x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Child protection legislation tabled

Law is awaiting approval from the federal government

DUBAI // Specialist child-protection workers would handle reports of child abuse and neglect under a draft law awaiting federal approval.

They would be authorised to enter homes to collect evidence and "take the necessary preventive measures for the child's sake", according to the law. The new child protection workers would be associated with the relevant authority in each emirate.

"The good thing is this law is not only for local children," said Moza Al Shoomi, head of the Child Department at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

"This is for all the children who are in the UAE."

The 12-page draft outlines several situations that "call for a child's right to protection": if a child is orphaned or homeless, regularly abused or sexually abused or subjected to clear and continuing neglect, or if a child's parents or guardians are incapable of providing adequate care and upbringing.

The child protection workers would also decide if a case needed police attention. Many families simply need treatment, Ms Al Shoomi said.

Staff will try to intervene before severe abuse occurs.

"They're not only looking for the damaged cases," Ms Al Shoomi said. "Not after that - we want before."

After investigating a case, the child protection worker could offer recommendations to a family.

The child would stay with the family if their parent or guardian made a written pledge to take "the necessary measures to ward off the threat to their child's well-being, in addition to keeping the child under periodical observation by the child protection worker".

In some cases, the government could place the child with a host family or an appropriate authority.

If a child was in a situation that threatened life, safety or psychological security, the child protection worker could immediately remove the child from home to a safe place.

They would need to seek a court order within 24 hours.

"This is temporary," Ms Al Shoomi said. "We [provide social] development for the parents, if we see they can again take the children. But we are not looking to put the children in an orphanage.

"We are looking to put them with some cousins, relatives."

Anyone who prevented child protection workers from doing their job, provided false information or hid the truth about a child's situation would face a fine of Dh50,000 to Dh100,000.

 

vnereim@thenational.ae