Al AIN // Demand for foster children is growing among Emirati families and single women, according to a welfare organisation for orphans. Dar Zayed orphanage in Al Ain, established in 1988 by Sheikh Zayed, has a fostering section that allows Emirati families to take children up to two years old into their permanent care. Khawla al Badi, who sits on the executive committee for adoptions at Dar Zayed and is also a social worker with the fostering section, said there was now considerable interest from couples who either could not have children, or had children but wanted to help the less fortunate. "We see also single women, widows or divorced, who would like to have children." While unmarried men are not permitted to foster, single women are, and 15 have taken children into their care.
Right now, said Ms al Badi, "we have a waiting list. We also turned down many applications because they did not meet the adoption conditions." Adoption involving a change of name is prohibited in Islam because it affiliates a child to a different father, but Muslims are allowed to foster children by taking them into their physical and spiritual care. Since the fostering programme began, the organisation has received 93 applications from interested Emiratis, 40 of whom were rejected because they did not fit the strict criteria. As well as its permanent residents, sent there by the authorities or as the result of a court ruling, Dar Zayed also cares for children temporarily, often in cases where the parents are in prison and there are no other family or friends to look after them. Those older than two are cared for permanently at villas rented by the organisation, each run by full-time carers who raise the children. Ms al Badi saidgirls had proved far easier to place in new families than boys. "This is due maybe, as parents told us, to the fact that they are easy to raise."
Dar Zayed was set up to provide comprehensive care and education to the country's orphans and instil in them a sense of community and values, in line with the teachings of Islam. Whatever their backgrounds, all children received by Dar Zayed are first tested for diseases including hepatitis, HIV and syphilis. Those with medical problems, staff say, are treated immediately and provided with all their needs, including accommodation, food, clothing and psychological and social care, as well as health care and education. The criteria for would-be foster parents are rigorous. All applicants must be Emirati and Dar Zayed staff will monitor the care and well-being of the children until they reach their mid-teens. "The family must also be medically fit, free from any transmittable diseases and the mother should be aged between 25 and 50 years," Ms al Badi said.
A single woman wanting to foster must be at least 30 years old, have the approval of other family members, be able to provide suitable accommodation and earn a "suitable income". She should, says the organisation, also be "qualified to take care of the child" and attend Dar Zayed's lectures and workshops on education, social and psychological care. firstname.lastname@example.org