Legislature(2005 - 2006)

04/22/2005 02:48 PM FIN

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HOUSE BILL NO. 53                                                                                                             
     An  Act  relating  to child-in-need-of-aid   proceedings;                                                                  
     amending  the  construction  of  statutes  pertaining  to                                                                  
     children  in  need  of   aid;  relating  to  a  duty  and                                                                  
     standard of  care for services to children  and families;                                                                  
     amending   court  hearing  procedures  to   allow  public                                                                  
     attendance    at    child-in-need-of-aid     proceedings;                                                                  
     establishing  a right to a  trial by jury in  termination                                                                  
     of  parental   rights  proceedings;  reestablishing   and                                                                  
     relating to  state and local citizens' review  panels for                                                                  
     certain  child  custody  matters;  amending the  duty  to                                                                  
     disclose  information pertaining  to a  child in  need of                                                                  
     aid; establishing  a distribution age for  permanent fund                                                                  
     dividends  held in  trust for  a child  committed to  the                                                                  
     custody   of  the   Department  of   Health  and   Social                                                                  
     Services;  mandating   reporting  of  the  medication  of                                                                  
     children  in state  custody;  prescribing  the rights  of                                                                  
     grandparents  related to child-in- need-of-aid  cases and                                                                  
     establishing  a  grandparent  priority  for  adoption  in                                                                  
     certain child-  in-need-of-aid cases; modifying  adoption                                                                  
     and placement  procedures  in certain child-in-  need-of-                                                                  
     aid cases;  amending treatment  service requirements  for                                                                  
     parents  involved  in child-in-need-of-aid   proceedings;                                                                  
     amending  Rules 3  and 18,  Alaska Child  in Need of  Aid                                                                  
     Rules  of  Procedure;  and  providing  for  an  effective                                                                  
Vice-Chair  Stoltze MOVED  to ADOPT  work draft  #24-LS0251\N,                                                                  
Mischel,  4/21/05,  as the  version  of  the bill  before  the                                                                  
Committee.  There being NO OBJECTION, it was adopted.                                                                           
3:30:19 PM                                                                                                                    
RYNNIEVA  MOSS,  STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE  JOHN  COGHILL,  stated                                                                  
that the bill  is a "family's  right act".  The proposed  bill                                                                  
would  open child-in-need-of-aid  (CHINA)  proceedings to  the                                                                  
public.  HB 53  provides placement and adoption  preference to                                                                  
relatives.  It  establishes in statute a grievance  procedure,                                                                  
a citizen's review  panel and that school interviews  are done                                                                  
discretely.   The  legislation  encourages  the  use of  child                                                                  
advocacy  centers  and  the  use  of   videotaping.    Current                                                                  
language is  mandatory; Representative  Coghill has  agreed to                                                                  
an  amendment   making  it  permissive.    HB   53  eliminates                                                                  
language  in AS 47.10.960,  which states  there is no  duty or                                                                  
standard of care for children in State custody.                                                                                 
Ms. Moss noted  that HB 17 was  rolled into HB 53  with regard                                                                  
to  the  confidential   information.    It  will   extend  the                                                                  
relationship with  Office of Child's Service (OCS)  beyond the                                                                  
termination  of  parental  rights.     The  legislation  gives                                                                  
preference to  adoption by a family  member who has  cared for                                                                  
the child during the previous 12 months.                                                                                        
3:36:16 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Weyhrauch referred  to an  abuse situation  in                                                                  
Wasilla and  asked if  provisions in  the bill addressed  that                                                                  
specific case.                                                                                                                  
3:37:10 PM                                                                                                                    
HEATHER   NOBREGA,  STAFF,   REPRESENTATIVE   NORM   ROKEBERG,                                                                  
related  that portions  of the  bill resulted  from that  case                                                                  
and relate to adult  family members of the children  that have                                                                  
been adopted.   She pointed out  that their office  had worked                                                                  
to help assert their rights into the process.                                                                                   
Representative  Weyhrauch  questioned  if  provisions  in  the                                                                  
bill  could  have  prevented   the  situation.    Ms.  Nobrega                                                                  
explained  that  the  abuse  happened   after  the  kids  were                                                                  
adopted.   She  added that  family members  had contacted  the                                                                  
Office of  Child Services before  they had been adopted.   The                                                                  
bill attempts  to help  adult family members  early on  to get                                                                  
more active in placement of children in adoption.                                                                               
Vice-Chair  Stoltze commented the  bill could offer  relief to                                                                  
the appropriate family members.                                                                                                 
3:39:15 PM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Moss  opined that the bill  could not have prevented  that                                                                  
situation  and that no  legislator was  contacted until  after                                                                  
the abuse had occurred.  There was no way to prevent it.                                                                        
Representative  Croft thought that it could have  been avoided                                                                  
if the Division  of Family and Youth Services  (DFYS) had been                                                                  
given more  consideration  during placement  of the  children.                                                                  
If preference  had been given to  an adult relative,  it could                                                                  
have possibly been addressed.                                                                                                   
3:40:57 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Croft requested  information about the  fiscal                                                                  
note.   Ms.  Moss  explained  that changes  in  the  committee                                                                  
substitute  impacted the  fiscal note.   Representative  Croft                                                                  
wondered  if some  of the  problems  in the  fiscal note  were                                                                  
caused by biological preference.                                                                                                
STACY KRALY,  ASSISTANT ATTORNEY  GENERAL, DEPARTMENT  OF LAW,                                                                  
replied  that the federal  government required  that OCS  only                                                                  
disclose confidential  information  with a parent.   There was                                                                  
a  previous  version  in  the  bill  that  allowed  a  broader                                                                  
exposure.  If the  bill were passed as previously  amended, it                                                                  
could  have meant  about a  $30 million  dollar federal  loss.                                                                  
Representative  Croft questioned  if that  had been  addressed                                                                  
in the proposed  version.  Ms.  Kraly replied it had  and that                                                                  
there no  longer was  a problem with  preference with  respect                                                                  
to placement,  but  the issue  of disclosure  of  confidential                                                                  
information remains.                                                                                                            
3:43:40 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Holm remembered a  case in which  grandparents                                                                  
wanted custody  of their grandchildren;  he asked if  that was                                                                  
one of  the current cases.   Ms. Moss  provided details  about                                                                  
that case  and noted that  one of  the provisions included  in                                                                  
the bill resulted  from that case.   The State has a  right to                                                                  
stay involved as long as the child is in State custody.                                                                         
3:46:35 PM                                                                                                                    
TAMMY  SANDOVAL,   ACTING  DEPUTY  COMMISSIONER,   OFFICES  OF                                                                  
CHILDREN'S  SERVICES  (OCS),  DEPARTMENT  OF HEALTH  &  SOCIAL                                                                  
SERVICES, related  that HB 53 addresses changes  in the child-                                                                  
in-need-of-aid  statutes.  The bill focuses on  accountability                                                                  
for  professionals  involved   in  those  cases.    It  should                                                                  
improve practice  and allow for detecting transparency  in the                                                                  
children's  system.   HB  53 incorporates  identical  language                                                                  
from  the  Governor's   bills,  HB  113  and   HB  114.    The                                                                  
Department  supports passage of  HB 53 with recommendation  of                                                                  
a few small changes.                                                                                                            
Representative   Kelly   inquired   if   the   attached   four                                                                  
amendments  addressed Ms. Sandoval's  concerns.  Ms.  Sandoval                                                                  
replied they did.                                                                                                               
3:49:08 PM                                                                                                                    
PAT LUBY,  (TESTIFIED  VIA TELECONFERENCE),  DIRECTOR,  ALASKA                                                                  
ASSOCIATION  OF RETIRED  PEOPLE (AARP),  ANCHORAGE,  testified                                                                  
in  support  of  HB 53.    He  pointed  out that  AARP  is  an                                                                  
organization  of  grandparents.     Unfortunately,  there  are                                                                  
situations  that put  a parent's right  at risk.   HB 53  puts                                                                  
other family members,  including grandparents  as the priority                                                                  
order  for guardianship  and adoption  rights.   Often  times,                                                                  
placement  with a grandparent  would be  in the best  interest                                                                  
of a minor  child.  AARP encourages  the Committee to  pass HB                                                                  
3:49:58 PM                                                                                                                    
TAMI   ELDER,   (TESTIFIED   VIA   TELECONFERENCE),    NETWORK                                                                  
COORDINATOR,  VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA  (VOA), ANCHORAGE,  shared                                                                  
stories  of the importance  of being  raised by  grandparents.                                                                  
Grandparents  usually attempt to  keep their families  in tact                                                                  
and provide  a safe and loving  home for their  grandchildren.                                                                  
Most families  in those  situations have  not had  involvement                                                                  
with OCS.    Ms. Elder spoke in favor of HB 53.                                                                                 
3:54:35 PM                                                                                                                    
SCOTT  CALDER,  (TESTIFIED  VIA  TELECONFERENCE),   FAIRBANKS,                                                                  
expressed disappointment  that certain  sections had  not been                                                                  
included in the bill:                                                                                                           
   ·    Chapter 117, SLA 19.90 language, which established                                                                      
        the citizen review panel for planning, an act never                                                                     
        permitted to be implemented on the duty of the                                                                          
        standard of care language;                                                                                              
   ·    Construction language regarding the fact that                                                                           
        parents possesses inherent individual right to                                                                          
        direct and control the education of their child.                                                                        
Mr.  Calder  acknowledged  that  grandparents  needed  greater                                                                  
recognition in  the system, as do the parents.   He added that                                                                  
the Department  would control all the information  that people                                                                  
have on a  child, which worried  him.  Mr. Calder  highlighted                                                                  
concerns regarding  the review  panel and spoke in  opposition                                                                  
to the legislation.                                                                                                             
4:03:50 PM                                                                                                                    
KELLY  HUBER, SELF,  JUNEAU,  spoke in  support  of the  bill.                                                                  
She noted  that  she was a  Court appointed  special  advocate                                                                  
and  worked as  a volunteer  for  the State  for  children-in-                                                                  
need-of-aid  cases  and  from  children   removed  from  their                                                                  
homes.   She  encouraged  members  to  consider the  needs  of                                                                  
these children.                                                                                                                 
The bill  helps young  children in Alaska.   Child  protective                                                                  
services  are "under  a microscope  right now".   She  pointed                                                                  
out that the bill  would open up court hearings  and requested                                                                  
that  the Committee  consider  the  ramifications  that  would                                                                  
have on the child.                                                                                                              
Ms.  Huber   addressed  the   generational  abuse   that  some                                                                  
children  experience.   She urged  that the  best interest  of                                                                  
the child  always be considered.   She added her support  that                                                                  
notification is  given to living relatives if  parental rights                                                                  
are terminated.   In  a traditional-type  family setting  that                                                                  
could be  wonderful, however,  many of  these children  do not                                                                  
live in  that type  environment, compounded  with alcohol  and                                                                  
drug abuse.   She hesitated that  all living relatives  should                                                                  
be notified  and  recommended sidebars  be given  for some  of                                                                  
the requirements.                                                                                                               
Ms. Huber pointed  out that foster homes had been  left out of                                                                  
the  preference  list  on  Page   20.    She  reiterated  that                                                                  
consideration  of the child be  the highest priority  and that                                                                  
sidebars be added for the protection of those children.                                                                         
4:09:21 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Kelly inquired  if Ms.  Huber had spoken  with                                                                  
the sponsor  regarding  her concerns.   Ms.  Huber noted  that                                                                  
she  had  been working  with  the  sponsor.   She  hoped  that                                                                  
Representative  Hawker would also  help address the  concerns,                                                                  
reiterating  the importance  of  "open hearings".   Ms.  Huber                                                                  
reminded members  that these kids  are fragile; they  have had                                                                  
a rough life.                                                                                                                   
4:10:41 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Kelly  requested  further information  on  the                                                                  
Representative  Holm  inquired  if  there  had  been  training                                                                  
involved representing  the children.   Ms. Huber replied  that                                                                  
there is  a training program  provided by  the court,  with an                                                                  
additional  12  hours  per  year  continued  education.    She                                                                  
pointed  out that  it  is the  only volunteer  service  within                                                                  
that system.   Ms. Huber stated  that she reports  directly to                                                                  
the  guardian  ad  liam,  who  works   for  Office  of  Public                                                                  
Advocacy (OPA).                                                                                                                 
Representative  Holm inquired if they were certificated  to be                                                                  
advocates  for children.   Ms. Huber did  not think they  were                                                                  
4:12:22 PM                                                                                                                    
HB 53 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.                                                                          
4:13:30 PM                                                                                                                    

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