DSWD Undersecretary Parisya H. Taradji addresses members of media during the press conference to formally launch the Adoption Advocacy Campaign and “I Love You Anak” Song by Mr. Ogie Alcasid.

Also present during the media launch were (from left) Ms. Cecile Velez of McCann Erickson, Mr. Rafael S. Tinio, board member of the Inter-Country Adoption Board (ICAB); Mr. John Boren, president of Adoptive Families Foundation; Senator Pia Cayetano and Mr. Alcasid.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Inter-country Adoption Board (ICAB) and McCann Erickson launched Thursday, November 29, their Advocacy Campaign on Adoption entitled, “Love Sees Beyond Differences.”

“We have long sought to undertake a communications campaign and give a new, more relevant perspective about legal adoption. Now, the Department, together with ICAB and McCann Erickson has finally made this possible,” says DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman.

This advocacy communications campaign seeks to soften the stigma on adoption.

“There are so many children in orphanages and other child-caring agencies waiting to be adopted. But families hold back on adoption because of its stigma,” adds Soliman.

According to DSWD, from January to November 15, 2012, a total of 457 cases of children were issued with certificate of a child legally available for adoption (CCLAA). RA 9523 requires a certification of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to declare a “child legally available for adoption” as a prerequisite for adoption proceedings. From 457 cases issued with CCLAA, 24 cases were matched to local families. Another 38 cases matched to local families whose CCLAA were issued in previous years. A total of 62 cases were matched to local families from January to November 15, 2012.

The Adoption Process

John Boren, President of Adoptive Families Foundation (AFF), Inc., explains that while adoption takes time and some amount of money, the fruits and rewards are limitless. “Our organization helps adoptive families during and after the process of adoption. We sponsor forums on the legal, social and psychological issues related to adoption. But above all, we want families to openly share their stories so more families will be inspired to adopt.” Keeping adoption hidden from both the adopted child and family as well as from friends, results in adoptive families living a lie. Because of this, there are adoptive parents who carry unnecessary psychological baggage.

Members of AFF have joined together to sponsor forums which bring together all kinds of families to learn about the legal requirements of adoption, how to rectify simulated adoptions, how to talk to a child about adoption and especially tell them about their own adoption, how to decide on what information needs to be shared with others and how to deal with overly-inquisitive acquaintances; how to build and reinforce a positive self-image, both in our adopted children and in their adoptive parents, and how to deal with adoption issues at school, with teachers and administrators and other students.

Senator Pia Cayetano, a strong advocate for adoption says, “Rich or poor, Filipino families have so much love to give. And, there are so many kids in orphanages waiting to be loved and to share their love. But, sometimes it is a long wait for these kids.” The full legal adoption process can take between 2 to 3 years. This is perceived to be a long process. “There is a need within Congress to actively push legislation that will shorten the adoption process,” adds Sen. Cayetano.

“Despite the stringent legal process, there are 1,000 foreign families highly interested to adopt Filipino children,” says Bobby Tinio, board member of ICAB. There were 93 cases of children cleared for adoption as of September 2012.

DSWD Undersecretary Parisya H. Taradji, ICAB Alternate Chair, says, “There is room for improvement within our own best practices. Through this advocacy, we hope that the stakeholders in the adoption process will come together to address adoption-related issues and concerns.”

The story of Anna Villa

Jojo and Janet Villa’s journey for adoption started in November 2009. The petition for adoption was filed in 2011 and they welcomed Anna to their home on February 25, 2010. “The waiting time was relatively short. Our social worker, Mrs. Myrna Pineda, had guided us patiently through the process and has always made herself available for questions and assistance. She has since become our friend and eventually my “kumare” when we were both asked to be godmothers in a wedding,” says Janet. Her husband, Jojo, is a basketball coach in a leading university. Anna is now 3 ½ years old. Janet says that Anna understands that some children don’t have fathers, others don’t have mothers, and others don’t have both. “There are three in our family whom we have encouraged Anna to call Mama: her Mama Gay (who is the second mother we appointed when we were asked to do so by Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF), her Mama Inday (the helper who has been with the Villa family for 37 years), her Mama Baby (the helper who has been with the Villa family for 23 years). I want Anna to realize how many mothers love and care for her,” adds Janet.

The story of Justin and Ashlyn

The Craigs are among the many foreigners who have adopted Filipino children. They have lived in the Philippines for nearly 24 years. They first learned about KBF through Chosen Children, an orphanage for special children. They adopted their first kid and named him Justin.

“Our first response was pure joy in our hearts when we heard that we had been matched with a child. We wanted to jump in the car and drive the 5 hours to meet our precious little one right then and there. Of course, we followed procedure but the excitement grew by the day!” says Michelle.

Recently, Ashlyn, a 2-year old girl joined their family. “We are always encouraging others that have a desire in their hearts to adopt, to go ahead, and take that first step. The first step is always the hardest, not knowing what you may be doing. Once we contacted KBF, we were encouraged as they led us through each step and informed us what would be next,” adds Craig.

The Story of the Skopakow

Peter and Darlene Skopakow were recently united with their adopted child from Leyte. They filed their petition for adoption with ICAB in February 2009. Today, they are proud parents to Mary Jane. “This is our second adoption. We have had Mark, our first adopted son since April 2005. Mark has brought so much love to our home, which is why we considered a second adoption.” Peter and Darlene say that they have heard from friends that the Philippines has one of the best legal adoption processes in Asia. “This is why we got a child from Manila. While it might have been a long wait to have Mary Jane, nothing comes close to loving two beautiful children,” adds Peter Skopakow.

The Role of ICAB

The ICAB works directly with 105 international partners, communities and organizations and 99 local child-caring agencies (CCAs). ICAB’s mission is to place Filipino children with suitable foreign adoptive families abroad and ensure the protection, security, and the best interest of Filipino children.

According to ICAB, there are 6,265 foreign families who have adopted Filipino children since 1995 to October 2012. “Despite the stringent legal process, there are 1,000 foreign families highly interested to adopt Filipino children,” says Bobby Tinio, board member of ICAB.

Atty. Bernadette Abejo, Executive Director of ICAB, “I am happy to see this adoption advocacy campaign finally come to reality and I am very positive that this campaign will soften the stigma on adoption.” The Inter-Country Adoption Board (ICAB) created by Republic Act 8043 was designated as the Central Authority in matters relating to intercountry adoption of Filipino children.

The Adoption Song

Ogie Alcasid says, “When I was first approached by McCann Erickson, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted and needed to be involved. And nobody will doubt how we can use music to spread the positive meaning of adoption.” Ogie wishes to see more Filipino musicians be part of this advocacy. McCann Erickson envisions a collaborative work among seasoned and new artists and musicians of various genre singing the same song about adoption. “Wouldn’t that be a beautiful sight within the Filipino music industry,” says Ogie.

Through music, the advocacy hopes to change the mindset of many Filipinos about adoption and encourages families to open their homes to adoptive children.

Raul Castro, Executive Chairman, McCann Worldgroup, knows that through this advocacy, the agency can be true to its vision of driving positive values that will help transform lives. “This campaign on adoption is enabled by a team who commits to the advocacy on a personal level. Many wanted to get involved in the creative work, which aligns with our desire as a company to positively impact on lives Raul proudly says.

“Many Filipino families are willing to open their hearts and homes to adoptive kids. There is an opportunity to encourage this mindset and this is what communications aims to do. The campaign is a solution that magnifies the life-changing, positive impact of adoption,” adds Raul.

Like what Craig said, “Every day with our children brings many special moments. Whether it’s from the funny things they do or the new things they learn or the special family bonding times we have.