Every child has the right to grow up in a family. But while Filipinos are known to have strong family ties, poverty and difficult living conditions have forced thousands of children to grow up without a home or a family of their own.
Kaisahang Buhay Foundation Incorporated (KBF), a private, non- profit Child and Family Welfare organization, with its mission to raise awareness on the impact and benefits of foster care in the country, recently held a Virtual Blogger Event with a theme "FosterCarePH: Working Together towards a more effective and Efficient Foster Care System".
The event was in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Norfil Foundation Inc., and Association of Child Caring Agencies of the Philippines (ACCAP, and the Advisory Committee on Foster Care (ACFC).
“Today is a special day, a milestone for many families and children in the Philippines. It marks the first time that we, at the Advisory Committee on Foster Care (ACFC), is undertaking a public event to deliver a very important message– an urgent call for potential foster care families to welcome abandoned children into their homes,” said Gil Velez, KBF Strategy Planning Consultant, in his opening remarks.
Through the event, KBF hopes to share and spread awareness about their initiatives to increase the number of foster parents who are willing to provide abandoned and neglected, and other disadvantaged Filipino children with temporary parental care.
Velez, who is also an adoptive parent, echoed the call for more Filipinos to consider adoption or becoming foster parents, “There are hundreds of children waiting to be adopted, waiting to find temporary homes. I am not a social worker, but I am an adoptive parent and I have seen first-hand, many children in orphanages waiting to find temporary and eventually permanent homes in families where they will be loved and cared for unconditionally.”
The Virtual Blogger Event is the first of three events this year, spearheaded by KBF and PR Agency, Red Havas Manila, to promote awareness on foster care programs in the Philippines and encourage more Filipino families to become foster parents.
Awareness of Foster Care in PH
During the event, Miramel Garcia-Laxa, Division Chief, Sectoral Programs DivisionProgram Management BureauDSWD Central Office walked the audience through the highlights of the KBF and DSWD Awareness Survey on Foster Care in the Philippines.
The survey, which ran from May 12 to June 2, 2021, was initiated by the Advisory Committee on Foster Care (ACFC) through Kaisahang Buhay Foundation Inc., (KBF) in partnership with DSWD was conducted to:
Assess awareness of the public on foster care as a concept
Describe the interest of the public in learning more about foster care; and
Collect contact details of individuals willing to participate in the foster care program
The highlights of the survey showed 53% of respondents saying they are familiar with foster care while 93% indicated an interest in learning more about it. Among these interested respondents, 68% prefer to get more information about foster care on Facebook.
“This is why we are gathered today, to amplify the call for more awareness. With your help and your platforms, we inform and encourage more Filipinos to be a part of our foster care programs,” said Laxa.
The Joys of Foster Care
During the discussions, the program invited 2 guests in person of Leticia Solana, a foster parent who has cared for more than 50 foster kids, and Randy Sinay, a former foster child who is now a Jail Officer with the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
Randy, who was left for adoption in an orphanage by his biological mom, became a foster child at age 2.
“When I was young, I used to be teased as “ampon” but my foster parents always defended me. They always introduce me as their “bunso” even if I was only their foster child and they always made me feel like I was a part of their family,” Randy shared.
Meanwhile, Mommy Letty, who has been a foster mom since 1988, decided to foster children after her children moved out and started their own lives.
“I’ve had 56 foster children already, but I still find it heartbreaking when they’re taken away from me. Despite them being stubborn and hard to care for sometimes, I treat each child as my own,” shared Mommy Letty.
Randy shared how despite reconnecting with his biological family, he still has a deeper connection with his foster family.
“Even when I met my biological parents, the connection I’ve had with my foster family remained strong. After I graduated, I still went home to them. The care and love they have shown me remains strong up to this day,” Randy added.
Despite the challenges, Mommy Letty shares how being a foster mom gives her a sense of fulfilment, “I’m happy even if they get adopted and taken away from me. At first, it’s hard to let go but I find comfort in knowing that they will finally have a permanent home.
Randy called for foster children to not think that they are alone, even if they are foster or adopted children. “Reciprocate the love and care you get with respect and love,” he added. He also appealed for people to consider fostering because he knows how much-abandoned children need a loving home.
Mommy Letty made the same appeal saying, “there are a lot of children that need us, they need more of us to provide them with a loving home and care for them,” she appealed.
Foster Care in PH
In the question and answer portion of the event, Program Management Bureau, DSWD Central Office, Director Wilma D. Naviamos and Director Glady Quindoza-Bunao, Executive Director Kaisahang Buhay Foundation Inc., and Vice-President Association of Child Caring Agencies of the Philippines (ACCAP), expounded on the challenges of the foster care system in the Philippines.
“Pre-pandemic, we’ve had challenges in recruiting foster parents. The pandemic made this even more difficult. One challenge is changing perception, especially the attachment of foster parents because most people think it will be very difficult to let go of a child once they are adopted,” Director Glady shared.
“From the government side, while we have an information drive to raise awareness on foster care, we were also impacted by the pandemic. A grassroots approach is needed, we have to bring the program down to the barangay level. We also are expanding the support needed by foster parents,” added Director Wima.
Both also shared how the government and partner foster care NGOs also provide financial subsidies for foster parents. Under the foster care program, there are volunteer foster parents, parents who are financially capable to provide and care for foster children, and subsidized foster parents who are financially supported by the government and its partner NGOs depending on their financial standing.
A big challenge is also ensuring only qualified and capable families are able to foster. There are requirements and standards put in place to ensure that the foster families can sustainably care for the children to protect the child and make sure the families who will care for them are of good character.
“We want to ensure that the child is safe and will get the care they need. We also make sure that the families are ready and committed because fostering is a big endeavor that requires time, commitment and resources,” added Director Glady.
“We have also streamlined the documentary requirement to make it easier for more Filipinos to apply. What’s important is for us to ensure the level of commitment of our applicants. Because of the pandemic, we have also offered online application options to make the process more convenient,” added Director Wilma.
DSWD works closely with NGOs to make sure that the process is made easier and to provide support for all foster families before, during, and even after their involvement in the foster care program.
Be a foster parent
Foster care has been around for a long time; however, a lot of Filipinos still do not know how and where to start their fostering journey.
Ma. Teresa Nuqui, Executive Director, NORFIL Foundation Inc., called for the public to join the mission of providing foster homes to more abandoned children.
“Our foster care programs allow abandoned, in need, and displaced Filipino children to believe that there is hope; that there are caring and loving families who will give them homes to call their own. The number of abandoned children in the Philippines is increasing, we need to reach out and encourage more people to provide foster homes to these children and provide them with a chance for a better future,” called Director Teresa.