept any aid.
“I hope there are more laws to protect a child so this does not happen to another child,” Col Al Mur said.
“If the father feels some mistake has been made, that is another case for the court, but he cannot be allowed to punish his son. The child had to go home. He needs the care from his parents.”