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Manila Times: Adoption Awareness

Posted by lecrowder in Home on 02 14th, 2009

By Eric F. Mallonga
Adoption awareness
ADOPTION Consciousness Week commences this Monday with the Social Welfare Department (DSWD) taking the lead role in strategizing various programs to raise the awareness of our people on the need for providing marginalized children with permanent families.  It should not just really be DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral and her army of social workers who must be concerned about the pathetic plight of Filipino children.  It should be the paramount concern of all government branches including the President’s office and the Supreme Court to promote more expeditious and more compassionate approaches in dealing with children who have been abused, neglected, abandoned and orphaned.  It should also be a foremost concern of religious sectors, especially those money-making preachers and priests, to promote the integration of children who have been abandoned to the streets, abused in domestic environments, exploited by trafficking syndicates and criminal predators incarcerating children in prostitution dens, or who have been cruelly treated by the police and other law enforcers within dehumanizing prisons.  Churches, chapels, and mosques should be able to provide sanctuaries and retreat centers to the troubled souls of our innocent children seeking relief from their dehumanizing treatment by their own families and by our people, sadly sometimes even by those professing spiritual vows to our Creator.

Children who are permanently or temporarily deprived of their family environment for various reasons such as poverty, armed conflict, labor exploitation, child abduction and trafficking, are entitled to special protection and assistance from the state.  But what are the measures for special protection for these children and what are the measures of assistance provided by the legislators or the judges for them to be placed with nurturing environments away from the domestic abuse and neglect to which the children had been most seriously exposed and have traumatizingly experienced on a daily basis?  What really is the governmental approach to the street­children phenomenon—well, the criminal justice approach, meaning children are put behind bars, in secure centers or in dilapidated shelters unfit for human habitation, where they are conveniently forgotten, without their personal documents being cleared for adoption purposes. Oftentimes, whenever there are international conferences and beauty contests held in the country, there are corollary round-ups of children and street vagrants who are imprisoned in city jails and shelters as they are traditionally looked upon as eyesores.

However, there appears to be some hope with the continuing interest and concern of DSWD Secretary Cabral in directing the continuing advocacy for social change on children.  In promoting the adoption of children, Secretary Cabral is promoting a higher level of assistance to and protection of children, which means that the child who has been abandoned and abused should be permanently placed in loving and nurturing families.  But DSWD must push for changes within existing adoption systems beyond a mere promotion of adoption as possible options for families.  When families experience the tedious, inconvenient and expensive procedures that child adoption entails, no matter how encouraging the Social Welfare Secretary can be in this regard, the prospective adoptive parents are often discouraged from pursuing their plans to adopt a child.

The United Nations Country Report has emphasized the “double standard” involved in the adoption system.  It appears that intercountry adoption, which is administrative in complexion through an Intercountry Adoption Board (ICAB) endowed with quasi-judicial powers, is faster and easier than domestic adoption, which is judicial in nature, thus litigious and adversarial with traumatizing cross-examinations conducted by prosecutors, over-solicitous solicitors, and over-enthusiastic and power-craven Family Court judges.  Adoption should be a single continuum, meaning that a child need not wait a minute longer for a permanent placement because of the divisive procedure.  When one single Adoption Authority endowed with quasi-judicial powers, such as an expansive ICAB, is legally provided to assume jurisdiction over all adoption and family placement cases, whether intercountry or domestic adoption, guardianship or foster parenting, then the placement of a child with a suitable and nurturing family can be expedited and enhanced.  Family dossiers and social case study reports need not get lost in the transmission from one agency or office to another or to a court when the creation of one Adoption Authority would no longer require transmittal of records because it becomes a central repository of all adoption records, and not the various Offices of the Local Civil Registrars or the National Statistics Office.

To resolve the issue of the streetchildren phenomenon, however, Philippine Congress and the Supreme Court must have a primary concern and compassion for the children who reside in the streets, parks, beerhouses, and prisons.  This advocacy is also where Secretary Esperanza Cabral can now distinguish herself in the field of social welfare.  With an Adoption Authority linked to DSWD, Secretary Cabral can direct the vision of this nation in the humanitarian and compassionate nurturance of our children beyond expectations and beyond traditional approaches from ancient regimes.