MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) leads the observance of the Adoption Consciousness Week from February 15 to 23.
The celebration, with the theme “Legal na pag-aampon sa lahat ng pagkakataon (Legal adoption at every opportunity),” aims to educate Filipinos about legal adoption.
DSWD defines adoption as a “socio-legal process of providing a permanent family to a child whose parents have voluntarily or involuntarily relinquished parental authority over the child.”
Neglected, abused, abandoned, and children with special needs are legally available for adoption. A child who has had no parental care for at least 6 months is declared as an “abandoned child.”
There are over 2 million orphans in the country, with around 15 orphans per square mile, according to the Philippines Orphanage Foundation.
Homeless orphans are most vulnerable to hunger, illness, and crimes; hence, potentially stunting not only their physical growth but also their overall development.
Adoption in times of disaster
Everyone must always adhere to the legal adoption process even during disasters, according to DSWD.
“This is especially true in the situation of orphaned children in Eastern Visayas where some Typhoon Yolanda survivors have taken custody of some orphans in their localities,” Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said in a message.
DSWD together with local government units (LGUs) and international and local non-government organizations (NGOs) initiaited the Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification Program for the registration of orphaned children.
As of December 2013, the program has registered 87 children orphaned because of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The registration program also evaluates potential foster parents.
“Children orphaned by Yolanda deserve to get the proper psychological and material support needed for their recovery,” Soliman added.
The Philippine Domestic Adoption Act of 1998 or Republic Act 8552 established the rules for adoption.
Qualifications for domestic adoption:
- A Filipino citizen of legal age
- Not convicted in any crime involving “moral turpitude”
- Capable of caring for children (emotionally, psychologically, financially)
- At least 16 years older than the adopted child
- For non-Filipinos with the above qualifications, they may still adopt as long as they have been living in the Philippines for 3 years prior to the adoption application. They must be certified by their home country of having the legal capacity for adoption
The law mandated DSWD to provide adoption counseling services for adoptive parents, adoptees, and biological parents who voluntarily gave up their parental authority.
Adoption consent is needed from children aged 10 and above, identified biological parents or legal guardians, and the children and spouse of the adopter.
Social workers prepare case reports on both adopters and adoptees before petitions are set for hearing. The court summons a 6-month supervised trial custody to see if both parties can adjust to each other.
Once the court grants the adoption petition, the Civil Registry issues an amended birth certificate. All adoption hearings and records are confidential; those who violate this rule can be penalized.
Once finalized, all legal ties between the biological parents and the adoptee are severed. The adoptee is considered as the adopter’s legitimate child; they both have rights and obligations as parent and child.
Grounds for termination
Grounds for termination of adoption include the physical, verbal, or sexual maltreatment of the adopted child, and the adopter’s failure to comply with parental obligations.
Imprisonment of 6 to 12 years and/or a fine of P50,000-P200,000 shall be charged to those who:
- Obtain adoption consent through coercion or fraud
- Do not comply with legal procedures
- Subject a child to danger, abuse, or exploitation
Those who participate fictitious registration will be fined P50,000 or less and imprisoned for 6 to 8 years. Non-Filipinos who violate the law will be deported and banned from re-entering the Philippines.
The Philippines also implemented a Foster Care Act (R.A. 10165) in 2012. Foster care is the “provision of planned temporary substitute parental care.” (READ: Qualifications for becoming a foster parent)
For adopters overseas, the Philippines implements the Inter-Country Adoption Act of 1995 (R.A. 8043). Inter-country adoption serves as a last resort only after all means of seeking domestic adoption for a child have been exhausted.
Inter-country adoption undergoes the same thorough legal procedure before its approval.
DSWD also warned the public of engaging in illegal or unregistered adoption methods.
There are 3 types of adoption in the Philippines:
- Those processed through accredited adoption agencies and DSWD
- Family or relative adoptions
- Private or independent adoptions (direct placements)
“Legal adoption offers security and ensures the best interest of the child. This is why DSWD discourages direct placement and is against simulation of birth certificates,” Soliman said.
Direct placements, according to DSWD, does not prioritize a child’s welfare nor value the legal rights of involved parties. This process may be used by some as a modus operandi for making money and exploiting children.
To address this issue, DSWD put up Adoption Help Desks providing information on adoption (i.e., process, requirements, benefits, effects) in selected Metro Manila SM and Ayala Malls during the Adoption Consciousness Week.
DSWD Social workers and accredited child-placing agencies such as Norfil Foundation Inc and Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF) are in charge of the help desks. Participating malls include SM City Manila, Fairview, Marikina, Southmall, Megamall, and Market Market in Greenbelt.
The Department also partnered with the Association of Child Caring Agencies of the Philippines (ACCAP) and DSWD’s attached agencies such as the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and the Inter-Country Adoption Board (ICAB).
DSWD will be organizing a series of activities during the week-long celebration to raise more awareness about legal adoption and its importance for both the adopted child and the adoptive parent. – Rappler.com