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Bicam okays proposed Foster Care Act

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Before Congress went on customary Lenten break, the bicameral conference committee has completed the final version of the proposed Foster Care Act, which shall be transmitted to the President for its enactment.

The conference committee reconciled the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill 2486 and House Bill 4481, which seeks to systematize and enhance the foster care program in the country for the benefit of neglected, abused and abandoned children. The report, which adopted the Senate version as the working draft, was approved by the Senate last March 21.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, principal author of the bill on the part of the Senate, is hopeful that the program will effectively address the special needs of children who have been under difficult circumstances.
Estrada maintains that it is imperative for the State to have an established mechanism not only to protect the rights of the children against exploitation and cruelty, but also to enable these distressed children to move past their harrowing experience and to reintegrate into the society as productive citizens.

In his proposed measure, Estrada said: "Instead of putting the child in an institution, foster homes can be the best substitute because of the social and emotional values that they can offer to children who are in need of love, care and attention. They can also provide an atmosphere where a child can experience a healthy family life."

Foster care refers to the provision of planned temporary substitute parental care to a child below 18 years old by a person duly licensed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Under the proposed Foster Act , a child with developmental or physical disability, street child, child in armed conflict or a victim of labor or trafficking, a child who committed a minor offense but is released on recognizance or in custody supervision, among others, may be also placed under foster care.
Social workers will make a detailed home study report of the applying foster parents to determine the capacity and motivation for entering into the program. The prospective foster parents will then receive a foster family care license, and will undergo a matching process supervised by DSWD-accredited institutions taking into consideration the needs and the best interests of the child.

A foster child will be entitled to a monthly subsidy from the DSWD, and will automatically be a Philhealth beneficiary of the foster parent.
Foster parents, on the other hand will also be entitled to P25,000 tax exemption as the foster child shall be identified as his/her dependent.
DSWD-accredited child-rearing or child-placing institutions and their donors will also receive tax incentives, in accordance to the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.

Senators Pia Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV and Aquilino Pimentel III comprise the committee conferees on the part of the Senate. Meanwhile, Representatives Aurora Enerio-Cerilles, Bernadette Herrera-Dy, Lani Mercado Revilla, Susan Yap, and Mar-len Abigail Binay compose the conferees from the House of Representatives.

by: PNA



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