Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/22/1996 08:25 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 339 - PRISON & TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS                            
 The next order of business to come before the House State Affairs             
 Committee was CSHB 339(HES).                                                  
 CHAIR JAMES called on Mia Costello, Legislative Administrative                
 Assistant to Representative Norm Rokeberg, to present the sponsor             
 Number 0619                                                                   
 MIA COSTELLO, Legislative Administrative Assistant to                         
 Representative Norm Rokeberg, explained HB 339 responded to two               
 court cases in 1983 and 1995 of which the court asked the                     
 legislature to look at the child in need of aid statute and the               
 termination of parental rights.  The bill she explained allowed the           
 courts to look at a parent's imprisonment which currently did not             
 have the statutory authority to do this.  She referred the                    
 committee members to page 4, and explained the addition of the                
 words "or incarceration," and "or the period of incarceration is              
 likely to continue to exist sufficiently long to seriously damage             
 the parent and child relationship or to cause serious emotional or            
 physical harm to the child."  She stated in-order-for parental                
 rights to be terminated a child must be adjudicated in need of aid            
 as a result of parental conduct.  Under current statute the courts            
 could not consider incarceration conduct because it was not a                 
 willful act.  Therefore, the courts asked the legislature to                  
 revisit this statute and clarify it.  She stated the conditions to            
 seriously damage a parent/child relationship must be met in all               
 cases and not just in cases where the parent was in prison.  She              
 further explained the change on page 2, line 10, added the words              
 "and able" to clarify the caring or willing interpretation.                   
 Number 0804                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER announced the bill was necessary, and would             
 subscribe to moving it out of the committee.                                  
 Number 0823                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES wondered if the bill affected native children and                 
 whether or not the person needed to be a relative to take care of             
 the child.                                                                    
 Number 0841                                                                   
 MS. COSTELLO explained the Indian Child Welfare Act concern was               
 deliberated in the House Health, Education and Social Services                
 Committee.  She asserted the sponsor did not believe that the bill            
 affected the Act.                                                             
 Number 0585                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN explained there was a century old tradition               
 where the children were taken care of by the nearest relative and             
 extended family system.  He said it worked very well, and was                 
 concerned about taking that away and making the children dependent            
 on the state.                                                                 
 Number 0898                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES agreed with Representative Ivan and further stated she            
 was concerned the native child would be taken automatically.                  
 Number 0933                                                                   
 MS. COSTELLO replied a child must be adjudicated a child in need of           
 aid before parental rights could be terminated.  The law said the             
 child must refuse to accept available care or have no parent,                 
 guardian, custodian or relative caring or willing to provide care             
 to be adjudicated.                                                            
 CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness in Juneau, Peggy Thomas.               
 Number 0986                                                                   
 PEGGY THOMAS explained she was the foster parent of the two                   
 children mentioned in the case A.M. v. State of Alaska whereby the          
 judge asked the legislature to clarify this issue.  She said the              
 two children had been in her care for five years.  Presently their            
 father was incarcerated for sexual abuse.  She mentioned he would             
 be released this fall.  The mother had relinquished her parental              
 rights and had agreed to let her adopt the children.  She explained           
 the mother was native and did not have a willing or able relative             
 to care for the children.  She stated the children needed a                   
 permanent home and some permanency in their life.  She further                
 explained the judge needed the latitude to terminate the father's             
 rights due to his incarceration.                                              
 CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness in Juneau, Jan Rutherdale,             
 Department of Law.                                                            
 Number 1112                                                                   
 JAN RUTHERDALE, Assistant Attorney General, Human Services Section,           
 Civil Division, Department of Law, said the department supported              
 CSHB 339(HES).                                                                
 Number 1130                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS referred the committee members to page 2,               
 line 10, and read "and able."  He wondered if this inclusion would            
 adversely impact the handicapped.                                             
 Number 1151                                                                   
 MS. RUTHERDALE explained everybody had interpreted the law that a             
 parent had to be both "willing" and "able" to provide care, and if            
 they could not, the state would intervene.  She said one month ago          
 the Supreme Court literally read the word "or" in the statute.                
 Therefore, the inclusion clarified this recent shift in                     
 interpretation.  She further explained the word "care" in statute             
 meant able to provide for the physical, emotion, social and mental            
 needs of children, and there were handicapped individuals that did            
 a wonderful job raising their children.  The state would have to              
 prove the parent was not able to provide the necessary care, and              
 could not rule based only on a handicap.                                      
 CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness in Juneau, Diane Worley,               
 Department of Health and Social Services.                                     
 Number 1277                                                                   
 DIANE WORLEY, Director, Central Office, Division of Family and                
 Youth Services, Department of Health and Social Services, said the            
 division and department supported CSHB 339(HES).  She said the                
 Indian Child Welfare Act was not impacted by this bill and did not            
 negate the process of guaranteeing the act was followed.  She                 
 further explained the bill would give the division another                    
 opportunity or factor to consider in the termination of a parental            
 CHAIR JAMES called on the next witness in Juneau, Martha Stevens.             
 Number 1388                                                                   
 MARTHA STEVENS, Guardian at litem, said she supported CSHB 339(HES)           
 because children had the right to grow-up in a consistent and                 
 healthy environment.                                                        
 Number 1431                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER moved that CSHB 339(HES) move from the                  
 committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal                 
 notes.  Hearing no objection, it was so moved from the House State            
 Affairs Committee.                                                            
 Number 1495                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES asked the committee members to consider waiving                   
 HB 498, the Betty Kato Bridge Bill.  There was no objection, and              
 announced she would ask for a waiver on the floor of the House of             

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