Adoption is a legal process of providing a permanent family to a child whose parents have voluntarily or involuntarily relinquished parental authority over a child. In this process, the welfare of the adopted child is the paramount consideration; hence, this whole thing is meant for his/her benefit. Upon declaration by the courts of an adoption decree, there arises a new legal relationship between the adopter and the adoptee, the relationship of which is similar to legitimate paternity and filiation.
There are three types of domestic adoption in the Philippines. These are agency adoption, relative adoption and independent adoption. In agency adoption, a DSWD licensed agency finds adoptive families who are voluntarily or involuntarily committed. The adoptive families go through the process from inquiry, adoption, application, interviews for the case study report, matching, and supervised trial custody. In relative adoption, the biological parents relinquish their child to a relative or member of their extended family. The process is less rigorous since the family member does not have to go through the matching and supervised trial custody. This is somewhat similar to independent adoptions, where biological parents directly place their child with a person they know or through an intermediary (an individual who knows of parents who want to adopt the child and arranges such placement between them). The last two types of adoption are processed through filing a petition to adopt with the Family Court directly. Here, the DSWD does not have to be involved, unless ordered by the court. In cases when the birth parents directly surrender their child to an adoptive family, they may demand the return of the child since they still have the legal right to retrieve the child from his or her actual custodians, who in the eyes of the law, remain strangers so long as an adoption decree is not yet issued.
Who may adopt?
Individuals or couples of legal age that are at least 16 years older than the adoptee may adopt. In the case that the adopter is the biological parent or sibling of the adoptee, the minimum age gap may no longer be required.
The adopter must also have the capacity to act and assume all rights and duties to exercise parental authority. He or she should be of good moral character and has not been convicted of any crime involving morality. In addition, the adopter should also be in the position to support, educate, and care for his or her children and the child to be adopted.
In the case of foreign nationals interested in adopting in the Philippines, the adopter should be a citizen of a state that has diplomatic relations with the country. The diplomatic or consular office of the prospective parent must also certify that he or she is qualified in his or her country to adopt; and his or her government will allow the adoptee to enter the parent’s country and reside there permanently as an adopted child. The alien shall also be living in the Philippines for at least 3 continuous years prior to the filing of the application for adoption and maintains such residence until an adoption decree is entered. This residency requirement, however, is not required when the alien is a former Filipino who seeks to adopt a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity, or seeks to adopt the legitimate child of his or her Filipino spouse, or is married to a Filipino and seeks to adopt jointly with the Filipino spouse a relative within the 4th degree of consanguinity or affinity as well.
The foreign national interested in adopting should submit all necessary clearances and certification as required by the DSWD.
Procedure for Agency Adoption
- Pre adoption services
Refers to psychological services provided for by professionally trained social workers of the DSWD, social service units of the local government, private and governmental health facilities, Family courts, licensed and accredited child caring and child placing agencies and other entities involved in the adoption so long as authorised by the DSWD. Such counselling assures that no hasty decisions caused by anxiety or stress are made by the biological parents or the prospective adoptive parents. This services include:
a) Counselling of Biological Parents
b) Counselling of Prospective Adoptive Families
c) Counselling for the Prospective Adoptee
The law provides that older children should be counselled, and that the legal effects of adoption should be explained to them to the extent that they can comprehend
d) Location of Unknown Parents
Under the Domestic Adoption Law, the Department or licensed agency which has custody of the child shall exert all efforts to locate his or her unknown biological parents. Certifications from radio and TV stations that the case was aired on 3 different occasions and newspaper publications are sufficient proof of this requirement.
2) Case study reports
The Social Case Study Report (SCSR) is a written assessment conducted by a licensed social worker as to the child’s social, economic, cultural, and psychosocial background, as well as details about the abandonment or neglect of the child. The report should also contain the efforts of the social worker to locate the child’s biological parents/relatives.
The DSWD or child-placing agency then must prepare a case study report of the child and the biological parents. The social worker must confirm the real identity and registered name of the adoptee with the Civil Registry. If the adoptee is not registered, the social worker is responsible for facilitating the child’s registration.
It must contain the child’s legal status, placement history, psychological, social, spiritual, medical, ethno-cultural background and that of his biological family needed in determining the most appropriate placement for him. After this, the child may be placed in the custody of the DWSD or a child-placing agency.
The social worker prepares a case study report on the prospective adopters as well, to make sure they can provide a suitable home for the child. The Supreme Court Rule on Adoption refers to this as a “home study report” “aimed to help the DSWD and courts ascertain the genuine intentions of the adopters.”
3) Matching Process and Family Selection
Prospective adopters and the children legally available for adoption then meet at the matching table once the case study reports have been filed.
Matching is the major function of the Child Welfare Specialist Group (CWSG). This group is composed of five members: a social worker from DSWD, a lawyer, a physician, a psychologist, and NGO representative of adoptive parents or child welfare agencies. The DSWD Secretary has since created a National Child Welfare Specialist Group; the creation of a national matching committee was done in order to prevent delays in placing the child. Adopters are asked to specify their preferences in the child with whom they will be matched, including sex and age. The matching process also determines if the adopters are willing to adopt a child who has a developmental delay or disability.
In this stage, adopters are asked to specify the sex and age of the child they prefer to be matched with. They will be asked if they will accept a child who has development delay or physical disability.
With regards to religious affiliations, the Omnibus Guidelines on the Domestic Adoption Process state that religion can only be considered if the child is old enough to understand religious belief and practices. This age is generally pegged at 6 years old and above.
Once the child has been matched, the respective social workers who prepared the case study reports shall also prepare the adoptive family and the child before actual placement, where the child is physically transferred from the child caring or foster home to the prospective adoptee parents.
The DSWD approves this placement and issues the Pre-Adoption Placement Authority where the adoptive parents shall be responsible for his care and custody.
After the issuance of the Pre-Adoption Placement Authority, the supervised trial custody will commence.
5) Supervised trial custody
The period of time during which a social worker overseas the adjustment and emotional readiness of both adopter and adoptee in stabilizing their familial relationship.
During the trial custody, the social worker shall conduct monthly home visits to monitor adjustment of the child and the adopter to each other and submit the progress report to DSWD.
Upon termination of the six month trial custody period, the Consent to Adopt is given by DSWD.
6) Filing a Petition for Adoption
Potential adopters must then file the petition for adoption with the Family Court of the province or city where they reside in order to make the adoption official. This is the only point when the services of a lawyer are needed.
For the case where an abandoned, dependent or neglected child is to be adopted, facts must be cited to prove this assertion, including the names and residence of the child’s parents or guardians. The name of the accredited child-placement agency must also be stated together with their authorization to give consent.
The court shall only proceed to hear the petition once the order of hearing has been published and all stipulated requirements met. Both the petitioner and the potential adoptee must be present during the hearing, with the petitioner testifying before the judge on the said date. The social worker must also be present to ensure that all involved parties have been well assessed and have gone counseling so that they will be fully prepare.
The presence of both the petitioner and the adoptee is vital as through this the court may be able to better gauge the child’s condition both individually and relative to the petitioner.
7) Decree of Adoption
If the court is convinced that the adopters are qualified to adopt, and that the adoption would redound to the best interest of the child, a decree of adoption shall be issued which will be effective as of the date of filing of the petition of adoption.
There will also be an amended certificate of birth issued by the Civil Registry. This reinforces the petitioner’s claim to the adoptee by registering the child with a new surname. The previous birth certificate will also be cancelled and stamped appropriately.
The adoption decree will also contain the new name of the child. With the decree also comes the following, a certificate of finality to be issued by the Clerk of Court after the closure of the 15-day appeal period and a certified true copy of the adoption decree to be submitted by the adopter to the Civil Registrar within 30 days of the issuance of the certificate of finality. The Civil Registrar, after making the proper annotations to the decree of adoption, must then seal away the adoptee’s original birth certificate, replacing it with a new birth certificate.
The decree of adoption completes the process of adoption as the petitioner can now legally refer to the adoptee as his or her own child.