Public Health opposes Bill 179; Taitague says adoption issue is being ‘politicized’

Senator Telo Taitague (PNC file photo)

The Department of Public Health and Social Services presented official testimony opposing Bill 179-36, introduced by Sen. Telo Taitague, which would require rules and regulations for the licensure of independent adoption agencies by March 1, 2022.

The bill was offered after a majority of senators a few months ago allowed two bills recognizing the involvement of independent adoption agencies to move forward without the establishment of such rules and regulations.

According to DPHSS, it is already working with representatives from Region IX to develop guidelines for independent adoption agencies.

However, Taitague said DPHSS leadership just this past June informed senators that they weren’t aware of existing rules and regulations for adoption agencies and that a process would need to be developed to regulate the licensure of private adoption agencies.

Taitague said DPHSS leadership and the governor’s policy office participated in a meeting several weeks ago with her and senators Perez and Brown regarding a draft of Bill 179-36.

Taitague said that during that meeting, the senators did not receive objections other than a request to revise the proposed legislative findings and intent section and that information regarding ongoing coordination between DPHSS and Region IX was withheld from senators until Friday’s public hearing.

Moreover, Taitague said a change of heart by DPHSS on the urgency of developing rules and regulations compels her and the cosponsors of Bill 179-36 to question whether DPHSS leadership has chosen to politicize the safety of Guam’s most vulnerable citizens.

“It’s obvious to me that the people in charge of moving things forward are now backpedaling on what should be a shared sense of urgency to establish rules and regulations. I thank Speaker Terlaje and Senator Brown for joining me in asking public health why it would be opposed to a straightforward proposal that could help guard against fraud and abuse. Public Health leadership failed at every opportunity it was given to respond to questions on whether the agency is actually serious about developing rules and regulations for private adoption agencies. Public Health leadership failed to provide a time frame for when the agency expects to create such rules in coordination with Region IX, and they refused to comment on whether the agency is prepared to also oppose a similar proposal,” Taitague said.

She added: “It is beyond disgusting that Public Health leadership now has a change of heart on an issue so critical to the safety of our most vulnerable citizens. Going forward, I strongly urge the leadership of Public Health and others to stop engaging in what appears to be a politically calculated move to help some in the legislature to save face. Rather than spending precious time, energy, and resources to try and create alternative facts surrounding the reckless and dangerous decision made by a majority of my colleagues a few months ago, Public Health leadership should focus on putting together a strong and sustainable licensure program that will protect i famaguon-ta.”

Taitague said she will work with the legislature’s health committee to further strengthen Bill 179-36. She intends to offer a few amendments for consideration which would extend the proposed March 1, 2022 deadline to ensure DPHSS has the time necessary to complete the rule-making process, and require the agency to submit a copy to the legislature of any interim rules which shall be available for public review for a period of no less than 30 days prior to implementation.