Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 120

04/12/2005 08:00 AM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Recessed to a Call of the Chair --
+ Confirmation Hearing: Board of Govs of TELECONFERENCED
the AK Bar - Joseph N. Faulhaber
<Hearing Postponed>
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
<Rescheduled from 4/11>
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
<Please note time>
HB 53 - CHILDREN IN NEED OF AID/REVIEW PANELS                                                                                 
9:37:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR McGUIRE  announced that the  final order of  business would                                                               
be SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR 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,                                                               
to  the confidentiality  of investigations,  court hearings,  and                                                               
public  agency records  and  information in  child-in-need-of-aid                                                               
matters  and  certain  child   protection  matters,  to  immunity                                                               
regarding  disclosure  of  information in  child-in-  need-of-aid                                                               
matters and  certain child protection  matters, to  the retention                                                               
of  certain  privileges  of  a parent  in  a  relinquishment  and                                                               
termination  of a  parent and  child relationship  proceeding, to                                                               
eligibility for permanent fund dividends  for certain children in                                                               
the   custody  of   the  state,   and  to   juvenile  delinquency                                                               
proceedings and  placements; establishing a  right to a  trial by                                                               
jury   in    termination   of   parental    rights   proceedings;                                                               
reestablishing and relating to state  citizens' review panels for                                                               
certain child  protection and custody matters;  amending the duty                                                               
to disclose  information pertaining  to a child  in need  of aid;                                                               
authorizing additional  family members  to consent  to disclosure                                                               
of  confidential or  privileged  information  about children  and                                                               
families involved with children's  services within the Department                                                               
of Health and  Social Services to officials for review  or use in                                                               
official  capacities;   relating  to  reports  of   harm  and  to                                                               
adoptions and foster care; 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  9  and   13,  Alaska                                                               
Adoption Rules;  amending Rules  3, 18, and  22, Alaska  Child in                                                               
Need of  Aid Rules of  Procedure; and providing for  an effective                                                               
date."  [Before the committee was CSSSHB 53(HES).]                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL, speaking as the  sponsor of SSHB 53, said                                                               
he would like  the committee to address some of  the legal issues                                                               
dealing with jury trials, civil  liability, and court rules.  The                                                               
bill currently rolls  together HB 113, HB 114, HB  17, and HB 53,                                                               
he explained.  "This is  dealing with Title 47, child-in-need-of-                                                               
aid proceedings -  everything from who has access  to the courts,                                                               
how the  courts act,  and procedures  on termination  of parental                                                               
rights,  and all  the way  down  to how  do we  brighten the  due                                                               
process line," he said.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said he rolled  the bills together because                                                               
they all dealt  with Title 47, and he wanted  to avoid confusion.                                                               
He likened the legislation to a  tractor that may be difficult to                                                               
get going,  but once  it goes,  "it should go  pretty good."   He                                                               
said there are still some areas  of contention with regard to the                                                               
primacy of  family and the  protection of  children.  He  said he                                                               
brought an  assertion for a  jury trial into the  bill, regarding                                                               
the termination  proceedings where  the state will  forever sever                                                               
the relationship between  a parent and child.  He  said he thinks                                                               
oversight is important  in such a serious matter,  and noted that                                                               
there are provisions  for oversight in the bill and  so he may be                                                               
convinced that they are sufficient.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL said  he asked  the department  to change                                                               
some of  the civil  liability language.   "I  am a  firm believer                                                               
that children  need to be  protected, so this is  about asserting                                                               
family rights, protecting children,  and giving good governmental                                                               
process."  He  said there are people who are  helpful in handling                                                               
children who've  been severely abused, and  the children advocacy                                                               
centers are  actually mentioned  in the  bill; such  centers show                                                               
respect for  the child,  and he  mentioned that  he is  asking to                                                               
record some of the interviews that these social workers do.                                                                     
9:43:59 AM                                                                                                                    
SCOTT T.  CALDER said his  only child was kidnapped  and tortured                                                               
by  state agents  in Fairbanks.   As  a result  of complaints  to                                                               
appropriate   public  officials,   "there   were  cover-ups   and                                                               
reprisals  against us,  and various  secondary  crimes on  fraud,                                                               
obstruction -  the list goes  on," he said.   Getting information                                                               
about  what  was  being  done  to him  and  his  child  was  very                                                               
problematic.  He  said the original bill was a  pretty good first                                                               
step, but  it has been  watered down to  the point that,  for the                                                               
most part, it is window dressing  with a few exceptions.  He said                                                               
he  is  confused on  the  different  versions  of the  bill,  but                                                               
surmised that  on page 5,  line 19,  there is language  that says                                                               
the provisions  of proposed AS  47.10 shall be construed  to mean                                                               
that the  parent possesses inherent  individual rights  to direct                                                               
and control  the education and  upbringing of  a child.   That is                                                               
language he has been trying to  get introduced for many years, he                                                               
MR. CALDER offered his belief  that the section on citizen review                                                               
panels was  changed to conform  to federal language,  adding that                                                               
in  1990, the  legislature established,  via House  Bill 19,  the                                                               
Citizens' Review  Panel for  Permanency Planning,  which provided                                                               
for a  cursory review by  people who do  not work in  the system.                                                               
The main thing  he would like is more openness  in the system, he                                                               
said, adding, "We  need a smell test for every  single case."  It                                                               
is  a  human rights  problem,  he  declared,  and said,  "We  are                                                               
talking about  the extent  to which  state agents  have committed                                                               
grotesque  crimes  against  children  and  families  without  due                                                               
process  and  [are]  then subsequently  committing  other  crimes                                                               
against people who  complain about that mistreatment."   He wants                                                               
frequent and recurring statewide public hearings, he concluded.                                                                 
9:49:31 AM                                                                                                                    
MARCI SCHMIDT said she is very  happy about the bill, but she has                                                               
two  suggestions.    She  noted   that  things  change,  and  the                                                               
department  should  put  it  in writing  when  it  denies  people                                                               
visitation.  She said she would  strongly advise that an audio or                                                               
video  recording be  done during  interviews  at schools  because                                                               
there have been  instances where children have  objected to being                                                               
interviewed and the  people in authority have then  said that the                                                               
children  were lying.   She  said such  recordings would  protect                                                               
both  sides.   With  regard  to  a  citizens' review  panel,  she                                                               
strongly recommended  that someone look into  New Mexico's review                                                               
panel; it  is one  of the  best, she said,  adding, "I  hope this                                                               
bill passes ... and I hope it's enforced."                                                                                      
9:51:50 AM                                                                                                                    
ROBERT B. FLINT,  Attorney at Law, Hartig Rhodes  Hoge & Lekisch,                                                               
PC,  on behalf  of  Catholic Social  Services,  Inc., noted  that                                                               
Section 5,  regarding adoptions, would  work a radical  change in                                                               
the finality of relinquishments  in an agency's adoption process.                                                               
There is a process of voluntary  relinquishment of a child from a                                                               
birth  parent to  a licensed  agency, and  this process  does not                                                               
require a court order or action,  he explained.  That is followed                                                               
by a reconsideration period, which  is determined in statute.  He                                                               
said  the next  step in  the process  is a  six-month supervisory                                                               
period  for the  adoptive  couple, and  then  the adoption  takes                                                               
place.    Subsection  (n)  on  page 4  provides  that  after  the                                                               
termination and  reconsideration period,  the court  can overturn                                                               
the relinquishment.   The [bill]  refers to a birth  parent being                                                               
rehabilitated,  but  in  a  voluntary   adoption  to  an  agency,                                                               
rehabilitation  is  not  an  issue.   So  this  will  extend  the                                                               
reconsideration  period  to  six  months,  and  this  change,  he                                                               
opined, was likely unintentional.   He offered his belief that no                                                               
problems exist  in the current  system, and  so it should  not be                                                               
9:55:43 AM                                                                                                                    
MARILYN   MORENO,  Director,   Pregnancy  Support   and  Adoption                                                               
Services, Catholic  Social Services, Inc., said  her organization                                                               
has  been  providing  adoption services  in  Alaska  since  1967,                                                               
adding that there  are very few private  adoption agencies within                                                               
the  state.   She  said she  is concerned  with  what the  bill's                                                               
impact will  be on  adoption agencies.   For example,  when birth                                                               
mothers come to them asking  to relinquish their child privately,                                                               
the proposed  six-month extension  will have an  emotional impact                                                               
on adoptive parents, birth parents, and children.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE   COGHILL  explained   that   that  provision   is                                                               
something the governor proposed in  HB 114, and remarked that the                                                               
House State  Affairs Standing  Committee may  be working  on that                                                               
9:58:06 AM                                                                                                                    
EVELYN  THOMAS, Vice  President,  Crooked  Creek Tribal  Council,                                                               
said she has  three victims of the Office  of Children's Services                                                               
(OCS)  with her.    Oversight on  the OCS  is  long overdue,  she                                                               
stated,  adding, "We  have been  victims of  [the] OCS  for many,                                                               
many  years."   She  said she  has recently  begun  to speak  out                                                               
against the  OCS because  she no longer  has small  children that                                                               
the OCS could  take away from her  for daring to speak  out.  She                                                               
stated that when there is  domestic violence, the OCS immediately                                                               
removes the  children, making them  and their mothers  victims of                                                               
the state.                                                                                                                      
MS. THOMAS added,  "We have no recourse; we  cannot disprove what                                                               
they  say because  confidentiality is  only on  the part  of OCS,                                                               
[and] they  are the  ones who  benefit."  She  said she  has seen                                                               
children  removed  from families  and  the  mothers were  falsely                                                               
accused of having  a criminal record.  The  children were removed                                                               
but the "guy who did the  violence" was not removed, she related,                                                               
noting that the children are taken  away and put up for adoption,                                                               
without giving the  mother any recourse.  "I realize  we are only                                                               
Natives,  and  we  really  don't  know  how  your  system  works;                                                               
however,  right is  right," she  said.   She  requested that  the                                                               
victims present with her be able to testify.                                                                                    
CHAIR McGUIRE,  noting that members were  due to go on  the House                                                               
Floor, relayed that [CSSSHB 53(HES)]  would be held over to allow                                                               
for further testimony.                                                                                                          

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