Legislature pushes CPS to do better background checks of foster parent candidates

The 37th Guam legislature held a Committee on Health and Public Safety joint hearing on April 18 at the Guam Congress Building in Hagatna. Photo by PNC's John Duenas

At the Guam Congress Building in Hagatna, the 37th Guam Legislature held a Committee on Health and Public Safety joint hearing on April 18 for Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services’ Child Protective Services division to demand accountability on its processes for foster children placement. 

Following Republican Sens. Telo Taitague and Joanne Brown’s joint letter to Democrat Speaker Therese Terlaje and Democrat Sen. Chris Barnett requesting to take a look into the practices and procedures of Guam’s foster care system operations.

During the hearing, Public Health officials said they have taken measures to access additional information on foster parent applicants.

According to Public Law 23-143, there are several background check requirements for foster applicants, including clearances from the Guam Police Department, Court and the Navy Criminal Investigative Services for active duty applicants.

However, GPD and Court clearances only show convictions. If an individual gets an expungement, the arrest and charges would not be shown.

Public Health solicited the Attorney General’s office to send out AG clearances, which would show accusations, arrests and charges against applicants; therefore filling out the gaps of the system.

Patricia Mafnas, the acting chief for the DPHSS’ Division of Children’s Wellness, said that besides conducting background checks, they also meet the families to evaluate and interview them.

“We do have families that come in, we do talk with them about the foster care process, we do a social evaluation on them, we interview them to know about their background and, you know, what’s the motivation on wanting to be a foster parent,” said Mafnas.

Applicant background checks will now include general internet searches, as well, which was not implemented in the past.

Taitague, referring to the child molestor that’s currently under investigation after molesting a foster child put under his care, said that something as simple as a google search should have been done nonetheless.

“You know how simple it was for me to go onto the internet and type in the person’s name,” questioned Taitague? “I got things back since 2018, where this gentleman in 2018 was charged with criminal sexual conduct. Just googling it. It was as simple as that to put up that red flag.”

Public Health officials present at the hearing only provided solutions to the problem, but failed to provide any answers as to why a foster child was put into the custody of an accused sex offender.

Brown called out Public Health, saying that this hearing was not only to provide solutions, but also to know how the criminal past of this foster parent went unseen by CPS.

“Of all the things the government has to do, aside from educating our children in a classroom, it is probably one of the most important things we need to do and do well,” said Brown. “We don’t get to mess up on stuff like this. We don’t get that privilege.”