RECESS DISCUSSIONS: Several Republican lawmakers talk amongst themselves during a break in session Dec. 6, 2022, at the Guam Congress Building in Hagåtña. Pictured from left, Sens. Frank Blas, Joanne Brown, Tony Ada and Telo Taitague. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

HAGATNA (GUAM DAILY POST) — With the Guam Legislature now a few days into its final session this term, several measures have managed to push through debate and have been placed on file for later voting. These include measures that create additional protections for children and victims of sexual assault or abuse. 

One measure, Bill 314-36, would establish a protection order for victims of stalking. Two other measures, Bills 312-36 and 313-36, would, respectively, maintain the safety and basic needs of victims or minor children and establish a protection order for victims of nonconsensual sexual contact or penetration.

On Wednesday, the Legislature took up another measure, Bill 299-36.

The legislation would require Child Protective Services to make “reasonable efforts” to preserve and reunify families prior to placing children in foster care. In determining and making such reasonable efforts, the health and safety of the child is paramount, the bill states. 

However, Bill 299 also addresses cases of abuse or neglect and negates the requirement placed on CPS in such circumstances. Among these factors is if the child was subjected to abandonment, torture or other aggravated circumstance by their parent or guardian – or if the parent or guardian was convicted in relation to the murder or voluntary manslaughter of another of their children.

The measure also adds to a list of existing provisions that conditionally allow for the termination of parental rights and mandates when CPS must file a petition for termination. 

Senator Mary Torres, who introduced the bill, said the proposal has been years in the making and began with a simple, “but difficult” question.

“When does a child’s safety trump a parent’s right?” Torres asked aloud Wednesday. She added the same question was posed by a former foster parent, who came before the Legislature to share her story of two adopted sons.

“Children who remained in the foster system for over 14 years, children who, because of their birthparents and our broken system, suffered permanent impact to their health and development – to me, and I’m sure to many others, the answer to this question has always been clear: The safety of the child must always take priority,” Torres said.

The measure was added to the list of bills awaiting voting. 

Another measure, Bill 334-36 from Speaker Therese Terlaje, would adopt rules and regulations for child placement agencies, which were developed as part of mandates set by Public Law 36-68.

The standards were modeled after Arizona’s requirements, Terlaje said.

“Arizona, much like Guam, is a gateway area where vulnerable populations are at high risk for human trafficking,” she added.

Lawmakers are expected to return to session Friday…. PACNEWS

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