Press Release
September 18, 2010

Pia pushes for 'Foster Care Act' to protect abandoned children

The Senate is ready to open plenary debates on legislative measures as the chamber takes up next week Committee Report No.1 filed by Senator Pia S. Cayetano.

The report contains Senate Bill No.2486, the "Foster Care Act of 2010," which seeks to strengthen and propagate the system of foster parenting in the country to care for abandoned, abused and neglected children.

The issue of abandoned children recently made the headlines after news broke out about a newborn baby boy left by her mother inside a trash bin of a Gulf Air Bahrain-to-Manila flight.

The boy, referred to as "George Francis," is currently in the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and has reportedly been swamped with adoption offers. The National Bureau of Investigation has already tracked down the baby's alleged mother, an overseas worker from the province of Apayao.

"The story of Baby George Francis reflects the growing problem of child abandonment and poverty in our country. Up to 100 children are abandoned and turned over to the DWSD every two months," pointed out Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations and principal sponsor of SBN 2486.

"We hear news everyday about babies being abandoned in churches, garbage dumps and the streets. In many cases, parents are forced by extreme poverty to give up their child for adoption. There are also instances where young mothers who are unprepared for parenthood simply abandon their baby in the hospital after giving birth."

"It is government's duty to protect the rights and welfare of abandoned children. They must be shielded from discrimination and abuse, and given the opportunity for growth and development under an alternative family set-up."

Co-authored by Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Manny Villar, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto and Franklin Drilon, SBN 2486 considers "foster care" as an initial step towards the foster child's return and reintegration to his or her biological family, or possible placement with an adoptive family.

An abandoned, neglected or orphaned minor may be placed under foster care, provided that the child does not have a family that is willing and capable of caring for him or her. The child may also be a victim of sexual or physical abuse, has development or physical disabilities, or has other special needs

On the other hand, a foster parent must pass a set of criteria by the DSWD or any of its accredited foster care agencies. He or she must be of legal age, of good moral character, and capable of providing for the family's needs. He or she must likewise have a genuine interest, capacity and commitment in parenting the foster child.

A foster parent passing the DSWD criteria will be issued a license by the agency, which is renewable every three years. The foster parent will then be "matched" with a foster child after assessing the capacity of the former and specific needs of the latter. The child may also be adopted by the foster parent later on, subject to the same procedures and requirements under the country's adoption laws.

SBN 2486 mandates an initial amount of P25 million in the General Appropriations Act to fund the operation of the foster care program under the DSWD. It also offers incentives for foster parents, foster care agencies and the latter's donors.

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