Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
02/14/2005 01:30 PM HEALTH, EDUCATION & SOCIAL SERVICES
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SB 82-CHILD PROTECTION INTERVIEW/TRANSPORT CHAIR DYSON announced SB 82 to be up for consideration. 2:15:23 PM STACIE KRALY, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law, (DOL) introduced SB 82. This legislation would allow the DOL and Office of Child Services (OCS) to transport a child for medical examination and or forensic interview without parental consent in cases where the department has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been severely physically or sexually abused. Interviews of children who appear to have suffered severe physical or sexual abuse would be conducted in an appropriate environment that is not threatening to the child. It is not always possible to obtain parental cooperation to transport a child for examination and interview. This bill considers that children are usually transported to an advocacy center, which are designed to be safe, neutral, child-friendly environments where children can be interviewed by professionals with special training in those areas. They are also designed to minimize the number of interviews in an effort to minimize the trauma of the child as much as possible. This bill includes notifying a non-offending parent, when appropriate, that his child is being transported to the advocacy center for an interview. There are cases, however, when either there is neither no alleged non-offending parent that is both parents are involved in the abuse, or the department is unsure that the non-offending parent would be cooperative and we do not want to provide notice to them. As the statute currently exists, in order for the department or the OCS to transport a child to an advocacy center for these interviews, the department theoretically would have to assume emergency custody of that child and we want to avoid having to assume emergency custody in those instances when, after interview, it is not warranted. 2:17:51 PM CHAIR DYSON asked Ms. Kraly how the bill differs from a case in which a law enforcement officer removes a child from what he considers a dangerous situation and takes him to be evaluated. MS. KRALY said SB 82 covers cases in which there are no law enforcement personnel available to transport children to be evaluated. CHAIR DYSON asked if this law would give an OCS investigator the same authority as a police officer. MS. KRALY said SB 82 would give an investigator such authority. CHAIR DYSON said he is uncomfortable with the words "without notifying parents." There is a difference between notifying and giving permission and OCS has a responsibility to notify the parent. MARCIE KENNAI, Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), said that the current practice is to always notify the non- offending parent. Currently DHSS has the authority to take a child to a hospital in the case of physical abuse, but it does not have that authority in the case of sexual abuse. he is concerned about sexual abuse cases since research demonstrates that most children tend to be telling the truth and sending a child home to that parent is a concern because the child can be coached on the way to the advocacy center. 2:20:57 PM CHAIR DYSON expressed his concern about a parent not knowing the location of his child. He said even if the parent is the abuser, the parent ought to be notified. He said he did not like the term "non-offending parent" because most abused children come from single-family homes. MS. KRALY said SB 82 addresses Senator Dyson's concern about notification and permission and referenced Version \A, page 1, lines 11-13, as follows: The department shall notify the parents, guardian, or custodian of a child as soon as possible after taking action under this subsection with regard to the child. MS. KRALY said the aforementioned referent ensures that notice is provided, but it does not give the department permission to take a child. 2:22:36 PM CHAIR DYSON asked why a definition of "child advocacy center" is included. MS. KRALY answered the definition was added to clarify the function of the center. 2:24:31 PM SENATOR GREEN suggested an amendment to the definition might satisfy the committee. She added changing the language would change the focus of SB 82 since its primary purpose is to expedite the process of getting children to safety. MS. KENNAI agreed with Senator Green. The intent of the bill is to enable the staff of OCS to do investigations. SENATOR GREEN asked what would happen if "without the permission of the parents, guardian, or custodian." were deleted. MS. KRALY answered AS 47.17.064 already uses that language with respect to a child believed to have been physically abused. The bill expands the applicability of the language in this subsection to include children who are believed to have been sexually abused. 2:28:18 PM SENATOR ELTON remarked the scope of the following language on page 2 is very broad: The state and the department, its officers, its employees, and its agents are not liable for civil damages as a result of actions taken or omissions that occurred in the transportation authorized under this section, except for conduct that constitutes gross negligence. He said it seems to confer immunity on a driver who hits a pedestrian while transporting a child. MS. KRALY explained the immunity provision was discussed with special litigation attorneys. She is unfamiliar with the wording and would get back to the committee with an explanation. SENATOR ELTON asked if placing a child on a plane bound for a city with a regional center would constitute taking emergency custody of that child. 2:31:21 PM MS. KRALY replied there are specifically delineated times when the department is allowed to take emergency custody. She said the DOL could determine that an emergency exists, take custody, and then later explain it to a judge. The DOL would seek to obtain emergency custody to take a child out of a village or rural area. 2:32:53 PM SENATOR GREEN asked what "not liable for civil damages as a result of actions taken or omissions that occurred in the transportation authorized under this section" on page 2, line 5 means. MS. KRALY explained if the state has custody of a child and if while transporting the child there is an accident involving a state employee, the bill would not subject the state employee to liability. SENATOR GREEN said that is why there is insurance. MS. KRALY said she is unfamiliar with why that particular wording is in SB 82. 2:36:24 PM CHAIR DYSON said he had assumed, until Senator Elton's questions, that this section was just dealing with actions pertinent to the child in question. In light of Senator Elton's question it seems that it applies to anyone or anything affected during transport. He asked his aid to have legislative legal look at this section. ROSEMARY HAGEVIG, Executive Director, Catholic Community Services (CCS), testified on behalf of the Safe Child Advocacy Center in Juneau and the Alaska Children's Alliance (ACA). She said the ACA chose this year to try and get child advocacy centers codified in law. She feels it is important for her organization to have a statutory definition of a child advocacy center. 2:39:53 PM CHAIR DYSON referenced an amendment proposed by the CCS and asked Senator Green if she is concerned about the wording in the proposed amendment under findings, "no child in Alaska should be denied access". He asked Senator Green if she thinks this implies an obligation of the state to either provide these everywhere or provide transportation for a child to where they might be. SENATOR GREEN agreed that was a concern. MS. HAGEVIG responded child advocacy centers are currently supported in Alaska by federal funding which may not be available forever. She hopes eventually the state might enter the funding scheme for child protective services. CHAIR DYSON said the wording would have to be changed to get the bill by Senator Green and himself. 2:47:18 PM SCOTT CALDER, Fairbanks resident, opposed SB 82 and SB 83. He said the use of the term non-offending parent in the bill is flawed. The term "forensic interview" is not defined in the legislation and is difficult to find elsewhere. He does not understand how children could be transported and tests be performed on them with complete disregard for some kind of due process with respect to their parents. 2:52:06 PM MR. CALDER shared Senator Elton's concern about the immunity provision discussed earlier. He is concerned with the use of the term "emergency" on page 2, lines 2-4, and said if state agents are transporting children, then they are, by definition, dealing with an emergency and the fact that they aren't telling parents what they are doing with their children does not change that. He said people associated with child advocacy centers are not interested in due process provisions and people's rights should not be taken away from them on the basis of somebody's reasonable idea of whether there may be some wrongdoing. 2:54:51 PM BETTY ROLLINS said this is the most dangerous bill that she has read in a long time and urged the committee not to pass SB 82. She said that lines 9 thorough 11 on page 1 wrongfully give police officers the authority to conduct forensic interviews. She remarked there was a case in Ohio wherein twenty girls were given a medical exam against their will because they were suspected of being sexually abused and their parents could do nothing because the state had a law similar to SB 82. 2:56:57 PM CHAIR DYSON said SB 82 would be held until the next committee meeting.