The new law on adoption hailed: “For families created by destiny”

ANGELS WAITING A caregiver watches over babies at the Hospicio de San Jose, a Spanish colonial-era church-run orphanage in Manila, in this February 2012 photo. Couples or families looking to adopt children may now find the process much easier, thanks to a new law signed by President Duterte earlier this week. —RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines — Forming families will now be easier thanks to the country’s new adoption law, according to Romeo Brosas, who spent years adopting two of his children and now runs a group that helps prospective and adoptive parents .

Republic Act 11642, or the Domestic Administrative Adoption and Alternative Child Protection Act, simplifies domestic adoption and makes it less expensive.

“It will be [form] families created by fate,” said Brosas, president of the Calabarzon Adoption Support Group.

The law, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on January 6, removes the judicial adoption process, as it would now be administratively handled by the National Authority for Child Care (NACC), a new agency created by RA 11642 to be attached to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

It would address a major hurdle that has dogged legal adoption for years and resulted in costs, prompting some would-be parents to avoid the process, said Brosas, who was part of the technical working group behind the measure.

“The biggest challenge is the court process,” he told the Inquirer.

Motivation, advice

Under previous laws, prospective parents had to go through two phases when adopting a child: administrative and judicial.

Couples wishing to adopt are first required to attend adoption forums to assess their motivation and seek counseling from a licensed social worker.

Later, they must submit their medical, financial and other requirements to a DSWD regional office or licensed child placement agencies.

A social worker would then conduct a home study to assess the prospective parent’s ability to care for a child. Once approved, there would be a family match or selection, in which the applicant could meet the child.

Approved parents would then be granted pre-adoption placement authority, which would give them physical custody of the child for a six-month trial period. A social worker will conduct an assessment and home visits to determine if the intended parents should receive consent for the adoption.

Once the DSWD has given its consent, the judicial phase begins. Intended parents must submit an adoption application to court and go through hearings before they can be approved and issued an adoption decree and finality certificate.

The last step is the issuance of a corrected birth certificate indicating the name of the child that the parents wish him to take.

Judiciary process

Brosas thinks the court process to finalize an adoption was redundant.

He said that when a petition is filed in court, the judge would take a social worker to court who would then request the same requirements as the DSWD.

That means expectant parents have to prepare a whole new set of documents, Brosas said.

He added that the court social worker could also counter the application for adoption.

Hearings also take some time, as they can be postponed and further delayed by circumstances such as the judge’s retirement, for example.

Brosas said it’s not unusual for a petition to take years to resolve, and there have been instances where the process can take up to eight years.

Brosas himself knows the difficulties of adopting a child.

While adopting her son Blake took her less than two years, adopting her daughter Bianca took twice as long.

Her application to adopt Bianca required the consent of her biological child Bridge, who however was unable to grant such consent as he had been diagnosed with autism.

Brosas therefore had to get a doctor’s certification on his son’s condition before he could file a motion for reconsideration.

Adoption fees

With the new law, expectant parents would only have to wait six to nine months, according to Senator Risa Hontiveros, one of the sponsors of RA 11642.

The law would also reduce adoption costs, which Hontiveros said could run into the hundreds of thousands of pesos.

Brosas said some lawyers charged up to 70,000 pesos. He said he was lucky to have a lawyer friend who only charged him 20,000 pesos.

Other costs include legal requirements such as newspaper publication of a hearing order.

Powers and functions

Under RA 11642, the NACC will exercise all powers and functions relating to alternative child care, including declaring a child legally available for domestic and international administrative adoption, foster care, care by a relative, family-type care or residential care.

The NACC is responsible for ensuring that petitions and other matters relating to alternative child care are “simple, expeditious and inexpensive, and are in the best interests of the child concerned”.

The agency will set fees and terms for the administrative adoption process, which will require social workers and placement agencies to conduct a case study of the adoptee, birth parents and adopters.

The process involves determining whether the adoptee (child) is legally available for adoption; ensure the true intentions of future adopters; and ensure that adoption is in the best interests of the child.

The NACC will also be the central authority for intercountry adoptions, however it will not proceed until all possible domestic placements for the child have been exhausted.

A total of 312 domestic adoption cases were recorded in 2019, and there were still up to 278 cases in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Wilma Naviamos of DSWD’s Program Management Office.

From 2009 to 2020, domestic adoption cases in the country reached 2,815 while 4,396 children were “cleared” for international adoption during the same period, she said at a forum in February last year.

RA 11642 also provides for the revocation of adoption at the request of the adoptee, in cases of mistreatment, abuse and abandonment.

It also prohibits adoption-related discriminatory acts, such as labeling, shaming, bullying, and creating negative stigma, and sets fines for such violations.

Brosas said those with the heart to be parents should be able to start a family and care for a child and not be freed from old procedures.

“The child has the right to call someone his mommy or someone his daddy,” he said.

—WITH RESEARCH REPORTS FROM RESEARCHERS

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