| INTER-COUNTRY ADOPTION IN THE PHILIPPINES
By: Atty. Magdalena M. R. Lepiten, Cebu City, Philippines
The law that governs inter-country adoption in the Philippines is Republic Act No. 8043 approved on June 7, 1995.
It is the policy of the Philippines to provide every neglected and abandoned child with a family with priorities to place the child with an adoptive family in the Philippines. However, this law recognize inter-country adoption to allow aliens to adopt provided it shall be beneficial to the child's best interests, and shall serve and protect his/her fundamental rights. Thus, inter-country adoption shall be the last resort only if all possibilities under the Family Code have been exhausted.
Inter-country adoption refers to the socio-legal process of adopting a Filipino child by a foreigner or a Filipino citizen permanently residing abroad where the petition is filed, the supervised trial custody is undertaken, and the decree of adoption is issued outside the Philippines.
This law is incompliance with the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Inter-country Adoption, to which the Philippines is a State Party and is denominated as a Sending Country.
The Inter-Country Adoption Board
The Inter-Country Adoption Board is the central authority in matters relating to inter-country adoption. It shall act as the policy-making body
The Board shall be composed of the Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as ex officio Chairman, and six (6) other members to be appointed by the President for a nonrenewable term of six (6) years. There shall be appointed one (1) psychiatrist or psychologist, two (2) lawyers who shall have at least the qualifications of a regional trial court judge, one (1) registered social worker and two (2) representatives from non-governmental organizations engaged in child-caring and placement activities.
Who May Adopt
An alien or a Filipino citizen permanently residing abroad may file an application for inter-country adoption of a Filipino child if he/she:
Who May be Adopted
- is at least twenty-seven (27) years of age and at least sixteen (16) years older than the child to be adopted, at the time of application unless the adopter is the parent by nature of the child to be adopted or the spouse of such parent:
- if married, his/her spouse must jointly file for the adoption;
- has the capacity to act and assume all rights and responsibilities of parental authority under his national laws, and has undergone the appropriate counseling from an accredited counselor in his/her country;
- has not been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude;
- is eligible to adopt under his/her national law;
- is in a position to provide the proper care and support and to give the necessary moral values and example to all his children, including the child to be adopted;
- agrees to uphold the basic rights of the child as embodied under Philippine laws, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to abide by the rules and regulations issued to implement the provisions of this Act;
- comes from a country with whom the Philippines has diplomatic relations and whose government maintains a similarly authorized and accredited agency and that adoption is allowed under his/her national laws; and
- Possesses all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications provided herein and in other applicable Philippine laws.
Only a legally free child may be the subject of inter-country adoption. Legally-free child means a child who has been voluntarily or involuntarily committed to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in accordance with the Philippine Child and Youth Welfare Code. Child means a person below fifteen (15) years of age unless sooner emancipated by law.
Requirements to be submitted to the Inter-country Adoption Board in order the child may be considered for placement
Where to File Application?
- Child study;
- Birth certificate/foundling certificate;
- Deed of voluntary commitment/decree of abandonment/death certificate of parents;
- Medical evaluation/history;
- Psychological evaluation, as necessary; and
- Recent photo of the child.
There are two ways to file an application:
What are the documents needed together with the application for adoption?
- filed before the Philippine Regional Trial Court having jurisdiction over the child, in which case the Rules of Court shall apply
- with the Inter-country Adoption Board, through an intermediate agency in the country of the prospective adoptive parents
The application shall be supported by the following documents written and officially translated in English.
What are the rules for Family Selection/Matching?
- Birth certificate of applicant(s);
- Marriage contract, if married, and divorce decree, if applicable;
- Written consent of their biological or adoptive children above ten (10) years of age, in the form of sworn statement;
- Physical, medical and psychological evaluation by a duly licensed physician and psychologist;
- Income tax returns or any document showing the financial capability of the applicant(s);
- Police clearance of applicant(s);
- Character reference from the local church/minister, the applicant's employer and a member of the immediate community who have known the applicant(s) for at least five (5) years; and
- Recent postcard-size pictures of the applicant(s) and his immediate family;
Matching refers to the judicious pairing of the adoptive child and the applicant to promote a mutually satisfying parent-child relationship.
What are the Pre-adoptive Placement Costs?
- No child shall be matched to a foreign adoptive family unless it is satisfactorily shown that the child cannot be adopted locally.
- The clearance shall be issued by the Inter-country Adoption Board for the placement of the child.
- The Board shall transmit the Placement Authority to the authorized and accredited inter-country adoption agency.
- The adoptive parents, or any one of them, shall personally fetch the child in the Philippines once all the travel documents of the child are ready.
The applicant(s) shall bear the following costs incidental to the placement of the child;
Who shall be responsible for the Supervision of Trial Custody?
- The cost of bringing the child from the Philippines to the residence of the applicant(s) abroad, including all travel expenses within the Philippines and abroad; and
- The cost of passport, visa, medical examination and psychological evaluation required, and other related expenses.
The governmental agency or the authorized and accredited agency in the country of the adoptive parents which filed the application for inter-country adoption shall be responsible for the trial custody and the care of the child.
It shall also provide family counseling and other related services. The trial custody shall be for a period of six (6) months from the time of placement.
Only after the lapse of the period of trial custody shall a decree of adoption is issued in the said country a copy of which shall be sent to the Board to form part of the records of the child.
During the trial custody, the adopting parent(s) shall submit to the governmental agency or the authorized and accredited agency, which shall in turn transmit a copy to the Board, a progress report of the child's adjustment. The progress report shall be taken into consideration in deciding whether or not to issue the decree of adoption.
What are the penalties provided for in this law?
- Any person who shall knowingly participate in the conduct or carrying out of an illegal adoption, in violation of the provisions of this Act, shall be punished with a penalty of imprisonment ranging from six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years and/or a fine of not less than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000), but not more than Two hundred thousand pesos (P200.000), at the discretion of the court. For purposes of this Act, an adoption is illegal if it is effected in any manner contrary to the provisions of this Act or established State policies, its implementing rules and regulations, executive agreements, and other laws pertaining to adoption. Illegality may be presumed from the following acts:
- consent for an adoption was acquired through, or attended by coercion, fraud, improper material inducement;
- there is no authority from the Board to effect adoption;
- the procedures and safeguards placed under the law for adoption were not complied with; and
- the child to be adopted is subjected to, or exposed to danger, abuse and exploitation.
A penalty lower by two (2) degrees than that prescribed for the consummated felony under this Article shall be imposed upon the principals of the attempt to commit any of the acts herein enumerated.
- Any person who shall violate established regulations relating to the confidentiality and integrity of records, documents and communications of adoption applications, cases and processes shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment ranging from one (1) year and one (1) day to two (2) years, and/or a fine of not less than Five thousand pesos (P5,000), but not more than Ten thousand pesos (P10,000), at the discretion of the court.
Acts punishable under this Article, when committed by a syndicate or where it involves two or more children shall be considered as an offense constituting child trafficking and shall merit the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
Acts punishable under this Article are deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three (3) or more persons conspiring and/or confederating with one another in carrying out any of the unlawful acts defined under this Article. Penalties as are herein provided shall be in addition to any other penalties which may be imposed for the same acts punishable under other laws, ordinances, executive orders, and proclamations.
What will happen to Public Officers who violates this law?
Any government official, employee or functionary who shall be found guilty of violating any of the provisions of this Act, or who shall conspire with private individuals shall, in addition to the above-prescribed penalties, be penalized in accordance with existing civil service laws, rules and regulations: Provided, That upon the filing of a case, either administrative or criminal, said government official, employee or functionary concerned shall automatically suffer suspension until the resolution of the case.
How much are the fees for those interested in adopting Filipino children?
The applicants are to bear the following costs
What is the required age for the Adoptive Applicants?
- Adoption Application Fee--$100.00 (non-refundable upon endorsement of the Adoption Application and Supporting Documents)
- Processing Fee--US$900.00--for relative and non-relative adoption US$ 400.00--for Special Needs Children
- Pre-travel Expenses-- The cost of the passport, visa, medical examination, psychological evaluation, travel expenses of the child within the Philippines and for abroad ( the cost varies on a country to country basis)
- US$500 Child Care Support Fund for the Child Caring Agencies
It is a requirement in the Philippine Inter-country Adoption Law that the adoptive applicants must at least be 16 years older than the child to be adopted at the time of filing of the application or maintained a maximum age gap of
How long is the processing time?
Adoption applicants that have substantive Home Study Report (HSR) and complete supporting documents are reviewed and approved within one month from receipt of the adoption applicant/s' dossier. On the other hand, adoption application with lacking information and/or documents are reviewed and processed depending upon the submission/completion by the Central Authority/Foreign Adoption Agency (CA/FAA) of the requested information and/or documents with the corresponding delay in its approval.
The matching or child referral or allocation largely depends on the stated child preference (i.e. child's age, gender and state of health or extent of known background) of the Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs). This usually takes nine (9) months to one (1) year after the PAPs' approval. If one is willing to accept a special needs child then it generally shortens the waiting period for child allocation.
Frequently Asked Questions from the ICAB
(website: source: http://www.skyinet.net/~icaba/index.html)
- Can a prospective adoptive parent choose the gender of the child to be adopted?
Yes, the adoptive applicants have the option to choose the gender and the age of their child preference.
- If you adopt a sibling group, do you pay one processing fee, or one fee for each child?
The Prospective Adoptive Parents pay only one processing fee regardless of the number of siblings in the group to be adopted. The ICAB estimates the pre-travel expenses (for the processing of travel documents e.g. passport, Birth Certificates, Visa Medical Examination, Visa Pictures, etc.) for each child and is a separate payment from the processing fee. The cost of the pre-travel expenses is for each child to be processed by the ICAB and to be paid by the PAPs.
- Will a health certificate be issued to the adopted child? If so what diseases will he or she be tested for? Will the child be subject to AIDS testing?
Generally, children cleared for inter-country adoption have been tested and also received immunizations against common childhood ailments while under the care and custody of Child Caring/Child Placing Agencies (orphanages/Institutions for children). However, children bound for inter-country adoption placement undergo visa medical examination or health examination prior to the issuance of their entry visa if this is an immigration requirement of the Receiving Country. To date, visa medical examinations include: blood testing, stool examination, urine test, skin test for allergies, Tuberculin test for Primary Complex or pulmonary Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B (if requested) and HIV
Filipino children are not subjected to AIDS tests unless there are factors (e.g. child's birthmother is a prostituted woman with multiple partners, drug user, etc.) that would logically require the AIDS test to be done because it will be in the child's best interests.
- Is the adoption process transparent?
Yes, very transparent! The Central Authority representatives can come and visit the ICAB, may request the observation of the Matching Conference, have dialogues with the ICAB Secretariat Social Workers, may schedule visits to the different Child Caring/Placing Agencies or write, fax, email or courier us to Inquire, among others, on matters pertaining to Prospective adoptive Parents (PAPs) application, the child being proposed to the PAPs and other inter-country adoption concerns they wish to be clarified.
- What are the legal guarantees of PAPs in the event the biological parents of the adopted Filipino child changes their mind about the adoption?
- The children placed for inter-country adoption are those who are either involuntary committed by virtue of a Regional Trial Court's/Family Court's Declaration of Abandonment (DA) or those who are voluntarily committed or relinquished by their biological parent/s and legal guardian by virtue of a Deed of Voluntary Commitment (DVC) made out to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Philippine Competent Authority on adoption.
- The Involuntary Commitment is a judicial process that terminates the parental authority of the biological parent/s or legal guardians.
- When a child has been voluntarily committed in writing by his/her biological parent/s or legal guardians to the custody of the DSWD or any licensed Child Caring/Child Placing Agency, the rights of his/her biological parent/s guardians or other custodian to exercise parental authority over him is severed. The biological parent/s guardian may petition for the restoration of their parental rights and authority over the child within six months after the surrender (DVC) and provided that the child has not left the country with the PAPs.
- Is there a possibility that the Child will be taken away from the custody of the PAPs after the initial 6 months period?
The child may be taken away from the custody of the PAPs during the initial 6 months trial custody period if the CA/FAA finds that the child or the PAPs or both find/s the pre-adoptive relationship to be unsatisfactory of if the CA/FA finds that the continued placement of the child is not in the child's best interest. Said relationship is suspended by the Board.
- Are there many children available in the waiting child program and what are the circumstances?
We have a number of Special Needs Children- Special Home Finding of either sex or
Older children whose age range is from 5 - 15 years old
Children belonging to a sibling group of 3 or more
Children found positive of Hepa B or HIV
Children with minor medical conditions (cleft lip/palate, half or total blindness, hearing impaired, mild cerebral palsy, etc.) developmental delays (language/speech, motor skills, etc.)
- How long is typical for waiting for this program?
Generally, all our waiting children have been cleared for inter-country adoption placement and once the FAA notifies the ICAB that a possible family is interested in a specific child/ren in the Special Needs Children - Special Home Findings program, such a case/s is/are put on hold. The ICAB allows the FAA to complete and endorse the dossier of the SHF adoption applicants within a 4 month period. The ICAB Secretariat Social Worker in charge of the SNC-SHF program is mandated by the Board to present the case within one week after receipt of the application if the endorsed dossier of the family has thorough and substantial information in the Home Study Report (HSR) and supporting documents are complete and likewise, the dossier of the child is complete and updated
- Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect in of Intercountry Adoption.
- Republic Act No. 8043 Inter-Country Adoption Act of 1995.