Two Republican senators clash over foster care bill

Senator Mary Camacho Torres (PNC file photo)

There seems to be an ongoing spat between Republican senators Telo Taitague and Mary Camacho Torres.

Taitague, of course, was a stalwart of the former Republican governor Eddie Baza Calvo while Torres has no love lost between her and the former governor.

The two GOP senators are currently clashing on Bill 135-35, authored by Sen. Torres, which updates existing foster home rules.

Senator Taitague has requested her colleagues to rewrite Bill 135 which, in part, authorizes DPHSS to allow more than six children in a foster home. As written, Bill 135 adds a new article (Standards for Family Foster Homes) in the Guam Administrative Rules (GAR).

However, Taitague said the same standards for foster homes have already been established since 1997 through P.L. 23-143 written by former Senator, Superior Court Judge and Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson, former Senator, Vice-Speaker and Port of Guam General Manager Joanne Brown, and former Senator and current Maga’håga Lourdes Leon Guerrero.

Taitague said she met with the Compiler of Laws prior to session to confirm whether the rules and regulations established by P.L. 23-143 have been added to the GAR.

“According to the Compiler’s office, the same rules weren’t published online as of August 15, 2019; however, it is clear they have been duly adopted pursuant to public law. The Standards for Family Foster Homes were finally published on the Compiler’s website as of COB yesterday,” Taitague said.

If Bill 135 as originally written is passed by the 35th Legislature, Taitague said this may lead to unnecessary delays in foster care services simply because senators failed to rewrite the measure despite having the facts.

“I don’t believe anyone disagrees with the proposal to allow more than six children in a family foster home as approved by DPHSS. The issue is that Bill 135 seeks to create a whole new set of standards that already exist for family foster homes. Bill 135 can and should be fixed to address the number of children allowed in a foster home. I’ve attached Bill No. 194-35 (LS) to help move this issue forward in the correct manner of the legal process. In the event I Maga’håga decides to veto Bill 135 (if passed) due to technical issues related to existing rules and regulations, I’ll push for quick action on Bill No. 194-35 (LS) ensuring that children don’t have to wait any longer for a safe and good place to call home,” Taitague said.

In response, Sen. Torres said recent statements regarding Bill No. 135-35 (COR) were “inaccurate.”

“I realize some individuals give misinformation to advance their political agenda, but I won’t ask foster kids to suffer for their pettiness. I introduced Bill 135 at the request of foster families because kids are being kept out of homes they need due to rigid government regulations. How much longer should these children wait?” Sen. Torres said.

She added that Bill 135 already acknowledges the passage of foster home standards in Public Law 23-143.

“I am glad that after 22 years—and the introduction of Bill 135—that the standards were finally added to Guam Administrative Rules yesterday. Our foster kids and their future families still need the new authority provided by Bill 135. That is why passage is necessary,” Torres said.