WE HAVE an abandoned children problem. The numbers spike every year. About two million children in the country, more than 1.5% of its entire population, are “abandoned or neglected,” according to the United Nations’ Children’s Rights & Emergency Relief Organization. Some are victims of extreme poverty; others of natural disasters and armed conflicts in the country’s riven south.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is responsible for ensuring that many of these children find homes. Some end up overseas — American families adopted 1,350 Filipino children between 2009 and 2015, according to Alita C. De Ocampo, a social worker in charge of the DSWD’s adoption resource and referral section for Metro Manila. She is one of two social workers in the area – a city of nearly 12 million people — who can evaluate children’s eligibility for adoption. Hiring more staff and establishing rules and regulations for different government agencies to share documents could expedite the adoption process. But many children still live in cemeteries, along railways, river banks and under bridges to survive. They stroll in packs, resting on the pavement between tombs and swinging from the skeletal frames of unfinished mausoleums or walking barefoot in major highways begging for alms.
Orphanages in the country are scarce and poorly staffed; that government agencies frequently demand documents that are impossible to procure; and that even with the necessary paperwork, simple procedures can drag on for months. Many of the children remain in orphanages for three to four years before they are legally cleared for adoption. There are some 12 orphanages in Central Luzon (Pampanga, Bulacan, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija).
Our constitution provides that the state shall defend the right of children to assistance, including adequate food, proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation or other conditions prejudicial to their development from zero to two years old.
Unfortunately, we often hear news about babies being abandoned in hospitals, churches, even garbage dumps and the streets. While abandoning a minor is considered a crime, it must also be taken into account that some parents or persons may have been forced by extreme poverty to abandon their child while others may have been raped or too young to be mentally, emotionally and financially prepared for parenthood. This sad reality is not unique in the country. In California, USA for instance they have frequent cases of abandoned infants who die due to lack of medical care. Thus they enacted the “Safely Surrendered Baby Law” which took effect in 2001. Pursuant to this law, California has adopted a program known as the “Safe Haven for Newborns” program which allows a birth parent or any adult with legal custody of the child, who is either unwilling or unable to care for their newborn, the option to legally, confidentially and safely surrender that child to a hospital emergency room or other designated location within three days of birth, without criminal prosecution for child abandonment.
Meanwhile, Rep. Allan Benedict Reyes, 3rd district Quezon City, filed a bill similar in nature whereas a birth parent or legal guardian who is unwilling or unable to care for his/her child is given a legal option to confidentially and safely surrender his/her child without being held liable for abandoning a minor. Reyes explained it is more important to protect the right to life and survival of the newborn and he or she is still given a fair chance to grow and develop into a productive member of society.
The proposed House Bill No. 6889 provides safe havens for abandoned newborns wherein parents or legal guardians may legally and safely leave a baby three days old or younger with an employee at any hospital or child caring agency or institution duly accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Reyes pointed out that the parent or legal guardian may SURRENDER the baby to a safe haven without fear of arrest or prosecution under Article 276 of the Revised Penal Code. The surrender of the baby shall be kept strict confidentiality. The parent or guardian shall only be required to fill out a voluntary and anonymous medical history form to help provide proper medical care for the safely surrendered baby. As an additional requirement, the parent or guardian shall also be asked to obtain an ID bracelet that matches one that will be fastened to the baby’s ankle. The bracelet shall serve as identification mark in case the surrounding parent or guardian changes his or her mind. The parent or guardian is given 14 days from date of surrender to RECLAIM the baby. The employee of the hospital or child caring agency or institution shall facilitate the RETURN process. Similarly the RETURN of the baby shall be kept under strict confidentiality. After 14 days from surrender age “safely surrendered baby” may be ADOPTED pursuant to the rules and policies in Republic Act No. 8552 or Domestic Adoption Act of 1998.
Moreover, Reyes said that the State shall provide SCHOLARSHIPS for “safely surrendered children”. A scholarship fund shall be set up to be administered by the DSWD in coordination with Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and/or the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Youth who were adopted as a “safely surrendered baby” are eligible for scholarship grants which may be used for any purpose toward HIGHER EDUCATION, including those offered by technical/vocational schools, state colleges and universities. An eligibility verification letter shall be sent to the adoptive family of a “safely surrendered baby” at the time of finalization of their adoption. Subject to the provisions of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, the adoptive parents may present the said letter to any HEI or the TESDA and/or CHED as verification of eligibility in the application of scholarship.
How much does it cost to adopt a baby from the Philippines? Approximately $25,000-$35,000 (Php 1,250,000-1,750,000), including everything from childcare costs to travel. This estimate includes overseas fees, the home study assessment, collection of a “dossier” of documents, travel costs and post-placement visits with your family after the adoption placement. How to adopt a baby from the Philippines? If you are US citizen, choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider, apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt, be matched with a child by authorities in the Philippines and apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption.