x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Law 'no benefit' to orphaned adults

Younger children are more likely to benefit from changes to adoption regulations, experts say.

AL AIN // Easing adoption with a newly amended law will help children but will do little for adults who must live in a shelter, orphans at Dar Zayed For Family Care said yesterday.

The amended law removed an age cap, allowing families that might have been prevented from adopting to do so. It also guarantees financial support for adopting families who fall on hard times, and increased post-adoption supervision.

Although Emirati orphans said those steps, taken by the Federal National Council's health, labour, and social affairs committee, were positive, they were concerned that older orphans with limited income would get no benefits.

ZY, a 22-year-old at one of Dar Zayed's homes, said all children in schools received a Dh700 allowance per month. Those in university, or graduates, receive Dh3,500. While working, they are not financed.

"This money is not enough. With this money, we have to pay for everything," she said. "Our clothes, if we want to go out, everything. It is particularly hard if we have a special occasion or during Eid when we want new clothes."

Many of her "sisters" and "brothers" at the shelter after secondary school opt to look for work rather than enrolling in higher education to help earn money for a while.

And after finding a job, she said, joining a government university was the least-attractive option.

Although government universities, including UAE University, are free for Emiratis, including orphans, who are raised with the full rights of any Emirati, juggling work and classes has left many reaching out to private institutes.

"Some classes are at 8am, and then again 6pm; it is extremely difficult to have a job at the same time," ZY said. "And there is a big difference in the level of education between government and private universities."

But private education is usually accompanied by heavy expenses.

"We work to afford education, the Dar doesn't pay. They say we will pay half, and you pay the rest," she said. "If we do that, it leaves us with nothing. We wouldn't have any money to do anything after that."

Another orphan at the shelter, in her mid-20s, who wished not to be named, said her salary had left her struggling to afford continuing her degree. "I do not want anything from the shelter, just education," she said. "I get hurt that parents are the ones who pay for education, but we don't have anyone to pay for us. I wouldn't complain if my country was poor, but our country has a lot of goodness. We want education, give us qualifications."

She said she was now waiting for her arranged marriage, so she could settle down and start a family. "A lot of poor girls at the shelter are sitting at home with no education and no work. Some are so depressed," she said.

The shelter in Al Ain provides houses for each "family", made up of six to seven "siblings", an "aunt", a maid, and a driver. The houses are scattered around Al Ain and their locations are not made public. She said sheikhs have always worked hard to provide them with everything, but money was not trickling down to them.

"If it wasn't for this problem, then we wouldn't complain about anything," she said. "We always hear of increases to orphans in the news, but it doesn't come to us."

Afaf Al Marri, the director of Sharjah Social Services Department, said most shelters faced the same problems.

"Financing depends on every shelter and their strategies," she said. "Some children don't know the meaning of money. The shelter is the mother, they know how to direct the money."

However, she agreed that children needed to be properly supported.

"They should not only be given monthly allowance, but as well a saving account which they can access at a certain age to help them stand up on their feet in the future," she said.

The Federal National Council will continue discussing the amended law at tomorrow's session before passing it back to the cabinet for final approval.