"I would beg and plead with (lawmakers) if I had to. These are children coming from abusive environments and severe neglect; and there are a lot of times when they need medical attention immediately. ... I've been in and out of the emergency room at least six times with my foster children out of the nine years I've been a licensed foster parent, and I can say that I was grateful for GovGuam's assistance each time." – Bethany Taylor, director, Harvest House
Cash shortages across the government of Guam make for recurring headlines to a point that borders on normalcy. But at a micro level, the effects on Guam's marginalized residents can often get lost in politics.
After The Guam Daily Post was informed that the government currently has an outstanding $10 million balance for retiree health care coverage, NetCare Insurance administrator Jerry Crisostomo informed the Post that last fiscal year, the company was forced to suspend coverage for nearly 200 foster children covered under GovGuam, for a week, until they were able to bring their account up to date.
It would seem like water under the bridge, except the last time GovGuam made a payment to NetCare Insurance this year was March – with a current balance of $120,000 that has yet to be paid.
"I know it's concerning, but we have every confidence that the government will make good on its obligations," Crisostomo said. "I say that because last fiscal year, they were able to make their payments before the end of fiscal year 2016. But it does seem to be systemic."
Life or death for at-risk children
But Guam's licensed foster parents are a little more anxious about the government's inability to meet its financial obligations, especially when it could mean life or death for at-risk children.
"I would beg and plead with them (lawmakers) if I had to. These are children coming from abusive environments and severe neglect; and there are a lot of times when they need medical attention immediately," Harvest House Director Bethany Taylor said.
Taylor herself currently cares for five foster children – the youngest at a tender 4 months old – in addition to her 11-year-old biological son.
"I've been in and out of the emergency room at least six times with my foster children out of the nine years I've been a licensed foster parent, and I can say that I was grateful for GovGuam's assistance each time," she said.
Before GovGuam provided coverage for foster children, Taylor said it was a struggle for her children to receive medical attention.
"I've spent entire days at (the Department of Public Health and Social Services) waiting to be seen, or trying to make appointments and being told that their next availability was the following week – when my children need medical care now," Taylor said.
Taylor also said she wasn't aware that coverage was suspended last year, nor that GovGuam currently has an outstanding balance on its share of health care coverage obligations.
"I feel like we should be told what's going on, especially when health is on the line," Taylor said. "What if we didn't have this coverage? Are you saying my foster children are less important than my biological children?"
In her years as a foster parent, Taylor said she's witnessed an array of abuse cases, which are largely related to methamphetamine and alcohol abuse in the home.
"Because of the confidentiality, we're oblivious to their pain," she said. "We can't afford to lose health care for our foster children."
There are currently just 36 licensed foster homes in Guam, whereas the number of foster children regularly fluctuates between 160 to 200.
Harvest House is actively recruiting foster parents.