Senator Pia S. Cayetano has filed a measure to codify the country’s laws on alternative child care with the goal of simplifying the process of giving abandoned and neglected children a second chance at having a loving and caring family.
Senate Bill No. 61 or the ‘Alternative Child Care Code of the Philippines’ was among the first ten priority bills that the returning senator filed during her first week in the Senate as part of her long-term advocacy to promote children’s rights and welfare.
Citing a report by the United Nations’ Children’s Right and Emergency Relief Organization, Cayetano said about 1.8 million Filipino children are abandoned or neglected due to several reasons, including extreme poverty, natural disasters, armed conflicts, and other problems at home.
“These children are usually placed under institutional care through state-run or accredited residential care facilities, while others end up on the streets,” according to Cayetano, herself a foster parent and eventual adoptive mom to her 8-year-old son, Rene Lucas.
“Sadly, there are not enough institutions to attend to their needs, not to mention the fact that these institutions cannot give the warmth and affection only a family could provide,” she lamented.
Cayetano’s bill seeks to address the issue by streamlining government policies on alternative child care, such that the out-of-home care provided by residential care facilities shall only be a last resort for the children.
“[T]he State shall ensure that a child without parental care or at risk of losing it are provided with alternative care options such as foster care, kinship care, kafalah (Islamic provision of alternative care), guardianship, or residential care, including family-like care,” the measure read.
SBN 61 likewise makes adoption administrative in nature to effectively streamline its procedures and make formal adoption accessible.
Furthermore, the bill calls for the establishment of a one-stop agency to improve and expedite the process of all modes of alternative child care. The National Authority for Child Care (NACC) shall be an attached agency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), tasked to formulate and develop policies on pre-adoption, adoption, inter-country adoption, foster care, guardianship leading to adoption, and other alternative child care policies.
This includes programs that will protect the Filipino child from abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and any adoption practice that is harmful, detrimental and prejudicial to his/her best interests.
The NACC shall also be in charge of conducting advocacy campaigns on alternative child care, in cooperation with various national government agencies, non-government organizations, peoples’ organizations, faith based organizations, and civil society.
Moreover, Cayetano’s bill seeks to make Foster Care a mandatory and permanent program of the NACC. The agency shall be tasked to develop programs that will ensure the awareness and responsiveness of local government officials in the promotion of the foster care system in every city, municipality, or barangay.
The institutionalization of foster care in the country as a preferred way of caring for abused, abandoned, or neglected children is mandated by Republic Act 10165 or the Foster Care Act of 2012, of which Cayetano was the principal author and sponsor.
“We really need to see more modes of alternative child care working in our communities, as these are proven to be more beneficial than institutional care, in that it provides children with the love and attention that can only be found in a family setting,” Cayetano said, drawing from her own experience as a foster parent and adoptive mom. #