Legislature(1997 - 1998)

05/04/1998 04:50 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 375                                                             
"An Act relating to children in need of aid matters                            
and proceedings; relating to murder of children,                               
criminally negligent homicide, kidnapping, criminal                            
nonsupport, the crime of indecent exposure, and the                            
crime of endangering the welfare of a child; relating                          
to registration of certain sex offenders; relating to                          
sentencing for certain crimes involving child victims;                         
relating to the state medical examiner and reviews of                          
child fatalities; relating to teacher certification                            
and convictions of crimes involving child victims;                             
relating to access, confidentiality, and release of                            
certain information concerning the care of children,                           
child abuse and neglect, and child fatalities;                                 
authorizing the Department of Health and Social                                
Services to enter into an interstate compact                                   
concerning adoption and medical assistance for certain                         
children with special needs; authorizing the                                   
establishment of a multidisciplinary child protection                          
team to review reports of child abuse or neglect;                              
relating to immunity from liability for certain state                          
actions concerning matters involving child protection                          
and fatality reviews and children in need of aid;                              
relating to persons required to report suspected child                         
abuse or neglect; relating to foster care placement                            
and to payment for children in foster and other care                           
and the waiver of certain foster care requirements;                            
relating to the access to certain criminal justice                             
information and licensure of certain child care                                
facilities; amending Rule 218, Alaska Rules of                                 
Appellate Procedure; amending Rules 1, 3, 15, 18, and                          
19, Alaska Child in Need of Aid Rules; and providing                           
for an effective date.                                                         
FAMILY RIGHTS, HOMER, spoke in opposition to the proposed                      
legislation.  He addressed the child abuse crisis in Alaska                    
and how the Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS)                       
has exploited many situations.  He warned that the                             
Department of Law had misrepresented the bill.  He pointed                     
out that there are only a few items contained within the                       
bill which are required by the Safe Adoption Act and all of                    
which regard time-lines.  He emphasized that no state to                       
date has been denied the right to access Title 4 funds.                        
Mr. Gauthier commented that there are no legal safe guards                     
contained in the proposed legislation.  He voiced fears                        
that there would be profiteering by government agencies                        
from claiming child abuse issues throughout the years.                         
PARENT, HOMER, testified in support of the legislation.                        
She spoke to her history of foster parenting and the number                    
of placements most foster child can expect to see during                       
their time in care.  She stressed that permanent placement                     
would be the most beneficial thing to happen for any child.                    
RIGHTS, KENAI, spoke against the proposed legislation.  She                    
reiterated the reoccurring problems happening within the                       
Division of Family and Youth Services.  Ms. Hodson                             
emphasized that children in the system are at the                              
discretion of the officials and social workers within the                      
CUSTODIAL JUSTICE, MATSU, recommended passing the federal                      
portion of the proposed legislation.                                           
SOLDOTNA POLICE DEPARTMENT, KENAI, spoke in support of the                     
proposed legislation.  She provided graphic examples                           
indicating the need for such legislation in crimes against                     
children.  Children are afforded few rights under the                          
constitution and laws of the State.  In passage of the                         
child protection bill, children will be protected and                          
valued as members of the community.                                            
Captain Warner recommended that domestic violence and                          
sexual assault should be addressed in a pro-active manner                      
and that emotional harm to children is being recognized and                    
addressed finally to the advantage of our children.                            
Captain Warner encouraged Committee members to pass the                        
proposed legislation.                                                          
PARENT, KENAI, testified in support of the proposed                            
legislation and urged that it be fully funded.  She                            
stressed that children are our most unprotected resource                       
and that they should be a priority.  Additionally, she                         
recommended that funding for respite needs for foster                          
parents should also be considered.  Ms. Graham spoke to the                    
"burn out" that occurs for foster parents of special needs                     
suggested that the bill was too broad.  She spoke to                           
conditions which have existed for her daughter's child, who                    
has currently been inappropriately placed in foster care.                      
Ms. Leman closed noting that social workers have too much                      
power and are often times biased which creates large                           
problems for children and families.                                            
POLE, pointed out that there is no check and balance                           
contained within the legislation for the DFYS social                           
workers.  She believed that these agency workers are often                     
biased.  Ms. Olmsted recommended that there be mandatory                       
video taping of all allegations of child abuse.  (Testimony                    
temporarily was cut off).                                                      
VOICE, MATSU, urged that the Committee pass at least the                       
federal portion of the proposed legislation.  The intent of                    
the Safe Families Act was to curtail power struggles that                      
social services has experienced in creating a time line to                     
complete reunification or termination so that a child can                      
have a safe and permanent home.  The federal law defines a                     
reasonable effort and allows foster parents an appropriate                     
voice and area of raising a child.  Ms. Schmidt stated that                    
without federal law, there would be a big price for the                        
State to pay.                                                                  
Ms. Olmstead continued her testimony.  She suggested that                      
the Division of Family and Youth Services should be                            
provided with a check and balance system and that the                          
prevention money could be used to rehabilitate adults who                      
need help.  Ms. Olmsted pointed out that no family supports                    
abuse.  The abuse exists within the system, where the                          
system is used like a tool to get back at people.  She                         
asked what part of the law makes the State responsible for                     
wrong action and where can people go with those concerns.                      
(Tape Change HFC 98- 148, Side 2).                                             
Ms. Olmstead reiterated that funding should be used for                        
rehabilitation. She emphasized that she did not support the                    
legislation and believed that it would divide the people of                    
Alaska.  Ms. Olmstead questioned the monetary amount                           
offered to people as an incentive to adopt children.                           
SOCIAL SERVICES, responded that there is an incentive of                       
approximately $4 thousand dollars per child without special                    
needs and $6 thousand dollars per child with special needs.                    
That money goes to the State which has a subsidized                            
adoption program in which the State makes subsidy payments                     
direct to the families.  The incentives are to pay the                         
costs of home studies and adoptive placement.                                  
VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT, JUNEAU, stated that the                           
Network was interested in two particular sections of the                       
bill.  Section #72 defines what appropriate steps are which                    
the Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS) should                        
take when investigating child abuse and crimes of adult                        
domestic violence.  Additionally, the Network supports                         
Section #22.                                                                   
Ms. Hugorin explained that a presumption is an assumption                      
or supposition based on reasonable evidence.  To rebut is                      
to try to show to be false by presenting opposing                              
arguments.  A rebuttable presumption is a position from                        
which the court starts a case and can only be changed if                       
the respondent adequately shows the presumption to be                          
Establishing a rebuttable presumption that it is                               
detrimental to the child and not in the best interest of                       
the child to be placed in sole custody, joint legal                            
custody, or joint physical custody with the perpetrator of                     
the domestic violence rightly shifts the burden of proof                       
onto the domestic violence perpetrator.  The perpetrator                       
should be the one who has to justify his ability to parent                     
safely and responsibly as well as his ability to interact                      
safely with the adult victim.                                                  
Ms. Hugorin continued, men who batter their wives are                          
likely to assault their children.  The battering of women                      
who are mothers usually predates the infliction of child                       
abuse.  At least half of all battering husbands also batter                    
their children.  The more severe the abuse of the mother,                      
the worse the child abuse.  The risk of violence directed                      
both toward the child and the battered parent is frequently                    
greater after separation than during cohabitation; this                        
elevated risk often continues after legal interventions.                       
Ms. Hugorin explained that further, research confirms that                     
the post-separation adjustment of a child is assisted by an                    
award of sole custody to a non-abusive parent who offers                       
the child a warm relationship, provides a routine,                             
discipline, and who buffers the child against parental                         
conflict and abuse.                                                            
She urged the Committee to help protect children of                            
domestic violence by keeping the rebuttable presumptions in                    
HB 375.                                                                        
Ms. Olmsted interjected that the legislation should contain                    
a clause stipulating that mandatory video recording of                         
allegations of child abuse.                                                    
spoke in opposition to the proposed legislation resulting                      
from a long history of problems he has had with the                            
Division of Family and Youth Services.  He emphasized that                     
the bill is unfair and would provide more power for the                        
agency.  At this time, laws have not been parent oriented,                     
but instead, parents are discriminated against.  Thus                          
concluded the teleconferenced testimony.                                       
Representative Kelly MOVED to RESCIND action in adopting                       
Amendment #2.  Representative J. Davies OBJECTED.                              
LAW, responded that Amendment #2 would be replaced with                        
Amendment #6.  [Copy on File].  She explained that the                         
legislative drafters had recommended that change because                       
Amendment #2 contained a general section stating that the                      
new law would apply to licensing actions and disclosure of                     
information.  Amendment #6 is the same as Amendment #2                         
except that it would be a more specific application to the                     
way in which it would apply to licensing cases.  Amendment                     
require finger printing.  Additionally, Amendment #6 would                     
require more specific disclosure of the agency records.                        
Representative J. Davies WITHDREW his OBJECTION to rescind                     
previous action taken on Amendment #2.  There being NO                         
further OBJECTION, action on Amendment #2 was RESCINDED.                       
Representative Kelly WITHDREW Amendment #2.  There being NO                    
OBJECTION, Amendment #2 was withdrawn.                                         
Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt Amendment #6.  There                       
being NO OBJECTION, Amendment #6 was adopted.                                  
Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt Amendment #5.                              
Representative J. Davies OBJECTED.                                             
Ms. Wibker explained that there were three sections                            
included in Amendment #5 in which the Department of Health                     
and Social Services would recommend minor changes to.  Ms.                     
Wibker explained each line of Amendment #5.                                    
(Tape Change HFC 98 - 149, Side 1).                                            
Ms. Wibker continued explaining the substance of Amendment                     
(Tape Change HFC 98 - 149, Side 2).                                            
Representative Kelly offered to create a new Amendment #5.                     
Representative Kelly WITHDREW Amendment #5.  Representative                    
J. Davies recommended dividing the amendment in order that                     
the issues which relate to domestic violence are separated                     
from the other concerns.                                                       
Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt Amendment #7.  [Copy on                    
File].  Representative Mulder OBJECTED.  Representative                        
Kelly WITHDREW Amendment #7.                                                   
Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt Amendment #8.  [Copy on                    
File].  Ms. Wibker explained that Amendment #8 would                           
parallel an amendment adopted in the Senate, by removing                       
criminal provisions covered in other bills.  There being NO                    
OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                  
Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt Amendment #9.  [Copy on                    
File].  Representative Mulder OBJECTED for the purpose of                      
discussion.  Ms. Wibker explained that Amendment #9 was                        
proposed by the Alaska Court System.                                           
advised that immediate effective dates cause tremendous                        
problems for the Alaska Court System.  Amendment #9 would                      
change the effective date to give the Court time to                            
implement the court rule changes.                                              
Representative Mulder WITHDREW his OBJECTION.  There being                     
NO further OBJECTIONS, Amendment #9 was adopted.                               
Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt Amendment #10.  [Copy                      
on File].                                                                      
that Amendment #10 had been approved by the Department and                     
would provide for foster parents access to the child's                         
Mr. Webb noted that the Department would not have an                           
objection to the foster parents having access to the                           
records or information about children that are in placement                    
within their homes.  He questioned if the amendment would                      
give the foster parents access to records to the parent's                      
private information.  He feared that the amendment could                       
give foster parents access to the entire court record.  Mr.                    
Webb advised all that information would be unnecessary for                     
foster parents to have access to.                                              
REPRESENTATIVE FRED DYSON pointed out that it is necessary                     
for foster parents to have access to information which they                    
need to protect the child.  Amendment #10 would legitimize                     
foster parents having the right to that information.                           
Mr. Webb suggested that Representative Dyson's concern                         
could be addressed with slight rewording of the amendment.                     
Representative Kelly WITHDREW Amendment #10 in order to                        
more clearly write it.                                                         
Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt Amendment #7 which                         
would insert a new section when appropriate.                                   
Representative Dyson pointed out that audit and practice in                    
the State has recognized the importance of training foster                     
parents.  Ms. Torkelson added that the wording of the                          
amendment had been submitted by the Department and that                        
placement in the bill would continue to guarantee that the                     
training occur.                                                                
Mr. Webb added that foster parent training is required                         
under current regulations.  Currently, the Department is                       
meeting these regulations; there would be no fiscal impact.                    
There being NO OBJECTION, Amendment #7 was adopted.                            
Representative J. Davies pointed out that there could be a                     
need for a conceptual title change in passage of the                           
amendment.  Representative Mulder noted that would be                          
addressed by Legal Services at the next scheduled meeting.                     
HB 375 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.                        

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