Inter-country adoption in the Philippines is governed by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8043 or the Inter-Country Adoption Act of 1995. The law aims to place every neglected and abandoned child with an adoptive family. Preference is given to Filipino adoptive parents as can be seen from the law's restrictive stance towards adoption of Filipino children by alien prospective adoptive parents (PAP). The law allows inter-country adoption to alien (PAP) only if it shown that the same is for the best interests of the child. R.A. No. 8043 is in accord with the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption, to which the Philippines is a State Party.

The Inter-Country Adoption Board (ICABM) created by R.A. No. 8043 is the central authority in matters relating to inter-country adoption of Filipino children. It is the same policy-making and regulatory body responsible for the approval of all inter-country adoption applications and placements.

The Inter-Country Adoption Process

The adoption process begins with the application for adoption submitted to the ICAB. The PAP may be an alien or a Filipino citizen permanently residing abroad. Before the PAP may be allowed to adopt, he must: (1) be at least twenty-seven (27) years old and should at least be sixteen (16) years older than the child to be adopted at the time of application, unless the adopter is the biological parent of the child to be adopted or the spouse of such parent; (2) if married, his/her spouse must jointly file the application for adoption; (3) have the capacity to act and assume all rights and responsibilities of parental authority under his national laws, and has undergone the appropriate counseling from an accredited counselor in his/her country; (4) have not been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude; (5) eligible to adopt under his/her national law; (6) in a position to provide the proper care and support and to give moral guidance to his children, the prospective adoptee included; (7) agree to uphold the basic rights of the child as embodied under the Philippine laws, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to abide by the rules and regulations issued to implement the provisions of R.A. No. 8043; (8) a national of a country with whom the Philippines maintains diplomatic relations and whose government maintains a similarly authorized and accredited agency and that his/her national laws allows inter-country adoption; and (9) possess all the foregoing qualifications and none of the disqualifications provided in other applicable Philippine laws.

With respect to the adoptee, R.A. No. 9523 otherwise known as "An Act Requiring the Certification of the Department of Social Welfare and Development to Declare a Child Legally Available for Adoption" mandates that only a child legally available for adoption may be the subject of inter-country adoption. A child legally available for adoption refers to a child in whose favor a certification was issued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) that he/she is legally available for adoption after the fact of abandonment or neglect has been proven through the submission of pertinent documents.

Where to File the Application

After securing the Certification from the DSWD that the child is legally available for adoption, the petition/application may be filed in (1) the Regional Trial Court having jurisdiction over the child; or (2) with the ICAB, through an accredited intermediate agency in the country of the prospective adoptive parents.

Foreigners who opt to file a petition for adoption in court in accordance with the Domestic Adoption Act , need not submit the application to ICAB. The Court will refer the petition to ICAB which shall act on the application. Foreigners must meet the following conditions under Philippine adoption law: (1) the PAP must be a resident of the Philippines for at least three (3) years prior to the filing of the petition and should be able to maintain such residence until the adoption decree is granted by the court; and (2) submit a certification of legal capacity to adopt issued by the appropriate government agency from the state of residence.

The Philippine government may however waive the foregoing requirements if it is shown that the PAP is: (1) a former Filipino citizen seeking to adopt a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity, as defined under Philippine law; or (2) one seeking to adopt the legitimate son/daughter of his/her Filipino spouse; or (3) married to a Filipino and who seeks to adopt jointly with his/her spouse a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity, as defined under Philippine law.

The Adoption Process

The ICAB is expected to act upon the application within one (1) month from its receipt. Documents such as the Child Study and Home Study Reports, Birth or Foundling Certificate, Certification from the DSWD that the child is legally available for adoption must be submitted together with the application. Applications are reviewed and processed only when the required documents are completely submitted.

Matching the prospective adoptive child with an applicant shall thereafter be carried out in a matching conference conducted by the ICAB. The process of matching entails the review of adoption dossiers, submission of matching proposals, and deliberations. Matching or child referral will depend largely on the stated child preference of the PAP. This usually takes two (2) to three (3) years after the approval of the matching proposal.

Upon approval of a matching proposal, notice shall be given to the concerned Central Authority or foreign adoption agency. After the applicant has accepted the matching proposal, the ICAB shall issue a Placement Authority. The applicant is thereafter assessed for pre-adoptive placement fees which may range anywhere between US$2000 to US$3000 per placement. The amount varies from one child to another. Factors such as visa fees and medical examinations contribute to the variance in fees.

Problem Areas

Trial custody of the child commences upon the physical transfer of the child to the applicant who, as custodian, shall exercise substitute parental authority over the child. Trial custody is supervised by the Central Authority and/or Foreign Adoption Agency (FAA) concerned. Regular reports on the child's health, psycho-social adjustment, and relationship with the applicants shall be furnished by the FAA to the ICAB. If the child suffers abuse or injury from the PAP or other household members of the adoptive family, the Central Authority or the FAA is mandated to step in and protect the child. It may do so by withdrawing the child from and terminating the trial custody.

Recent Developments

A recent study conducted by the ICAB on the number of children cleared for inter-country adoption vis-à-vis the number of prospective adoptive families revealed a glaring disproportion between the number of children against a long list of prospective adoptive families, resulting in a protracted waiting period for child placement. This prompted the ICAB to temporarily suspend the acceptance of additional adoption applications from FAAs. The temporary suspension as enunciated in the ICAB Resolution issued on December 9, 2010 however, only applies to FAAs which have sent ten (10) or more applications per year for the last three (3) years (2008-2010). The FAAs affected by this new policy shall be required to temporarily refrain from sending additional applications until the waiting period for applicant families have decreased for the next two (2) years.

Best interest of the child above all else

For many, the benefits of adoption outweigh the risks. Through adoption, many childless couples have found a way to realize their dream of raising a family. Adoption has also placed countless homeless Filipino children to the care of loving adoptive parents who are emotionally and financially ready to support them. It is because of these inherent benefits in adoption that the Philippines takes a liberal view on inter-country adoption and promotes the same not only as an act that creates a relationship of paternity and filiation, but also one aimed at giving every prospective adoptee a chance at a better future.

Along with the liberality accorded to adoption, the principle of "best interest of the child" pervades Philippine cases involving adoption and child custody. Philippine law mandates that in choosing the parent to whom custody is given, the welfare of the child should always be the paramount consideration. Aside from the material resources, as well as the moral and social situations of the PAP, all relevant circumstances that impact on the child's well-being and development are considered. It is in keeping with this principle that all programs on inter-country adoption are geared towards the betterment of the adopted child.

1. Section 2, R.A. No. 8043.

2. Ibid.

3. R.A. No. 8552

4. In Re: Adoption of Stephanie Nathy Astorga Garcia, G.R. No. 148311, March 31, 2005.

5. Joycelyn Pablo-Gualberto vs. Crisanto Rafaelito Gualberto, G.R. No. 154994, June 28, 2005.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.