Press Release
September 5, 2011

Senate approves Foster Care Act

The Senate unanimously approved on third and final reading today a bill that seeks to institutionalizes foster care as a primary child care program for abused, abandoned and neglected children in the country.

Senate Bill No. 2486, otherwise known as the "Foster Care Act of 2010," aims to establish a system that will promote foster care for homeless children by giving foster parents and donor agencies tax incentives, Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada and Senator Pia Cayetano, authors of the bill, said.

SBN 2486 was co-authored by Senators Manuel Villar, Fancis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, Franklin Drilon, Chiz Escudero, Manuel Lapid, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. and Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.

SBN 2486 defines "foster care" as the provision of planned temporary substitute parental care to a child. To qualify as a foster parent, a person must be of legal age and must meet a set of qualifications to prove that he/she is of good moral character and capable of providing for the needs of the foster child.

In her sponsorship speech, Cayetano said the government should give attention and consideration to foster care as a preferred way of caring for homeless children as opposed to the current practice of placing them in institutions, such as orphanages and youth centers.

Cayetano said there are not enough institutions to attend to the needs of abandoned and neglected Filipino children, not to mention the fact that these institutions cannot give the warmth and affection that a family could provide.

"Studies show that foster care creates a better living environment and develops better individuals as opposed to institutional care. Through foster care, children are given more attention and care in a home setting, thus providing them with more opportunities for normal, mental, spiritual, emotional and physical growth," Cayetano said.

Estrada said that once SBN 2486 is enacted into law, government will provide assistance and tax incentives to foster parents, child caring agencies and donor institutions. Under the bill, foster parents will be provided with medical insurance through the Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) if they are non-members at the time of foster care. They will also be provided with counseling, training on child care and development, skills training and livelihood assistance.

In addition, the bill provides that foster parents will be entitled to personal tax exemption and additional exemptions for dependents. The Department of Welfare and Development (DWSD) will also provide the foster child with a monthly support subsidy.

Article VI, Section 19 of the bill exempts non-government organizations accredited by the DWSD from paying income tax on the income derived by it as an organization under the provision of Section 30 of the Tax Code of the Philippines.

Likewise, donors will be exempted from donor's tax under Article VI, Section 20 of the bill, provided that not more than 30 % of the amount of donations will be spent for administrative expenses.

The bill provides that while the local government units will primarily be responsible for foster care programs under the Local Government Code, the national government will provide financial support for the foster care programs. It will allocate P25 million for the first year of its operation, giving priority to third, fourth and fifth class municipalities.

The measure also seeks to impose stiff penalties to violators to protect children from being exploited from their foster parent or parents. Article VII of Section 21 of the bill provides that any foster parent found to have committed any act of neglect, abuse, cruelty or exploitation and other similar acts shall be penalized in accordance with Republic Act No. 7610, otherwise known as "An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination." The violator can also be charged under the other laws applicable to child abuse.

The same provision penalizes violating agencies with a P25,000 fine but not exceeding P50,000 for the first offense; a not less than P50,000 fine but not exceeding P100,000 and cancellation of their license to operate for subsequent violations and/or imprisonment of one to six months.

The DSWD, in its 2009 Annual Report, said that about 10,815 children were placed in institutional care in 42 of its facilities. The number represents children who were abandoned, neglected, abused or survivors of conflicts. In the same year, the DSWD reported helping 42,672 cases of children who are in need of special protection.

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