The adoption team at Synergy Integrated Medical Centre on Al Wasl Road helps to prepare prospective adoptive parents in the UAE for the process of adoption. Synergy’s Fiona Brew, a social worker with a background in psychotherapy, tells us more.

We haven’t heard much about people adopting here. Is it common?
It is more and more common, actually. If you’re a citizen of the UAE, you can’t adopt [the Shari’ah form of adoption is more akin to foster care]. But if you’re a resident here, all you really need is permission from your particular embassy. The embassy complies with your home country’s international adoption criteria, so the rules are different depending on where you’re from. Sounds complicated. There are no adoption agencies in the UAE, which makes it more complicated. It’s very specific depending on where you want to adopt from and where you’re from. Once the embassy has given you permission, you have to go to an agency outside of the UAE. Different agencies have links with different countries.

So you couldn’t adopt from within the UAE? There are no Emirati children up for adoption?


Where do you come in?

We’re probably the first port of call. There’s a massive list of paperwork involved, so we’re just one part of the process. We do a home study programme, which is 10 to 12 weeks of counselling and parent preparation. Then the parents have to think about which country they want to adopt from, do their research and get permission from their embassy. They then take their home study dossier to the adoption agency outside of the UAE.

What happens during the 10 to 12 weeks of home study?

Mostly it’s couples that come in, so it’s a bit like couples counselling – particularly if you’ve got one spouse that’s a bit reluctant or has different views on parenting, or on how they’ll cope financially or emotionally
with the adoption process. But we’ll also cover more general topics, such as reasons for adoption, cultural issues and how to build a positive identity for the child. We want the children to have a positive memory of where they’re from, so the parents collect as much information as they can about the child’s life before he or she becomes part of the family.

Do parents visit the child in its home country before adopting?

No. The parent sometimes has to go to the child’s home country to fill out paperwork, but they won’t meet the child. It’s more to make sure that the child can have a residency visa here.

Do you see one demographic adopting here more than others?

It tends to be mainly Western expats, but I think that’s probably a financial issue. You’ve got adoption agency fees, home study fees, you may have flights to the country of the child, and legal fees. It depends where you adopt from because the longer the process goes on, the more expensive it becomes. Some countries are quite quick, but others might stretch out the process for a year or two. We haven’t really been approached by people from Arab nations, maybe because of the laws in their own states. I don’t think it’s particularly common in Arab cultures. Parents here mainly adopt children from developing countries such as India, Ethiopia and Guatemala.

Do you stay in touch with the parents once they’ve adopted?

Once the child is with them, we do two more home visits and a follow-up office visit. We then write a second report that goes to the home country of the child. There is an adoption support group in the UAE, where there’s a lot of peer support. It’s completely set up by residents, and they meet once month. It’s for all pre- and post-adoptive parents, as well as those who are in the midst of it, couples and singles, from all over the world. It’s really great to have a group of people to share your worries with and get some advice. And you can also make new friends!
The home study course at Synergy Integrated Medical Centre costs Dhs10,000. If you’re interested, call the centre on 04 348 5452 and ask for either Fiona Brew or Emily Kerins. To contact the Adoption Support Group, call Carol on 04 360 8113 after 6pm