It was May 2015 that I first met Jerry wandering the dirt backroads of Estancia in the Philippines. Two and a half years later I’m actively working to legally adopt Jerry under the Philippine domestic system. It’s known as “expat adoption” and really the only option I have.
“Adopting a child is an exhaustingly long process in the Philippines even for locals. When expats try to do it, however, the process lengthens and becomes more expensive than usual.”
This blog post is to update the amazingly generous people who donated to my Crowdfunding Campaign earlier this year and other interested family and friends. If you are not familiar with the story, please click on the crowdfunding link above and read about it. The campaign is closed for donations but it will quickly bring you up-to-speed with the story of Jerry and I.
So when I began a crowdfunding campaign back in December last year I naively thought if I raised enough money I could adopt Jerry and bring him here to Australia. I’ve learned so much more about international adoption since then and wanted to share now the steps in the process and why Jerry is unable to visit just Australia just yet.
When adopting children internationally you are bound by three laws. The laws of your own country (in my case Australia), the laws of the child’s country (in this case Philippines) as well as international laws. Naturally international laws are strict to prevent human trafficking and protect the rights of children. And with good reason: you would be amazed at the near strangers who offer me their children all the time, it’s really sad.
So because each and every adoption has to adhere to three different sets of laws it is often painfully slow. Slow as it is I do respect and honour these laws because ultimately they are in place to make it harder for unscrupulous adoption agencies and sex predators to access children. Even though my situation is a little different, I still have to abide by the same laws.
Travelling Internationally With Children
As much as I would love to bring Jerry with me each and every time I come to Australia, legally Jerry is not allowed to leave the Philippines. Because both of Jerry’s parents are already dead and he has no official legal guardian, it is impossible for him to obtain a passport. Without a passport he is unable to come with me. I can however travel with him throughout the Philippines but I must show his birth certificate and school ID each time we board public transport (if they ask that is).
Steps to Adopting Jerry
- Living full-time in the Philippines
Even though I’m only staying in the Philippines on a tourist visa I’ve finally chalked up enough hours to qualify as a ‘resident’ for the expat adoption process. The Australian government however regard me as living abroad, therefore I am unable to adopt Jerry under the Australian system. To adopt Jerry from Australia I would have to surrender Jerry to the Philippine authorities and he would placed in an orphanage. At some point the Australian and Philippine governments would contact each other and years down the track Jerry would become my son. All the while living in a state institution in a developing country. So difficult as it is financially, I’ll be living in the Philippines for a few years yet.
- Transferring residency from QLD to NSW
All expats adopting children in the Philippines must also legally qualify for adoption in their home country so during my trip home last November-January (2016-17) I officially became a resident of my birth-state NSW once again. For many years I was a resident of Queensland but the adoption laws in that state don’t allow single parents to adopt children from overseas. So I’ve transferred everything over including my business registration, driver’s licence and electoral enrolment.
- Growing my business
The biggest hurdle to the adoption is my income. Expats wanting to adopt kids must have a minimum household income of USD $44,000 (approx AUD $56,000), so as a single mum I need to earn all of that myself. If I was living in Australia it would be no problem at all, but on a tourist visa I am unable to work or own a business in the Philippines. Back in January I registered an ABN and began freelancing for copywriting clients out of Australia and the USA. I’m slowly building a client-base but until I have a tax return and financial papers that show a consistent income I am unable to even apply to adopt Jerry.
- Cash Payment and Legal Fees
Naturally there is a cash application fee of somewhere between $2,500-$5,000 plus legal fees but once I have sufficient income I’m confident I’ll be able to meet all those expenses myself. The most important thing now is to get my income to that minimum standard.
Copywriting for Jerry
The $4,330 that was raised through the Crowdfunding Campaign was such a huge help to get me back in the Philippines and enable me to live for a few months while I started my business again. I’d personally like to thank each and every one of you who donated (you know who you are). Every month I gain new clients and secure more work but as any small business owner will tell you it takes a good 3 years before you really start to comfortably support yourself. I absolutely could not have reached this point without that boost at the beginning of the year.
Living overseas just makes it a little more challenging to get clients but I am proving (slowly) that it can be done. The best way to help me adopt Jerry now is to recommend my copywriting services to family, friends, business colleagues and clients. Of course donations are always appreciated but they don’t have any impact on my business income.
I’ve tried to continue my creative projects with impoverished kids using the small income I’ve earned since January, but I realise that I’m spending so much time volunteering when I could be working and increasing my income to the minimum threshold. Being home in Australia after dad’s heart attack last month has given me some distance to see my priorities a little more clearly. As much as I love working with the children, it’s essential I build a long-term sustainable income. As Oprah says “you can only give what you have.”
I’m committed to giving Jerry a real family and eventually an opportunity to live in Australia. Poverty is a terrible thing and believe we all have the power to do something about it with our own hands. This is mine.
© 2017 Melinda J. Irvine