Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/18/2002 04:22 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 180 - YOUTH SERVICES: REGULATION & TASK FORCE                                                                              
CHAIR DYSON  announced that the  first order of business  would be                                                              
HOUSE BILL  NO. 180,  "An Act requiring  child services  providers                                                              
to   obtain  criminal   background  checks   for  child   services                                                              
Number 0065                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING  made  a  motion  to  adopt  the  proposed                                                              
committee  substitute  (CS)  for   HB  180,  version  22-LS0642\T,                                                              
Lauterbach, 4/18/02,  as a work draft.  There  being no objection,                                                              
Version T was before the committee.                                                                                             
Number 0108                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE LESIL  MCGUIRE, Alaska State  Legislature, sponsor,                                                              
presented HB 180.   She recognized that all the  committee members                                                              
were  doing  everything they  could  to  protect children  in  the                                                              
state.   She agreed  that much needs  to come  from the  home, but                                                              
there are certain  situations in society where  children only have                                                              
the legislature  to look to for  protection, and this bill  is one                                                              
more effort to do that.                                                                                                         
Number 0236                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  MCGUIRE noted that  HB 180  would make  Alaska one                                                              
of the many states  moving into compliance with the  adoption of a                                                              
federal law,  the Adoption  & Safe Families  Act (ASFA)  passed by                                                              
Congress in 1997,  to take further steps to promote  the safety of                                                              
children.  As  the committee knows, there are  already statutes in                                                              
place  that allow the  State of  Alaska to  oversee the  licensure                                                              
and   supervision   of   foster   homes,   residential   childcare                                                              
facilities, semi-secure  residential childcare  facilities, secure                                                              
residential   psychiatric  treatment   centers,  child   placement                                                              
agencies, and maternity  homes.  This bill is simply  an effort at                                                              
bringing  Alaska   into  compliance  with  the  federal   law  and                                                              
protecting the kids more.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE MCGUIRE  pointed out that HB 180  would also create                                                              
a legislative  task force.  This  is an effort to seek  to protect                                                              
children beyond the  state licensed agencies just  mentioned.  She                                                              
noted that  there are staggering  rates of children who  have been                                                              
victims  of predators  in  situations  which the  parents  thought                                                              
their  children would  be  protected and  safe.   Statistics  show                                                              
that  child  molesters  will  seek  out  opportunities  to  be  in                                                              
positions where  they have  power and  control over young  people.                                                              
That  is  why background  checks  are  required,  and they  are  a                                                              
necessary  evil in  some places.    She reiterated  that she  just                                                              
wants to make sure  that the kids in places licensed  by the State                                                              
are protected.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE MCGUIRE  indicated that an earlier  draft of HB 180                                                              
suggested  beginning the  process of  requiring background  checks                                                              
for people  who have  immediate contact  and unsupervised  control                                                              
over children,  but there were  many problems  with that.   One of                                                              
the  problems was  the fiscal  impact on  the volunteer  agencies;                                                              
then it  was reduced  in a CS  to a  state background  check which                                                              
currently runs $25.   Some people agreed that wasn't  a high price                                                              
to pay for  the cost of protecting  children.  The reason  for the                                                              
language in  Section [14] regarding  the task force is  an attempt                                                              
to sit down with people and talk about what can be done.                                                                        
Number 0480                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  MCGUIRE  shared  her idea  for  a safe  kids  seal                                                              
program  patterned   after  the   Better  Business  Bureau.     If                                                              
something  meets  certain  things,  then  it gets  the  seal,  and                                                              
parents  could start  looking for  it.   People can  look for  the                                                              
seal  and know  that  if the  agencies have  it,  they are  taking                                                              
those  extra  steps  to provide  background  checks.    That  will                                                              
reduce the  risk of  kids being  placed in harm's  way.   There is                                                              
nothing  the government  can do  to ensure that  100 percent,  but                                                              
background  checks   do  tend  to  reveal  past   molestation  and                                                              
predatory  offenses.  There  does seem  to be  a pattern  by those                                                              
people to place themselves back in those situations, she noted.                                                                 
Number 0679                                                                                                                     
CHAIR DYSON  asked if  this was  only requiring background  checks                                                              
for  organizations  or people  who  are working  in  organizations                                                              
that are licensed by the state.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE MCGUIRE replied absolutely.                                                                                      
CHAIR DYSON  asked why the task  force is chaired by the  chair of                                                              
the Administrative Regulation Review Committee ("Reg Review").                                                                  
Number 0713                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  MCGUIRE  admitted  that  she has  an  interest  in                                                              
chairing  it because  she's been  following it  for the past  year                                                              
and a  half.   She also  sees some  wisdom as  putting herself  as                                                              
chair of  Reg Review  in that, because  there has been  discussion                                                              
about  whether   this  should  be  done  through   regulations  or                                                              
statutes.  She stated:                                                                                                          
     Mostly  it is  absolute 100  percent  self-interest.   I                                                                   
     want to chair  it because I've been following  it.  I've                                                                   
     been doing the  research and the homework,  and I'd also                                                                   
     like to  have members  of the House  and members  of the                                                                   
     Senate to  help me along  ... but  I do see some  wisdom                                                                   
     is  trying  to see  whether  we  can  tackle it  from  a                                                                   
     regulation point  of view or  whether it has to  be law,                                                                   
     or perhaps it's  a whole other concept such  as the safe                                                                   
CHAIR DYSON  asked what she  would want to  do if she  doesn't get                                                              
Number 0774                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MCGUIRE  answered that the recommendations  will be                                                              
submitted to the  legislature by January 21, 2003,  so the bulk of                                                              
the work  is going to go  on this summer.   She said if  this task                                                              
force  didn't have  recommendations  by November  7, [2002],  then                                                              
she would  feel  that she hadn't  done  her job.   She would  hope                                                              
those recommendations  could be carried forward by  whoever is the                                                              
chair in the event she was not re-elected.                                                                                      
Number 0840                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JOULE  asked if it was correct  that Representative                                                              
McGuire would appoint the rest of the members herself.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  MCGUIRE replied  that is  how is currently  reads,                                                              
but she is open to the committee making modifications.                                                                          
Number 0959                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  agreed this was an excellent  idea and many                                                              
states have these task forces and have accomplished a lot.                                                                      
Number 0991                                                                                                                     
CHAIR DYSON  asked for some clarification  on the changes  on page                                                              
2, lines 8 to 14.                                                                                                               
Number 1034                                                                                                                     
ELMER  LINDSTROM, Deputy  Commissioner, Department  of Health  and                                                              
Social  Services,  answered that  the  Department  of Education  &                                                              
Early Development  actually suggested it.   He explained  that the                                                              
classic example is  Mt. Edgecumbe [state boarding  school], but it                                                              
would  be DFYS  [Division of  Family &  Youth Services]  licensing                                                              
the domiciliary  portion  of the  facility.   It is a  residential                                                              
facility which  is also a school,  but the DFYS would  license the                                                              
residential portion  of the school  or any other  similar boarding                                                              
CHAIR DYSON  asked if the boarding  schools around the  state have                                                              
been checked with on this.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  MCGUIRE answered  that  she has  not checked  with                                                              
them,  but there  have been  philosophical  discussions about  it.                                                              
Her  initial concern  was  making sure  that  the regular  village                                                              
charter schools would not be subjected to this; they are not.                                                                   
Number 1100                                                                                                                     
YVONNE  CHASE, Deputy  Commissioner of  Early Development,  Office                                                              
of   the   Commissioner,   Department   of   Education   &   Early                                                              
Development,   testified  via  teleconference.     She   told  the                                                              
committee  there has been  discussions with  the boarding  schools                                                              
and DFYS, and she expressed support for this language.                                                                          
Number 1135                                                                                                                     
JOANNE  GIBBENS,  Program  Administrator,  Division  of  Family  &                                                              
Youth Services  (DFYS), Department  of Health  & Social  Services,                                                              
explained  that  this change  codifies  practice  that is  already                                                              
occurring.   Regulations already  exist for the licensure  process                                                              
for boarding  schools.  It  is a residential  care license  with a                                                              
specialty  in providing  boarding  school care.   Boarding  school                                                              
care  is 24-hour  care  of  children away  from  home,  so it  has                                                              
always been considered part of the licensing process already.                                                                   
MS. GIBBENS reiterated  that it is already in  regulation, but the                                                              
law  is not  clear  in terms  of  a specific  statement  regarding                                                              
licensing boarding schools.                                                                                                     
CHAIR DYSON asked what this bill will change if it passes.                                                                      
MS.  GIBBENS answered  that HB  180 brings  the current  licensing                                                              
statute  into compliance  with federal  law, the  Adoption &  Safe                                                              
Families  Act.   The  federal law  has specific  requirements  for                                                              
what  circumstances  states may  not  license a  potential  foster                                                              
parent.   As  a  result of  making  that change,  some  subsequent                                                              
sections  were changed that  related back  to criminal  background                                                              
Number 1265                                                                                                                     
MS. GIBBENS  told the  members that  the federal  law states  that                                                              
the state  may not  approve or  license a  foster parent  if there                                                              
has been a felony  conviction for child abuse  or neglect, spousal                                                              
abuse, a crime  against children, including child  pornography, or                                                              
a crime  involving violence,  including rape,  sexual assault,  or                                                              
homicide.    The  other  requirement   is  if  there  has  been  a                                                              
conviction in the  last five years for physical  assault, battery,                                                              
or a drug  related offence, that  person cannot be licensed.   She                                                              
said she  believes that alcohol  is included  as part of  the drug                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL  commented  that  some of  those  offenses                                                              
fall into the misdemeanor category.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  MCGUIRE  explained  that  there are  two  separate                                                              
levels.   A felony is  an automatic no,  and a misdemeanor  in the                                                              
last  five years  is  an opportunity  for  further  review by  the                                                              
Number 1355                                                                                                                     
MS. GIBBENS  reiterated that the  federal law specifically  states                                                              
felony  convictions are  the  absolute bar.    Anything less  than                                                              
that is considered  a discretionary decision made  by the division                                                              
in terms  of its licensing process.   The division  can thoroughly                                                              
investigate  those circumstances  and  make  a judgment  regarding                                                              
the safety of children in that home.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  commented that the laws make  it very easy                                                              
for someone to become a misdemeanant these days.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   MCGUIRE    clarified   it's   not    saying   all                                                              
misdemeanors,  but  only  those  that have  to  do  with  physical                                                              
assault, battery,  or drug-related  offenses.  She  also clarified                                                              
that it  is only a threshold.   If it's  been ten years,  it won't                                                              
even  be  looked at;  within  the  last  five years,  it  warrants                                                              
concern, so the department will investigate it.                                                                                 
CHAIR DYSON  asked if  this would be  exacerbating the  problem in                                                              
the rural  areas for  finding foster  homes due  to problems  with                                                              
alcohol-related offenses.                                                                                                       
MS.  GIBBENS replied  that  she  doesn't believe  so.   This  bill                                                              
doesn't  criminalize  anything  that's  currently  not  considered                                                              
criminal in state  law.  The division wants the  flexibility to do                                                              
what  he  just   talked  about  in  terms  of   understanding  the                                                              
difficulty  of finding  appropriate  homes  and family  homes  for                                                              
children  in  the  Bush  communities.     She  stressed  that  the                                                              
division wants the flexibility to make those decisions.                                                                         
Number 1670                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA commented  that in  her experience  working                                                              
with youth  over the years,  there have  been people on  the staff                                                              
of  institutions or  foster parents  who have  been found  abusing                                                              
children,  and in  one case  she had no  idea this  was going  on.                                                              
She wondered  if a  person is charged,  does that  show up  in the                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  MCGUIRE answered  that a charge  will appear  in a                                                              
background check.   She indicated that ICWA [Indian  Child Welfare                                                              
Act]  has  been  helpful  in  Bush  communities  in  figuring  out                                                              
placement for some of the Native kids.                                                                                          
Number 1820                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS  made  a  motion  to  adopt  a  conceptual                                                              
amendment, "the  total membership of  the task force be  nine with                                                              
four public members  and two House members and  two Senate members                                                              
appointed by  the Speaker of  the House  and the President  of the                                                              
Senate [plus  the chair]."   There being  no objection, it  was so                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING asked why  the task force  needs to  be in                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE MCGUIRE  replied that her reason for  putting it in                                                              
statute is  just the gravity of  the situation.  She  wants people                                                              
to feel the pressure  of a timeline and a law to do  it.  She said                                                              
she  felt that  this  would get  people's  attention to  recognize                                                              
that this has  to be done by a  due date and to be  accountable to                                                              
the legislature.                                                                                                                
Number 1955                                                                                                                     
MARTHA  ANDERSON,  Manager,  Child/Adult   Care,  Social  Services                                                              
Division, Department  of Health & Human Services,  Municipality of                                                              
Anchorage, testified  via teleconference.   She expressed  support                                                              
for  HB  180  to increase  the  overview  of  persons  caring  for                                                              
children.   She also expressed  support for  the task force.   She                                                              
offered the help of the municipality if needed.                                                                                 
Number 1993                                                                                                                     
JACK  BOWEN  testified  via teleconference  and  expressed  strong                                                              
support of HB 180.                                                                                                              
MS. CHASE expressed support for HB 180.                                                                                         
Number 2028                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  moved  to  report CSHB  180,  version  22-                                                              
LS0642\T, Lauterbach,  4/18/02, as amended, out of  committee with                                                              
individual  recommendations  and   the  accompanying  zero  fiscal                                                              
notes.  There  being no objection, CSHB 180(HES)  was reported out                                                              
of  the  House Health,  Education  and  Social  Services  Standing                                                              

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