Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/22/1996 08:25 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 statement. 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 right. 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 Representatives.