Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Of Boonie Dogs and Foster Kids

by Pa Rock

We had dinner this evening at the Jamaican Grill, a very good restaurant that a friend introduced us to during our last visit to Guam.  Everything on the menu was "jerk" something or other - I had jerk chicken - and dessert was fried bananas with ice cream.  And while the food was excellent, it was the after-dinner conversation that nourished my need to know more about the culture of Guam.

Joining Valerie and I at the Jamaican Grill were four Americans who have lived on Guam for several years.  Valerie had met Rose on the flight back to Okinawa when we were here before.  She had been born to American parents on Okinawa forty years or so ago and was returning in search of her childhood nanny.  Rose is a school librarian.  Also in our group was an ex-marine along with his Filipino wife and their school-age daughter.  The ex-marine works as a property manager, and his wife is a nurse.

At some point in the conversation the nurse asked for a "to go" box to take scraps to her "boonie" dog.  There are many dogs which seem to be just running free on Guam, and she explained that these are often referred to as "boonie" dogs, or dogs that come into town from the boonies.  Rose picked up the conversational thread and said that there is really very little in the way of a "humane society" on Guam - no organization with a mission to take care of animals in need.

That led me to throw in my two-cents worth on the subject of foster care.  Obviously, having worked with children in foster care for years, it is a subject close to my heart.  I said that I heard several times on the radio this week that Guam is in desperate need of foster parents.  The statistics being broadcast were that there are 207 children in foster care on Guam, and only 29 foster families.  Both numbers are well below what one would expect on an island of this size.

One reason there are so few children in foster care here is probably due to the nature of the large extended families where almost everyone functions as a  parental figure or a stand-in:  an "auntie" or an "uncle."  It was suggested at the dinner table that these extended relationships might even make the concept of foster care difficult to achieve - with foster parents fearing that family members would show up at their homes to take the children or cause trouble.

There were no solutions offered on either subject, just a lot of conjecture.  And with the national mood (Guam is a U.S. territory) being to cut any services not directly related to armaments and war, both topics will probably remain confined to after-dinner conversation for the foreseeable future.

We ignore the needs of society at our peril.

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