Legislature(2005 - 2006)

2005-01-26 House Journal

Full Journal pdf

2005-01-26                     House Journal                      Page 0170
HB 114                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 114 by the House Rules Committee by request of                                       
the Governor, entitled:                                                                             
     "An Act relating to the retaining of certain privileges of a parent in                         
     a relinquishment and termination of a parent and child relationship                            
     proceeding; relating to eligibility for permanent fund dividends for                           
     certain children in the custody of the state; relating to child in                             
     need of aid proceedings and juvenile delinquency proceedings;                                  
     and providing for an effective date."                                                          
was read the first time and referred to the State Affairs, Health,                                  
Education & Social Services, and Judiciary Committees.                                              
The following fiscal note(s) apply:                                                                 
1.  Zero, Dept. of Health & Social Services                                                         
The Governor's transmittal letter dated January 25, 2005, follows:                                  
"Dear Speaker Harris:                                                                               
Under the authority of art. III, sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution, I am                          
transmitting a bill relating to the retaining of certain privileges of a                            
parent in a relinquishment and termination of a parent and child                                    
relationship proceeding, relating to eligibility for Permanent Fund                                 

2005-01-26                     House Journal                      Page 0171
dividends for certain children in the custody of the state, and relating                            
to child in need of aid proceedings under AS 47.10 and juvenile                                     
delinquency proceedings under AS 47.12.                                                             
The bill would add language to AS 25.23.180 to permit parents to                                    
relinquish their parental rights to a child while retaining certain                                 
privileges, such as ongoing communication or visitation with the child.                             
This proposed amendment is in response to a recent Alaska Supreme                                   
Court decision holding that current law prohibits a parent from                                     
retaining any rights or privileges in a relinquishment.  In some cases,                             
ongoing contact with the parent is in the child's best interest,                                    
particularly in cases involving adoption by relatives or family                                     
acquaintances.  Before the Supreme Court's decision, retention of                                   
privileges in relinquishments was a common practice.  The proposed                                  
amendment would authorize retained privileges in appropriate cases.                                 
The bill would add language to AS 43.23.005 to allow children who                                   
are placed temporarily by the Department of Health and Social                                       
Services (DHSS) outside of the state--in out-of-state treatment                                     
facilities, for example--to maintain their eligibility for Permanent Fund                           
dividends.  Some children require long-term treatment of a nature that                              
is currently unavailable in this state; such children are at risk of losing                         
their Permanent Fund dividend eligibility if they remain placed out of                              
state for more than a year and are unable to return to the state to meet                            
permanent fund dividend eligibility requirements.  These Alaskan                                    
children should not lose the privilege of dividend eligibility as a result                          
of being placed by the DHSS in a treatment program that is only                                     
available out-of-state.                                                                             
The bill would add language to AS 47.10.020 to clarify that the court                               
may issue any orders necessary to aid the DHSS in its investigation of                              
an allegation of child abuse or neglect.  Orders to aid DHSS are not                                
prohibited by existing law; however, the proposed clarification would                               
resolve any ambiguity regarding the ability of judges to issue such                                 
The bill also would add a new provision to permit courts to dispense                                
with unnecessary and costly expert witness appearances in child in                                  
need of aid cases involving parents who cannot be located or                                        
identified.  Under existing federal law, in order for a court to authorize                          

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the out-of-home placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an                              
Indian child, the court must consider the testimony of a qualified                                  
expert witness.  In cases involving a parent whose whereabouts remain                               
unknown despite a diligent search, this federal law would appear to                                 
require that an expert witness be called solely to support the self-                                
evident finding that placement of a child with the parent who cannot                                
be found is likely to place the child at risk of harm.  The proposed                                
addition to AS 47.10 would permit a court to conclude, as a matter of                               
law, that the testimony of a qualified expert witness would support a                               
finding that placing the child with an absent parent would place a child                            
at substantial risk of serious harm.  This provision will satisfy federal                           
legal requirements.                                                                                 
Finally, the bill would amend the definition of the term "mental health                             
professional" for purposes of child in need of aid and juvenile                                     
delinquency proceedings.  In order to authorize placement of children                               
in secure residential psychiatric treatment facilities, courts must hear                            
the testimony of a "mental health professional."  The current definition                            
of that term, contained in AS 47.30.915, excludes professionals who                                 
may be licensed to practice in other states, but not in Alaska.  The                                
testimony of such professionals is often critical in cases involving                                
Alaska children who are already placed out of state by DHSS.  Thus,                                 
expansion of the existing definition is necessary to ensure that Alaska                             
children who are placed outside of this state receive the psychiatric                               
treatment they need.                                                                                
Each of the provisions of this bill constitutes a step toward making                                
Alaska's children safer, healthier, and more secure, without                                        
unreasonably expanding governmental powers.                                                         
I urge your prompt and favorable action on this measure.                                            
                                Sincerely yours,                                                    
                                Frank H. Murkowski