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Manila Times: Bureaucratic Adoption

Posted by FAN Admin in International/Adoption Philippines, News on 10 20th, 2008

By Eric F. Mallonga

Bureaucratic adoption
SENATOR Miriam Defensor Santiago seeks to consolidate the whole adoption process through the “Philippine Adoption Act,” a bill allied with other parallel efforts aimed at uplifting the situation of abandoned, abused, neglected, and mar–ginalized children. The proposed legislation, however, vests primordial authority upon the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to carry out the bulk of the work.

The reality is that the DSWD is already burdened with other pressing work. It still has to construct intervention, diversion and crime prevention structures and programs within the local governments under the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act it was mandated to enforce two years ago. To date, it has been unable to undertake meaningful social welfare intervention and diversion programs, emboldening several senators to now demand the restoration of medieval penal code provisions that had inhumanely condemned nine-year-old children to dungeons.

The last ten years has seen an increase of street children dwelling in underpasses and other subterranean dwellings. Those children, who have been placed in government orphanages, have languished there as a result of numerous fees demanded by civil registrars for foundling certificates and late registrations thereof, including the filing and docket fees exacted by the judiciary. Social workers do not desire to be burdened with numerous exactions and judicial expenditures, which come from their own personal pockets. Certainly, there is an urgent need to address the defects in the laws on domestic and intercountry adoption now as much as encouraging heroic social workers who have uplifted our marginalized children.

Foremost is the double standard that provides for an administrative process in intercountry adoption, without any necessity for a judicial process in the finalization of said adoption while domestic adoptions require burdensome administrative proceedings in addition to an adversarial, lengthy, inconvenient and tedious judicial proceeding for abandonment declarations and adoptions, even when there are no contentious issues involved. This constitutes the primary reason for findings in the United Nations country report that there are more intercountry than domestic adoptions because the former are expeditiously facilitated in contravention of the Hague Convention’s subsidiarity principle. This principle encourages the child’s remaining in the country for domestic adoption, with intercountry adoption as a last resort. But the adoption process must constitute one single continuum, which means that if there are no prospective adoptive parents at the time of the matching of an abandoned foundling, abused, neglected, or orphaned child, then there should be no further delay and the child immediately matched, on the same day, with available parents, even if those parents are foreigners.

When there is a judicial process, however, in the declaration of abandonment, neglect, and abuse for severance of parental authority, the adversarial process merely delays the availability of an abandoned, abused, and orphaned child before the child can even be placed in adoption rosters. There is further prolongation when the child is placed in the adoption roster for domestic adoption before the DSWD, which schedules matching conferences at several levels, before the child is finally placed in the intercountry adoption roster, only when no successful match at the domestic adoption levels is made. Indeed, if there is only one adoption roster of legally freed and available children, then the child can be matched in a single conference where rosters of prospective adoptive parents, whether domestic or intercountry, are available thereat in one unified and consolidated administrative proceeding. If there are no available domestic adoptive parents for the category of the legally available child, then the child can be ipso facto matched, on the same day without any further delay, with prospective adoptive parents from the intercountry adoption roster.

Anent relative adoptions, there are even lesser contentious issues in such adoptions. Extended families and relatives comprise a strong resource for children wallowing in poverty and drowning in squalor. Relatives generally comprise the only reserve in uplifting children belonging to impoverished environments. Whenever a child is abandoned, abused, neglected or orphaned, it is necessary to seek the nearest relative available to constitute a possible reintegration. Relative adoption should not, as the Santiago bill proposes, continue to be an adversarial judicial proceeding. It does not make sense to explore relatives for family reintegration yet deny them the opportunities for adopting their relative children.

While the Santiago bill laudably pushes for a unified or integral adoption process, it should not, however, fall hostage to a DSWD bureaucratic structure. Children’s best interests are more conveniently and competently subserved under a separate agency that consolidates multifarious experiences and expertise of skilled mental health professionals, social workers, legal advocates, and child-caring agencies as in an Intercountry Adoption Board expanded into an Adoption Authority, where social workers comprehensively focus on the immediate adoption of children languishing in orphanages, jails, and detrimental family environments. To lump children needing immediate permanent family placements with the rest of internal refugees, disabled or differently-abled persons, geriatrics and elderly people, and typhoon victims and victims of other fortuitous calamities being served by an overburdened DSWD would constitute a great disservice to these abandoned, abused, neglected and orphaned children, who need the focused, expeditious, and energized attention of experts as well as to the people needing immediate DSWD humanitarian action.