Monday, September 5, 2011

Senators pass foster care act of 2010

MANILA, September 6, 2011-The Senators’ unanimously approved on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 2486 otherwise known as the “Foster Care Act of 2010,” which aims to establish a system that will promote foster care for homeless children by giving foster parents and donor agencies tax incentives.

The authors of the bill were Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada and Senator Pia Cayetano. The bill that seeks to institutionalizes foster care as a primary child care program for abused, abandoned and neglected children in the country.
Senators Manuel Villar, Fancis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto,Franklin Drilon, Chiz Escudero, Manuel Lapid, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III were the co-authors of the bill.

The bill defines “foster care” as the provision of planned temporary substitute parental care to a child. 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 to qualify as a foster parent.

Cayetano advised that 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. 

She said that 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 the bill is enacted into law the 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.

Estrada said that 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.

Under the provision of Section 30 of the Tax Code of the Philippines, 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

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.

To protect children from being exploited from their foster parent or parents, the measure also seeks to impose stiff penalties to violators. 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 said that about 10,815 children were placed in institutional care in 42 of its facilities last 2009 annual report. The number represents children who were abandoned, neglected, abused or survivors of conflicts. The DSWD reported helping 42,672 cases of children who are in need of special protection in the same year. (Jason de Asis)

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