Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A GUARDIAN FOR EVERY ANGEL



MOSTLY it is the so-called ‘gut’ feel—say, the German word for god is “gott”—or intuition that goes into sizing up a perfect match for a guardian and that child to be adopted. In candid honesty, Dr. Grace Macapagal admits to such a process in the choice of adoptive parents who would take as their own a foundling, an abandoned angel into the warmth of hearth, home, a family and future bright

“There is a method to it. What I know about that particular method is that it equates certain character traits to some numerical value and the outcome is what is known as intelligent matching,” she relates, and confesses that in her work as part of a government panel that matches children for adoption and their new parents, “we are not given to too intelligent matching.”

Indeed, parenting and child-rearing tasks demand so much of a heart full of love, thus, “what we actually do here is intuitive matching. Intuitive, not impulsive because there is a lot of preparation that goes into the whole process before the matching actually starts,” Dr. Macapagal, a member of the Philippine Society of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists states in a lecture on child custody, guardianship and adoption given during the Philippine Psychiatric Association’s 40th annual convention at the EDSA Shangrila in Mandaluyong City.

Adopting a Filipino child was a tedious legal process prior to the years at the turn of the new century and it took enlightened legislation to craft a statute—the Domestic Adoption Law of 1998 or Republic Act No. 8852—to snip through the red tape and rigmarole of child adoption that had a placement-screening committee of social workers.

The new law was meant the increase the turnaround rate for children—the adoption does not need to undergo a judicial process. The DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) can actually issue or render a certification that the child is legally available for adoption.

The new law set forth reforms; the placement panel was instituted into a Child Welfare Specialist Group (CWSG) that brought together skills and competencies from various backgrounds that advocate children’s welfare, “an integrated system of a network of selection and matching of applicants and children, this is not simply having on one side some children available for adoption and on the other side some prospective adoptive parents willing to adopt.”

The panel includes “a social worker, a lawyer, a physician—maybe a pediatrician, a psychiatrist or psychologist—and a representative of a non-government organization in child or parental advocacy.”

The new set-up was more into a lengthy parent-child bonding process, for transforming quantity time into quality time. “We do want to prevent the tendency for some adoptive couples to shop around for the child they want to adopt. It’s as if, if the shoe fits, I’ll buy it. And if it’s not okay, I’ll return the child. That becomes very traumatizing to the child when it happens,” she notes.

“We are moving away (from) a more judicial undertaking of adoption to a more administrative undertaking—one way to endure that the expenses will not be high,” she notes.

“The matching process became the rule of thumb, the standard by which adoption should undergo. Why let a bunch of strangers decide for them on what kind of child they want.  (But) we, as much as possible, do not want to put the responsibility only on the adoptive parents of selecting which child they would adopt. There is always a tendency for first impression, or lukso ng dugo (a tug of the heartstrings) and that does not necessarily reflect the child’s ability to eventually form an emotional attachment or the success of the child’s integration within the family,” she elaborates.

And so “we are not only considering the perspective of the adoptive couple alone, we are also considering the whole adoption process from the vantage point of the child. (Several layers of mediation characterize this bilateral approach.) And this is where the psychiatrist’s ability, the psychiatrist’s clinical eye truly come to fore.

“Especially when we need to assess the motivation of the adoptive parents, as well as their ability—not only their physical ability but more importantly their psychological and emotional ability to actually (be) parent to the child,” she stresses.

“We have to look at the child’s welfare from a longitudinal perspective,” Dr. Macapagal avers.

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