DUBAI// A federal orphanage for abandoned babies and other vulnerable children is expected to open in 2016.
Construction has already started on the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Social Care Village, in Umm Al Quwain.
The orphanage will be styled like a small town, with villas, a mosque, sports facilities, a library, a nursery and shops.
It will be able to accommodate 150 to 200 children, said Moza Al Shoomi, director of the Ministry of Social Affairs child department.
The project, announced several years ago, was originally called “Tala”. It was renamed earlier this year, Ms Al Shoomi said.
Dozens of babies are found abandoned each year. The village will serve abandoned children and others who have nowhere to go, such as children whose parents are dead or jailed, Ms Al Shoomi said.
The centre will also temporarily care for children who are not safe in their homes, such as victims of familial abuse or neglect.
The children will be organised into small “families”, each with an Emirati house “mother”.
“Normal villas, like a normal family,” Ms Al Shoomi said.
However, the orphanage’s main goal is to permanently place the children with Emirati foster families, she said. “We need these children to pass to the families in the community, not to stay here.”
The project is a key component of the country’s new system for abandoned children, outlined in a law enacted this year. The ministry is drafting bylaws to enable the law’s implementation.
Previously, abandoned children were cared for by a patchwork of procedures in different emirates.
In the Northern Emirates, they generally go to a facility run by the Sharjah Social Services Department. Other children live in Dar Zayed, a network of villas in Al Ain. A new orphanage is also being planned in Dubai by the Awqaf and Minor Affairs Foundation.
The Umm Al Quwain project is funded by the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation.
Ms Al Shoomi said that the orphanage will create more than 40 jobs in the Northern Emirates for administrative workers, nursery staff and caretakers.
The nursery will be open to children from the surrounding community, and fees will go towards operating costs, she said. Income from the village's stores – such as tailors, coffee shops and a supermarket – will also go towards the budget.