While the conditions for children in the Philippines have been improving in recent years, there are still marked problems concerning child welfare. The country is a diverse archipelago made up of thousands of islands, which makes it difficult for federal and local governments to reach the children in need living in remote coastal, island and mountain villages. Additionally, the on-going armed conflict in the southern part of the country has further isolated thousands of children.
Poverty and its Consequences
Almost forty percent of the population of the Philippines lives below the national poverty line, and 47.5% of the total population lives on less than $2 per day.
Malnutrition: In 2006 UNDP reported that 19% of Filipinos were undernourished and an estimated 26% of Filipino children are stunted. Malnutrition can cause illness, developmental problems and death.
Child Labor: Many children are forced to work to support their families, often in exploitative and abusive environments due to the high level of poverty persistent in the country. The US Department of Labor estimates that the number of children employed in child labor in the Philippines is between 5 and 5.7 million. Child labor often causes children to forego education and is detrimental to their well-being.
Documentation: According to UNICEF nearly 1.7 million children do not have birth documentation. This means that these children are unable to access necessary services such as healthcare, education and government protection. Children without birth documentation are more vulnerable, especially because the Philippines does not have a national child protection monitoring and reporting system to oversee the occurrence of abuse and exploitation.
Armed Conflict between separatist groups in the southern Philippines and government forces has persisted for over forty years. There are more than a million displaced persons in the region, and many of them are children. These children often lack access to basic services such as education and healthcare because of the conflict. Furthermore, this absence of basic resources has led many children to become involved with armed groups.
UNICEF estimates that there are 1.8 million orphans in the Philippines. Many other children live without permanent parental care as a result of abandonment or relinquishment. The primary cause being the extreme poverty that persists in the country, which makes it difficult for parents to care for their children.
Currently, children ages 24 months and older, sibling groups, and waiting children are available for adoption from the Philippines. The Inter-Country Adoption Board (the Philippine Central Authority in matters relating to intercountry adoption of Filipino children) announced on May 1, 2009 a moratorium on new applications from prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt a child under 2 years of age from the Philippines, regardless of medical or developmental concerns. The ICAB stated that this was due to the large number of approved adoption applications that have not yet been matched. The moratorium will reportedly be lifted after at least half of these applications have been processed.
The number of children adopted by United States citizens from the Philippines over the pass three years are:
– 2007: 260
– 2008: 292
– 2009: 281
(1) UNICEF defines ‘orphan’ as a child who has lost one or both parents due to the death of the parent(s).