How to Legally Adopt via DSWD Adoption Program

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is a government agency responsible for providing social welfare assistance to the Filipino people. The DSWD also has an office that handles adoption cases and offers services to prospective adoptive parents.

Also Read: How to Apply DSWD Solo Parent Assistance Cash Aid

Cases of children being abandoned and orphaned are frequent in the Philippines, which is why many children need a family. If you want to adopt a child in the Philippines legally, the DSWD is the first place you should contact.

The DSWD offers a legal adoption program that prospective adoptive parents can avail of. This program is open to Filipinos and foreigners who wish to adopt a Filipino child. The first step in the process is to submit an application form to the DSWD.

Once the application form has been submitted, the prospective adoptive parent will be required to attend an orientation seminar. After the seminar, the prospective adoptive parent will be required to submit several documents, including a home study report.

Once the home study report has been approved, the prospective adoptive parent will be matched with a child. The prospective adoptive parent will then be required to undergo a series of interviews with the child and the child’s family.

If the interviews are successful, the prospective adoptive parent will be required to submit a petition for adoption to the court. Once the petition has been approved, the child will be legally adopted by the prospective adoptive parent.

Table of Contents

how to legally adopt in the philippines

What is Adoption?

Adoption is the process by which a person or persons assume legal responsibility for another’s child. It aims to help a child who is legally free or eligible for adoption come into the permanent care of parents whose love and support will enable him/her to grow.

The State has to protect children whose parents are unable or absent to look after them. This child’s protection must be carried out to ensure that the placement is suitable and does not risk the child’s development. The DSWD has a special concern for those relatives and stepparents who adopt.

3 types of Adoption in the Philippines

  1. An agency adoption involves finding and developing a family for a child who is either involuntarily or voluntarily committed to becoming a parent. The child’s adoption is then finalized through a licensed agency, such as the Kaisahang Buhay Foundation. This type of adoption provides the child with the same legal rights as the parents. It also protects the rights of the child’s biological parents.
  2. A relative or family adoption is a type of adoption where the child’s biological parents direct the child’s placement with a relative or other family member.
  3. Independent or private adoptions can be done through a go-between or an intermediary. An intermediary placement is a type of arrangement where an individual helps a family or individual find a child they want to adopt. The individual knows the parents who want to adopt the child and helps arrange the placement.

These intermediaries generally have good intentions and are well-intentioned. However, one should be wary of so-called “black market” placements, where an intermediary arranges for a child to be placed with individuals or families with a financial interest in the child. This type of arrangement does not consider the child’s best interests and the legal rights of the adoptive parents.

Components of Adoption

Adoption is a complex process and can be broken down into several components. This helps ensure that all parties know what’s expected of them.

  • Recruitment of potential adoptive families who may provide a home to a child;
  • Development of adoptive applicants as parents to a particular child in need of a home;
  • Selection of a family who can best contribute to the total development of a particular child;
  • Preparation of the child and family prior to placement to insure acceptance and readiness for the new relationship;
  • Supervision of trial custody for at least six months to facilitate the child’s adjustment in the family prior to the completion of adoption;
  • Preparation for removal of the child from the adoptive home if the placement disrupts while alternative plans are being worked out;
  • Finalization of adoption and termination of service with issuance of the final decree of adoption and amended birth certificate;
  • Organization of groups of adoptive parents as part of support system; and
  • Post-legal adoption counselling when adoptive family and adoptee need further counselling related to information about adoptee’s background and search for his/her biological parents.

Who may adopt?

(a) Any Filipino citizen of legal age, in possession of full civil capacity and legal rights, of good moral character, has not been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude, emotionally and psychologically capable of caring for children, at least sixteen (16) years older than the adoptee, and who is in a position to support and care for his/her children in keeping with the means of the family. The requirement of sixteen (16) year difference between the age of the adopter and adoptee may be waived when the adopter is the biological parent of the adoptee, or is the spouse of the adoptee’s parent;

(b) Any alien possessing the same qualifications as above stated for Filipino nationals: Provided, That his/her country has diplomatic relations with the Republic of the Philippines, that he/she has been living in the Philippines for at least three (3) continuous years prior to the filing of the application for adoption and maintains such residence until the adoption decree is entered, that he/she has’been certified by his/her diplomatic or consular office or any appropriate government agency that he/she has the legal capacity to adopt in his/her country, and mat his/her government allows the adoptee to enter his/her country as his/her adopted son/daughter: Provided, Further, That the requirements on residency and certification of the alien’s qualification to adopt in his/her country may be waived for the following:

(i) a former Filipino citizen who seeks to adopt a relative within the fourth (4th) degree of consanguinity or affinity; or

(ii) one who seeks to adopt the legitimate son/daughter of his/her Filipino spouse; or

(iii) one who is married to a Filipino citizen and seeks to adopt jointly with his/her spouse a relative within the fourth (4th) degree of consanguinity or affinity of the Filipino spouse; or

(c) The guardian with respect to the ward after the termination of the guardianship and clearance of his/her financial accountabilities.

Husband and wife shall jointly adopt, except in the following cases:

(i) if one spouse seeks to adopt the legitimate son/ daughter of the other; or

(ii) if one spouse seeks to adopt his/her own illegitimate son/daughter: Provided, however, that the other spouse has signified his/her consent thereto; or

(iii) if the spouses are legally separated from each other.

In case the husband and wife jointly adopt, or one spouse adopts the illegitimate son/daughter of the other, joint parental authority shall be exercised by the spouses.

Who May Be Adopted?

(a) Any person below eighteen (18) years of age who has been administratively or judicially declared available for adoption;

(b) The legitimate son/daughter of one spouse by the other spouse;

(c) An illegitimate son/daughter by a qualified adopter to improve his/her status to that of legitimacy;

(d) A person of legal age if, prior to the adoption, said person has been consistently considered and treated by the adopter(s) as his/her own child since minority;

(e) A child whose adoption has been previously rescinded; or

(f) A child whose biological or adoptive parent(s) has died: Provided, That no proceedings shall be initiated within six (6) months from the time of death of said parent(s).

Effects of Adoption

The effects of adoption are varied, depending on the circumstances. For example, if a child is adopted at birth and becomes the only child in his or her new family, the experience of being adopted may be less apparent. On the other hand, if a child is adopted as an older child or teenager who has lived with foster parents for some time before adoption, he or she may struggle more with issues related to identity and belonging. However, as per the law, these are the effects of adoption on the family members involved:

  • Sever all legal ties between the biological parent(s) and the adoptee, except when the biological parent is the spouse of the adopter;
  • Deem the adoptee as a legitimate child of the adopter;
  • Give adopter and adoptee reciprocal rights and obligations arising from the relationship of parent and child, including but not limited to;
  • The right of the adopter to choose the name the child is to be known; and
  • The right of the adopter and adoptee to be legal and compulsory heirs of each other.

Requirements for Local Adoption

Requirements for ADOPTIVE PARENTS

  • Application Form
  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate, Divorce Annulment, Declaration of Nullity of legal separation documents (if any)
  • Written Consent to Adoption
  • Medical Certificate issued at least 6 months
  • Latest Income Tax Return or Certificate of Employment
  • National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Clearance or Police Clearance issued at least one year
  • Three (3) letters of Character References
  • 3×5 inch sized Whole Body Photos of the applicant and, where applicable, his/her family taken within the last three (3) months
  • Certificate of Attendance to Adoption Forum

For Alien applicants

  • Certification that the applicant/s have the legal capacity to adopt
  • Certificate of Residence in the Philippines issued by the Bureau of Immigration or the Department of Foreign Affairs
  • Two (2) character references from non-relatives who know the applicant/s in the country of which he/she is a citizen or was a resident before residing in the Philippines, except for those who have resided in the Philippines for more than 15 years
  • Police Clearance from all places of residence

What is the Process for Domestic Adoption in the Philippines?

There are several steps to be followed for adopting a child in the Philippines:

Step 1: Attend the Adoption forum or seminar.

The DSWD requires all adoptive parents to attend a forum or seminar on domestic adoption. This is meant to teach potential adoptive parents about the process and requirements of adopting children in the Philippines.

Step 2: Submit the application for adoption to the DSWD Field Office or a Child-placing Agency

Submit the required documents. All applicants must submit their application form, birth certificate from both parents, marriage certificate if applicable, police clearance from all places of residence, and medical certificates from all doctors who have treated applicant/s for any illnesses or conditions during the past five years

Step 3: Prepare the Home Study Report

This is a very important part of the adoption process. The DSWD will require an accredited social worker to assess the prospective adoptive parent’s home and situation. This is done through interviews with family members and friends, visits to the applicant’s house, school or workplace, and other requirements set by DSWD.

Step 4: Submit Case Records of Prospective Adoptive Parents to the Adoption Resource and Referral Section (ARRS) of the DSWD

This will be a detailed report of all the information gathered by DSWD and a recommendation on whether or not to approve your application. The ARRS will also coordinate with other agencies and organizations that may be involved in your adoption case.

Step 5: Matching of candidates (Regional then Interregional)

After the ARRS has approved your case, you will be matched with a child available for adoption. The match may be regional or interregional, depending on the availability of children in different regions.

Step 6: Placement

If a match is made, the DSWD will coordinate with you and your home agency to finalize the child’s placement. This may take up to two months.

Step 7: Post-placement visits

The DSWD will arrange for a post-placement visit of the child by you and your home agency. This is to ensure that everything is in order.

Step 8: Signing of consent to adoption

The DSWD will ask you and your home agency to sign a consent to the adoption form. This legal document states that you are adopting the child, not just fostering or guardianship.

Step 9: Filing of Petition for Adoption

You must then file the petition for adoption in court. The DSWD will help you with this process and provide the necessary documents.

Step 10: Issuance of Decree of Adoption and Entry of Judgement

You will receive a copy of the decree of adoption and the entry of judgment. This is to ensure that you are now officially recognized as the legal parent of your child.

Step 11: Post-Adoption Services

The DSWD will provide post-adoption services to ensure that you can raise the child successfully. This includes providing you with counselling and financial assistance if needed.

The Importance of Adoption

You may know someone who’s been wanting to have a child of their own, but could not due to infertility issues. This can be very sad, but luckily many children need loving homes. Adoption is a wonderful way to give these children the life they deserve. Here are some of the reasons why adoption is a good option:

  • You can save a child’s life.
  • Many children need homes, and adoption is one way to give them that.
  • You can make a difference in the lives of others. Adoption is important because it allows you to help someone who’s less fortunate than yourself.
  • Adoption is the only way some children can have a family.
  • It may be hard to understand, but some children are abandoned or neglected by their parents. They have no one to look after them or care for their needs. Adoption is a great way to give these children the love they deserve. It’s also important because it helps prevent child abuse and neglect.
  • Adoptive families often become advocates for orphans and adoption.
  • They can help raise awareness about the issue and provide support for other families who are considering adoption. Adoption is important because it gives children a chance at a better life. Children who are adopted often go on to lead happy, successful lives in their new homes.
  • Adoption improves outcomes for children in foster care.
  • Children who are adopted from foster care have better outcomes than those who remain in foster care. They have fewer behavioral problems, get along better with their peers, and earn higher grades in school.
  • There is more support available than ever before.
  • There are more adoption agencies than ever before, and they are better staffed and equipped to handle the influx of requests. More people are also available to help with adoptions through legal assistance or counseling.

Infographic on Domestic Adoption Process

You can view the infographics below to learn more about how to adopt a child domestically. It provides an overview of the process and key information about the DSWD’s efforts with domestic adoption.

DSWD domestic adoption program

Video: DSWD: The Process of Legal Adoption

Get to know the process of legal adoption in the Philippines. In this short video, the DSWD explains how they choose an appropriate family, prepare for the child’s arrival and how to complete the process of legal adoption.

This guide provides an overview of what interested parents should consider when adopting a child. It also explains what to expect during this time. If you are going to adopt a child, you must understand all the requirements for adopting one.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the legal bases for the implementation of adoption?

  • Under RA 8552 or the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998, the DSWD is mandated to facilitate
  • the provision of immediate and permanent placement of a child legally available for
  • adoption, needing an adoptive family.
  • RA 9523, or the CDCLAA law, is an act requiring the Certification of the DSWD to declare a
  • “Child Legally Available for Adoption” as a pre-requisite for adoption proceedings, amending
  • for this purpose, certain provisions of RA 8552.
  • RA 8043, otherwise known as the Inter-Country Adoption Act of 1995”
  • Presidential Decree No. 603, Otherwise known as the “Child and Youth Welfare Code, and for other purposes”

2. What is the function of the DSWD in the implementation of adoption?

The State, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, is the competent authority to implement the Adoption program under the passage of Republic Act 8552 or the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998. The Program Management Bureau-Adoption Resource and Referral Division implements the Adoption Program of the Department, which provides permanent family care arrangements to abandoned (including foundlings), neglected and surrendered children, with the following functions:

a. Formulate/develop and enhance policies and other issuances that will protect the Filipino child from abuse, exploitation, trafficking and adoption practice that is harmful, detrimental and prejudicial to the child’s best interests.

b. Issue guidelines on adoption, including pre and post adoption services;

c. Monitors, provides technical assistance and assess compliance of Field Offices

counterpart and other agencies/ stakeholders involved in child placement.

Conduct of Regional Matching Conference

Development of prospective adoptive families

Conduct advocacy on adoption program

d. Facilitates the review of the dossier of children and processes the issuance of Certification

Declaring A Child Legally Available for Adoption, following the Republic Act 9523,

which was used to be a court procedure.

e. Act as Secretariat to local matching conferences that aimed to match the children legally available for adoption to approved local adoptive parents and recommend the child towards permanent placement.

f. Facilitates issuance of Clearance and endorse the case of the child to the Intercountry Adoption Board for possible intercountry adoption placement.

3. Who are the target clientele group of the program?

  • Abandoned, Neglected, Surrendered Children;
  • Children who are Legally Available for Adoption;
  • Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs)

4. Why are there still many people who are hesitant to give adoption to try?

The cost and long process in court. Though the Department is free of charge for those who want to adopt children, the Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) will spend money once they get the service of a private lawyer in the finalization of the child’s adoption in court.

5. Breakdown for the cost of adoption with the DSWD

The DSWD does not require any adoption fees from the applicant/s. However, there are certain requirements that the prospective adoptive parents need to pay on their own, such as applying for an authenticated birth certificate and marriage contract from the PSA and securing a medical certificate and NBI or Police Clearance, among others. It is when the petitioner (this is the parent/s that are filing a petition for adoption in court) starts to file a petition for adoption in court that he/she/they would have to get the services of a legal counsel for a fee that is agreed with such legal counsel. This is not within the control of the DSWD.

6. How to adopt my niece / nephew (relative) step-daughter / step-son

Step-parent and relative adoption (within fourth degree of consanguinity) cases are directly being filed in court and does not require to go through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) process. They may visit and inquire from the family courts near their place for further information on the requirements and processes of adoption.

7. Do soon-to-be parents have counseling services offered to them as they go through the preparations and processes of adopting a child?

Yes, the PAPs were required to attend the adoption forum a certification of their attendance is one of the requirements in the application as the basis for the approval as adoptive parents. The social worker will discuss the processes that will help the PAPs decide and determine their readiness to adopt.

8. What companies or agencies does DSWD work closely with to promote adoption?

The Department work closely with the following Government and Non-government Organization to strengthen our advocacies on legal adoption. Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Education (DEPED), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Department of Health (DOH) and DSWD’s Licensed and Accredited Non-Government Organizations (Kaisahang Buhay Foundation, NORFIL Foundation and Association of Child Caring Agencies in the Philippines (ACCAP).

9. Is there a standard age gap between the PAPs and the adopted child?

There is no set age limit for PAPs, but the age gap between a child and his or her guardians should be at least 16 years to ensure an age difference.

10. Can a single/unmarried member of the LGBT applies as an adoptive parent?

Although there is no specific law prohibiting people from becoming adoptive parents, they can still apply as long as they are qualified. This means that they are still subject to the social worker’s assessment and recommendations.

Although the court does not have the authority to ban the adoption of people from the LGBT community, it can still deny a petition if it believes that the applicant is not qualified. This is why it is important that social workers thoroughly assess the applicants.

11. Is there any difference in adoption requirements between a married couple and a single applicant?

If the PAP meets the DSWD’s requirements and is capable of parenting, the agency will not hesitate to provide the child with the necessary support. However, for single applicants, the DSWD will also require psychological evaluation. This is especially true if the applicant’s family members are also included in the assessment.

12. If the child was born out of marriage and the birthfather did not acknowledge the child, who will give the consent?

The child’s birthmother only gives consent and has the authority to decide on its future. If the child’s birthfather acknowledges the child, he will sign a Deed of Voluntary Commitment, allowing the child to be adopted in another country.

13. Is adoption revocable?

The adoption will not be rescissionable by the adopter or the child’s parents if the child’s best interests are served. Only after the petition has been submitted to the DSWD can the adoption be withdrawn based on the following grounds:

1. repeated physical and verbal maltreatment

2. attempt on the life of the adoptee

3. sexual assault or violence

4. abandonment and failure to comply with parental obligation


Adoption in the Philippines is a beautiful thing and can be one of the most rewarding decisions you make in your life. Adoption is not just about rescuing a child from poverty or giving them a better life but also about teaching them how to be responsible and caring adults.

The DSWD is a government agency dedicated to helping children and their families. The DSWD has many services and programs that aim to provide better opportunities for Filipinos in need. These include health services, education programs, housing, employment, and more.