The law stipulates that the Ministry of Social Affairs will coordinate with the Ministry of Interior in securing a sponsor family for the children Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A law to protect children of unknown parentage and provide them with foster families was issued by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The law ensures rights of abandoned children, their civil liberties and interests are guaranteed, according to WAM.

In January, the FNC passed the law to protect children of unknown parentage many of whom are abandoned because they have disabilities, are born out of wedlock, or are the result of an unwanted pregnancy.

The law creates an efficient system involving the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Interior to provide needed care for these children, and also highlights the criteria and process by which foster families will be chosen.

According to the law, foster families should meet certain criteria. The first is that the family should be a Muslim and Emirati. The family should be a married couple whose age is no less than 25 years old and should be free of contagious, mental and psychological diseases.

Mariam Al Roumi, Minister odf Social Affairs, said the law is meant to protect rights of children of unknown parentage and integrate them as effective and responsible members of the society.

A foster family will also have to sign an undertaking that they will treat the sponsored child well, and protect and raise him well.

An orphanage will also be set up for abandoned children to ensure that the necessary care is provided in coordination with all specialised bodies.

The law permits woman to foster the abandoned children provided that she is no less than 35 years old, if unmarried, or divorced or whose husband is away from her intermittently.

Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs (ZHOFCSN) is the institution that cares for orphans or abandoned children in Abu Dhabi.

“We currently have 54 children received through the public prosecution and the presidential court,” Salem Al Kaabi, ZHOFCSN, director general told Gulf News.

“We have several programmes planned for them. We either arrange for each to live with an Emirati family that we choose carefully, or assign a foster mother to care for a small group of seven or eight depending on their age,” he added.

“At present, citizens can apply to local government authorities to become foster families,” said the minister of social affairs.

According to the law, the abandoned children in the UAE are eligible for Emirati citizenship.

“The law will guarantee the child’s best interest in terms of child-related measures that may be taken by courts, administrative authorities or social welfare institutions, public or private,” said Al Roumi.

Al Roumi said police have to be better equipped in order to be able to document the child and collect details. “The law is to ensure the protection of the person who found the child,” she said.

In other provisions of 24-article law, the ministry and the FNC members agreed that abandoned children would be given a name followed by three surnames, but none that would relate to a known family name in the UAE.

According to the law, the abandoned children should be monitored by sending social experts to their foster families in order to check the children’s status.

The FNC added an article to ensure that the orphans have opportunities to acquire university degrees and jobs before they are removed from a shelter for abandoned children.