By Mario Casayuran
Returning Senator Pia S. Cayetano has sought to codify the country’s laws on alternative childcare by filing a bill that would simplify the process of giving abandoned and neglected children a second chance at having a loving and caring family.
Cayetano said her Senate Bill 61, or the ‘Alternative Child Care Code of the Philippines, is 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 because of 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 pointed out.
Cayetano’s bill seeks to address the issue by streamlining government policies on alternative childcare, such that the out-of-home care provided by residential care facilities shall only be a last resort for children.
The lady lawmaker said that the 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 Senate bill, 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 childcare. 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 childcare 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 childcare, 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.
Cayetano was the principal author and sponsor of RA 10165.
“We really need to see more modes of alternative childcare 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.