May is National Foster Care Month and Guam needs more foster care families than ever.
Governor Lou Leon Guerrero signed a proclamation Wednesday that May 2021 is Foster Care Month.
Foster care is when a family temporarily takes in a child whose birth family can’t care for them at the moment.
“I am greatly humbled for all that you do. And all the work that you have shown to help our very vulnerable and disadvantaged children. Nothing in words can say that. But just to know that from the bottom of my heart, I thank you,” the governor said.
Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio added that much more is needed in partnership between the government and civic society. “To really try and encourage more homes to become foster homes, foster parents. But to also respond to the care that is needed out there with our children,” he said.
There are nearly 450 children in Guam’s foster care system. Of those, about 380 are in relative or non-relative placement and other programs.
Only 72 are in licensed foster care homes.
Currently, there are only 40 licensed foster care homes on the entire island.
The Bureau of Social Services Administration handles the foster care system on island.
Mae Fe Muyco, supervisor for Home Evaluation and Placement Services, says that the bureau is engaged in an ongoing effort to raise awareness of the need for licensed foster homes.
“We get the word out that we need foster placement and we contact our service providers, families, friends if we have anyone interested. And they may not be licensed, but what we do is we do an emergency NCIC check, which is the National Crime Information Center check, and a home assessment, before we place any children in there. So we have a number of homes that we approve, where we place our foster children. And we’re always, constantly, on a daily basis, asking individuals, families, to please come in and apply to be foster parents,” Muyco said.
The bureau falls under the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
It also partners with private organizations such as Harvest House.
Harvest House director Bethany Taylor, herself a foster parent, read the proclamation and made a statement on the island’s foster children.
“Please know that the child protective system and those who work in that system … they all desire the best interest for you. And please know that the court system that is in place is in place to hear your story and to give you a voice,” Taylor said.
A statement was also made by Kathleen Benavente, founder of the foster care organization The Kate Thomas foundation, as well as a foster child in her own right.
“People out there who are thinking of becoming foster parents, I know the fear of loving … and then the child leaving. It might be temporary for you, but it’s a lifetime impact on them. So I want you to know that even former foster parents that I had back in the late 80s, I’m still in contact with. So I want you to know that your love is everlasting. And you definitely have made an impact on all these children, even if you feel that it was just the moment. It’s a lifetime for us,” Benavente said.