Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/29/1996 02:10 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  SENATE BILL NO. 289                                                          
       "An Act relating  to runaway minors and  their families                 
       or legal custodians."                                                   
  Members were provide  with a proposed  committee substitute,                 
  Work Draft 9-LS1635\D, 4/27/96 (copy on file).                               
  JUDY SHIFFLER,  FAIRBANKS testified  via the  teleconference                 
  network.  (Ms. Shiffler's written testimony is on file.) She                 
  expressed concern that  section 6 of the  proposed committee                 
  substitute on page 5 would not  adequately slow down or stop                 
  the revolving door.  She stated that SB 289 needs to provide                 
  clear and  immediate consequences.   She  stressed that  the                 
  section  allows  to much  time  to pass  before consequences                 
  occur.  She maintained that the  bills should be designed as                 
  an early intervention measure.  She emphasized that the bill                 
  does not  replace other  facilities that  troubled kids  can                 
  turn to on a voluntary basis.                                                
  GUY PATTERSON,  FAIRBANKS testified  via the  teleconference                 
  network.    He  observed  that  there  are  two  classes  of                 
  children.  The abused child that  is running from an abusive                 
  situation and those that are out  on the street because they                 
  do not want to  follow their parent's rules.   He maintained                 
  that children are encouraged to run away by other  kids.  He                 
  suggested that  the process  be simplified.   He  emphasized                 
  that it should not be assumed that the parents are at fault.                 
  He stated that when the State takes custody the State should                 
  provide a safe place.   He maintained that the  State should                 
  know where the  child is  in the  middle of the  night.   He                 
  spoke to the  expense of  lock up facilities.   He  asserted                 
  that children would  not leave home  if they knew that  they                 
  would be placed in lock up facilities.                                       
  In  response  to  a question  by  Representative  Brown, Mr.                 
  Patterson clarified that Fairbanks does not have children on                 
  the streets that are under 12 years old.                                     
  LESLIE    DRUMHILLER,    FAIRBANKS    testified   via    the                 
  teleconference network.  She noted that she is the parent of                 
  a 15 year old  runaway.  She recounted experiences  with her                 
  child.  She  emphasized that early intervention  can protect                 
  children.    She stressed  that the  threat  of lock  up can                 
  persuade children to seek help.                                              
  (Tape Change, HFC 96-147, Side 2)                                            
  ALLISON GORDON, STAFF, SENATOR FRANK testified in support of                 
  SB 289. She observed that the legislation was  introduced to                 
  address  the growing concern among parents for the safety of                 
  their runaway children.   She maintained that:  "The runaway                 
  epidemic is a  significant problem  in our communities  that                 
  needs serious  consideration.  The  overwhelming frustration                 
  parents currently feel can be best attributed to the lack of                 
  support they  receive from the government.  Parents are held                 
  accountable for their  children's actions  yet they are  not                 
  given the necessary tools to  exercise authority and instill                 
  guidance in their  children's lives.   Current law  provides                 
  minors with the ability  to thumb their noses at  figures of                 
  authority,   whether   they   be   parents,  teachers,   law                 
  enforcement or otherwise.   Their freedom is  guaranteed and                 
  they have learned how to  exploit and manipulate the  system                 
  in order to get what they want.  We feel that parents should                 
  be  the  ones  who should  decide  what  is  best for  their                 
  children and be able  to nurture and guide them  in a manner                 
  they see fit until the child is old enough to make their own                 
  decisions, support themselves, and be on their own.   Senate                 
  bill 289 tightens  existing law in  an attempt to close  the                 
  revolving door that currently allows runaways the freedom to                 
  avoid having to abide by rules and parental authority."                      
  Ms.  Gordon  noted  that  the  legislation  strengthens  the                 
  language within AS 11.51.130  regarding contributing to  the                 
  delinquency  of  a  minor.    "By discouraging  people  from                 
  harboring runaways, it  will compel  these children to  take                 
  advantage  of available  services  that  are  necessary  for                 
  assessing  the  individual's  situation  and  beginning  the                 
  process of reconciliation with the child's family."                          
  Ms. Gordon stressed  that the  legislation clarifies that  a                 
  police officer's first course of  action, after picking up a                 
  runaway, will  be  to take  that child  back to  his or  her                 
  parents  unless  the officer  believes  that there  has been                 
  abuse to  the minor.   If  the  parent will  not accept  the                 
  child, then the  second course of action will be to take the                 
  minor  to a  safe place agreed  to by  the parent.   If this                 
  cannot be accomplished then the police officer must take the                 
  child to a semi-secure shelter for assessment of the child's                 
  situation and  determination of the course of action that is                 
  in the best interest of the child.                                           
  Ms. Gordon  noted that various  ways to  address the  secure                 
  placement  of  a  minor  who  is  a  habitual  runaway  were                 
  addressed.   The version that  passed the Senate would place                 
  runaways who run from placement in semi-secure shelters into                 
  secure placements.  This provision jeopardized OJJDP funding                 
  from the federal government in the  amount of $600,000.  The                 
  Department  of  Health &  Social  Services also  attached an                 
  extremely high fiscal note.                                                  
  Ms. Gordon noted that members were provided with  a proposed                 
  committee substitute, Work  Draft 9-LS1635\D, dated 4/29/96.                 
  This  version  authorizes  law  enforcement  to  temporarily                 
  detain  a minor  who  has fled  from  a semi-secure  shelter                 
  pending a court hearing to  ascertain whether probable cause                 
  exists to conclude that the child is a child in need of aid.                 
  At the  hearing the court is required to determine placement                 
  of  the minor  and to  order that  minor to  remain in  that                 
  placement.  If the minor runs from placement they will be in                 
  violation  of  a  court order  and  will  be  picked up  and                 
  detained  in  a  secure   environment,  thus  shutting   the                 
  revolving door.                                                              
  LAW expressed concern with revisions  to the Contributing to                 
  the Delinquency of a Minor statute on page 3.  She urged the                 
  Committee  to change  this provision  to make  it easier  to                 
  prosecute individuals who contribute to the delinquency of a                 
  minor  and encourage children to be  absent from the custody                 
  of their parents.   She stressed that "just cause"  needs to                 
  be defined.  She observed that new language on  page 3, line                 
  30 - page 4, line 1 is not clear enough.   She noted that it                 
  is  easier  to  prove  lack  of  knowledged   than  lack  of                 
  permission.   She suggested  that on  page 3,  line 1  after                 
  "custodian" that "or  without the  knowledge of the  parent,                 
  guardian or  custodian"  be added.   Representative  Parnell                 
  pointed out that  Representative Kelly  has an amendment  to                 
  that effect.                                                                 
  Ms. Carpeneti  referred to  page 6, lines  10 and  11.   She                 
  noted that  the Court can order  the child to  remain in the                 
  custody of the parents or another party without a finding of                 
  probable  cause if the child is a child in need of aid.  She                 
  stated  that  this  language  is   problematic.    Under  AS                 
  47.10.010(A)(2)(a) a finding of probable cause is needed for                 
  the court to have jurisdiction over the issue and child.                     
  Ms. Carpeneti observed that page 4, lines 21 - 25 takes away                 
  the provision that the sole fact that the child is a runaway                 
  is not enough to justify emergency custody.  She stated that                 
  it is unclear of the effect of this deletion.                                
  Ms. Carpeneti  suggested that  on page  6, line  9 that  the                 
  court when  making its order,  should specify the  terms and                 
  conditions that must be followed by the minor and the parent                 
  or guardian.   She observed that  there are cases where  the                 
  parents are as much of the problem as the child.                             
  SERVICES clarified  that  the Division  supports  the  House                 
  Judiciary version  of SB 289.   She expressed  concerns with                 
  the  proposed committee  substitute.   She  acknowledged the                 
  need for legislation.  She stated that the Division supports                 
  parents  having  more  control  over  their children.    She                 
  asserted that  some  of  the new  amendments  are  going  to                 
  complicate the  issue and  set up  false expectations.   She                 
  emphasized that the  State cannot  make children follow  the                 
  rules  any more than the parents can.  The State can provide                 
  early intervention, counseling and support.                                  
  Ms.  Worley  referred  to  page  2,  lines 12  -  14.    She                 
  emphasized  that  the  requirement  that the  Division  take                 
  emergency custody of a minor who has previously left a semi-                 
  secure  program  without  permission  would  take  away  any                 
  discretion from the Department.    She noted that  there are                 
  no cases where the Division is  currently required to take a                 
  child into custody.   She observed that language on  page 5,                 
  lines 27 - 30 also removes discretion from the Division.                     
  Ms. Worley expressed concern that if children know that they                 
  will be detained  and taken into  state custody if they  run                 
  from  semi-secure  shelters  that  they  will  not  use  the                 
  shelters.  She acknowledged frustration  of parents with the                 
  revolving door  syndrome.   She emphasized  that semi-secure                 
  shelters  provide safety for  children that would  be on the                 
  streets.  Children  have the opportunity for  counseling and                 
  intervention services in the semi-secure shelters.                           
  Representative Therriault  noted that  children often  go to                 
  shelters only after being picked up by enforcement officers.                 
  Ms. Worley agreed  and added  that the police  will have  to                 
  take the child home.  Children will only go to a  shelter if                 
  the parent refuses to accept the child.  She maintained that                 
  many children use the Family Focus shelter in Fairbanks on a                 
  voluntary  basis.    She  noted that  all  the  children  at                 
  Covenant House in Anchorage are voluntary.                                   
  Ms.  Worley observed that the legislation will only apply to                 
  children that are running from a semi-secure facility.  Only                 
  five facilities around the State  would be under the mandate                 
  to become semi-secure.  She observed that  children in other                 
  parts of the State will not be affected by the law.                          
  Ms. Worley  referred to page 7, lines 9  - 12.  She observed                 
  that Covenant House  operates on  a voluntary  basis.   This                 
  language would exempt  Covenant House from the  provision to                 
  maintain a semi-secure  facility.   She noted that  Covenant                 
  House stated  that they  would end  operations if they  were                 
  forced to operate  a semi-secure facility.   She pointed out                 
  that  Covenant  House  serves  84  percent  of  the  State's                 
  Ms.  Worley summarized  that the  Division supports  tougher                 
  consequences  for  adults  that  harbor  runaways  and  more                 
  parental involvement  and responsibility.  The  Division has                 
  concerns  regarding  the   mandate  to  take   runways  into                 
  protective custody.                                                          
  Representative Mulder asked if the fiscal note would change.                 
  Ms.  Worley  estimated that  it  would cost  $250.0 thousand                 
  dollars  to  implement  the  proposed   work  draft.    This                 
  represents  an  increase  of three  social  workers,  two in                 
  Anchorage and one in Fairbanks.                                              
  Representative  Martin  spoke  in support  of  the provision                 
  exempting Covenant House.                                                    
  Ms. Gordon noted that language on page 2, lines 13 -  15 was                 
  a  drafting  oversight based  on  a previous  version.   She                 
  observed   that  the  requirement  that  the  Division  take                 
  children  into  emergency state  custody  was removed.   She                 
  observed that this provision  should be deleted.   She added                 
  that  the  Department   of  Health  &  Social   Services  is                 
  instructed to file a child in need  of aid petition with the                 
  court.    The legislation  requires  that a  law enforcement                 
  officer take into  protective custody a minor  that has fled                 
  from a semi-security shelter.  A minor that has fled a semi-                 
  secure  shelter  after  placement  could  be arrested  as  a                 
  delinquent and could be detained under AS 47.10.080.                         
  Representative  Therriault   noted  Representative   Kelly's                 
  intent to  delete (4) on page 2, lines 3  - 5 and lines 12 -                 
  Ms. Worley clarified that the requirement to file a petition                 
  is a  higher standard than  the Division is  currently under                 
  for child in  need of aid cases.  Ms.  Gordon responded that                 
  the sponsor feels that something needs to be done to require                 
  the Department to take action in these situations.                           
  SB 289 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.                      

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