UAE expats breaking barriers to adopt babies
Dr Sitalakshmi Ramanan with her elder daughter Poorvaja Subramanian and younger one Apoorva Sitalakshmi Ramanan at her residence in Dubai.-Photo by Juidin Bernarrd/Khaleej Times
Dubai - The Emirates Red Crescent Authority facilitates sponsoring arrangements in the UAE.
When Dr Sitalakshmi Ramanan, an assistant professor with Higher Colleges of Technology, came face to face with Apoorva Sitalakshmi Ramanan for the first time, she instantly realised this is her little girl, and she needs to bring her home.
"I first met her on March 15, 2013, in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, and Apoorva was just two and a half years old," said Dr Sitalakshmi, an Indian resident.
"I'd taken my older daughter Poorvaja Subramanian to see her, and when she extended her hand, Apoorva held on to it and called her didi (older sister in Hindi). At that moment I felt my family is complete," she added.
Even though it was the beginning of a year-long battle to bring Apoorva home to Dubai, Dr Sitalakshmi and her older daughter adopted Apoorva from Satna through the Central Adoption Resource Authority (Cara). Cara is the statutory body under the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development, which functions as the nodal body for the adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
Selina and Billy Smyth-Daly with their children. Right, Ugamoorthy with his wife and child. - Supplied photos
Dr Sitalakshmi, a single parent, has one biological child and one adopted child. The assistant professor told Khaleej Times: "Apoorva has changed our lives for the better." Dr Sitalakshmi is one of the several single parents who has adopted children from her home country in the recent past.
Though Sitalakshmi had to undergo a lengthy legal battle in India to bring her daughter home, she added that the processes within the UAE government were much more straightforward.
"I got the visa for my daughter within a single day. Higher Colleges of Technology instantly accepted her as my daughter, and she enjoys every single benefit a biological child would," added Sitalakshmi.
Dr Sita's two siblings, a brother and sister, have both adopted girls from India as well.
Adoptions on the riseThough adoption is not recognised in Islam, raising, caring for, sponsoring or fostering an abandoned child or an orphan, is allowed and encouraged when done through licensed charitable organisations in the UAE.
A large number of foreign expatriates across several nationalities, living in the UAE are adopting children. The Emirates Red Crescent Authority facilitates sponsoring arrangements in the UAE.
Meanwhile, the number of adoptive parents is on the rise, according to experts facilitating the complicated paperwork for the adoption of children.
According to Omana Menon, who is licensed by Cara to help couples in the UAE and Gulf countries, more than 2,000 Indian parents in the region have adopted children from India.
"Approximately, 60 per cent of the adoptions take place in UAE," said Menon, who is inundated with calls from couples and single mothers who wish to adopt. Lovingly called the 'mother of over 2,000 children', Menon has been a representative of CAara for over 30 years.
Menon still recalls the first couple who approached her in 1986. "I was one of the founders of Indian Ladies Association. The adoption request was a bit unusual experience back then because it was hardly spoken about," she said.
The last 30 years have been incredible for Omana.
She said: "An adoptive mother may not have carried her child in her womb. but she has carried her child in her heart."
"Of the 2,000 adoptions, 80 per cent of the couples request to adopt girls, and the remaining 20 ask for boys, and a small fraction of the parents have no gender bias. Less than 50 per cent of the parents adopt out of the goodness of their heart, and the remaining adopt because they cannot have biological children," she added. Menon receives eight to nine interview requests every month and takes on a maximum of approximately 4-5 cases a month.
Menon added: "From January, Cara has introduced a mandatory psychological evaluation. In India, the most number of adoptions take place from the Western state of Maharashtra, and the second-highest is from the state of Kerala.
"If a couple wishes to adopt from India, one parent needs to hold an Indian passport," she said.
80% don't have biological childrenIn the case of international adoptions, Dr Andrea Tosatto, a clinical psychologist with the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology provides his services to 30 couples a year. Dr Tosatto has been counselling prospective adoptive parents and preparing home studies for 10 years in Dubai. Home study is a mandatory requirement for international adoptions.
Foreign expatriate parents from the UK, Spain, Belgium, Australia, Netherlands, Denmark and several other nations living in the UAE have been adopting children from across the globe. "In the UAE, 80 per cent of the adoptive parents don't have biological children and 20 per cent adopt out of the kindness of their heart," he said.
A staggering 70 per cent of the foreign adoptions in the UAE took place from Ethiopia till the government banned international adoptions in January 2018. He said: "About 20 per cent of the adoptions take place from Mexico. Some of the other popular destinations among UAE parents are Sierra Leone, Liberia, and some children come from Pakistan," added Dr Tosatto.
Almost all adoption stories in the UAE are successful ones, according to Dr Tosatto and Omana Menon, who is licensed by Cara to help couples in the UAE and Gulf countries.
"I attended a wedding of a child who I helped adopt 28 years ago. It was wonderful to see him stand tall and thank his adoptive parents for the life he was given," said Menon.
The curious case of 'single' adoptionsThough India is a country, which happens to have one of the most stringent procedures for child adoption, an increasing number of single women are coming forward to adopt children, according to government figures.
In the past six months, 46 single Indian women and 24 inter-country women, including non-resident Indians, Overseas Citizens of India and foreigners, have adopted a child, having applied through the Centeral Adoption Resource Authority (Cara).
A recent report by IANS said that single women are granted six months' priority compared to couples who apply through Cara for adoption.
The ministry said that in the last six months, 314 single Indian women who are above the age of 40 and financially stable had been given the 'out of queue' priority while the number for inter-country women is 81. Request of 124 more women was already approved by Cara. Last year, 3,276 domestic couples and 651 inter-country parents adopted children through the authority.
Until last year, 412 single women had registered with the Cara. Of this, 75 single women adopted a child in 2015. The number was 93 in 2016.
Menon said: "The first single parent I consulted in the UAE was 22-23 years ago, and in the last two years, five single women in the region have adopted children from India." In the case of international adoptions, 10 per cent of the adoptions in the last 10 years have been done by single mothers.
'Emotion of bringing my daughter home is surreal, wonderful'Couples and single mothers in Dubai revealed to Khaleej Times what it is like to be adoptive parents. British couple Selina and Billy Smyth-Daly adopted their oldest daughter Kenzie (11) from Liberia and Nahla, also 11, from Sierra Leone. Their biological children are Logan (8) and Piper (5). For Selina, adoption has always been a dream and a choice for adoptive children.
Speaking about meeting Kenzie for the first time, Selina said: "The emotion of meeting our first daughter and bringing her home was surreal, special, wonderful and scary all at the same time. I'm not sure we faced any 'stigmas' as such but as parents who have chosen this path, our job is to educate society, on behalf of our children and we continue to do that, over a decade later."
She added: "Our children are a tribe. They come as a pack, and they are very much being brought up with those morals, ethics and values. Family comes first and always will so yes; they are very close." She said, "They argue and bicker like all brothers and sisters do, but they are also very loyal to each other."
Dr Sitalakshmi's daughter Apoorva, according to her, is very naughty and affectionate. She said: "I have seen a lot of parents differentiating between biological children and that is not the way to go about it. But being a good parent is also mostly about learning on the job."
Sitalakshmi's older daughter, Poorvaja, a student of JSS Private School said: "If you think you have space in your heart and you can give life to another family, then you must embrace another child."
Dubai- based chartered accountant and his wife Gokila Ugamoorthy adopted Yaadvrishi (2) from India. He said: "When we met, her smile which she spread on us, there is no language to explain the happiness."
He added: "In our process, the delay is not much. The judicial process completed within two-three months and the passport for our baby was issued within two days of our application. The major challenge we faced is only the waiting time from the date of registration to getting a referral of the child. But it is worth the wait. With her, my family is complete."
MUST KNOW FACTS ABOUT ADOPTION
1-How to adopt in UAE?Documents required: Passport, medical clearance certificate, birth certificates, police clearance certificate, marriage certificate, salary certificates and other proof of income, letters of recommendation
2-Rules for Non-Resident Indians>Prospective parents should be financially capable, emotionally stable and should not have any life-threatening medical condition
>A single woman is eligible to adopt a child of any gender
>A single man is not eligible to adopt a girl
>The parent's age on the date of registration shall be considered to apply for children of different age groups
>For a child up to the age of four years, the maximum combined age of parents allowed is 90 and of a single adoptive parent 45
>For four to eight-year-olds, the maximum combined age of parents allowed is 100 and a single parent 50; while from eight to 18 years of age, the age for both parents can be 110 years or a single parent can be 55 years
>Couples with more than four children will not be considered for adoption
Parents can register on the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System online (Source: Omana Menon, Cara)
3-Rules for international adoptions>A home study programme is conducted by clinical psychologists, which is 10 to 12 weeks of counselling and parent preparation
>A complete home assessment
>Gather and submit paperwork which needs to be certified by home country, UAE, and adoptive country
>Contact an adoption facilitator in the chosen country
>Fly out to meet the child and complete further paperwork
>Await court date and fly out to child's birth country again
>Apply for a visa and bring the child back to the UAE
>Frequent reports back to the birth country on the development and well-being of your child (Source: Dr Andrea Tosatto)
*with inputs from IANS