What role does SCMAF play in the social development agenda of Abu Dhabi?
SCMAF serves vulnerable Emirati families in Abu Dhabi. We fall under the auspices of the Abu Dhabi Department of Social Development, and we have become one of the major social development players in the Emirate. Families usually come under our care through a decision from the court, and SCMAF's responsibilities differ from family to family. We try to categorize them according to their level of stability. Instability can include sickness, addiction, or discipline issues. If, for example, it is a challenge for the mother to look after the children, we consider it an unstable situation, which is not a negative category, but it requires more attention. We frequently visit these families and connect them to different departments, such as the Department of Health or Education. Sometimes we meet families with children dealing with addiction or abuse. Our social workers meet the families, conduct analysis, and then implement clear solutions that might involve things like medication or perhaps meditation. We focus a lot on mothers, trying to give them more support or educating them on how to support their children. We encourage them to report to us and be proactive. SCMAF runs sessions with families in need, and the number of sessions required can vary. Some people are afraid to be put on the spot, so we try to make them as comfortable as possible. The number of successful cases is growing. It is extremely important to emphasize that we not only care for individuals as minors, but when they are grown adults, too. The minors whom we work with must be made ready for adult life in this society.
What are some of the crucial needs for young people in Abu Dhabi in terms of social support?
I try to make my team at SCMAF understand that we will not be able to take over the role of a parent in a child's life. Many of the children we work with have a gap in their lives that they expect to be filled in the way they were previously used to. If, for example, a father has passed away and left his son AED1 million, and the courts ask us to manage it, our goal is not to use the money to give the son whatever he wants, but rather to take that AED1 million, invest it or manage it wisely and get the son to a point where he can take over his finances in a mature way. Wealth management, particularly in cases of premature death or inheritance disputes, is a significant part of what we do at SCMAF. Sometimes it is difficult to convince our younger beneficiaries about the importance of money management because many young people have difficulty seeing beyond their immediate needs or desires. The Emirati youth today are accustomed to a different standard of living than in the past. It is a challenge to please everyone. This is something on which SCMAF works particularly closely with mothers.
How is SCMAF using technology to revolutionize its services?
Almost all of SCMAF's services are available online, though that is not the metric with which I am most concerned. Our goal is to make our services accessible to the people who really need us. Most minors are using some sort of device, so our online presence is useful, though it will take time to see how children use it to report to us in instances where they cannot go through a teacher or parent. Part of that process is educating parents to give their children the space to evaluate their own environment and behave responsibly. We also have to bear in mind that there are many vulnerable people who do not have the knowledge or access to online services, and we have to be available for them as well.