Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
        HB 53-CHILDREN IN NEED OF AID/ADOPTION/GUARDIAN                                                                     
CHAIR DYSON announced HB 53 to be up for consideration.                                                                         
RYNNIEVA MOSS,  legislative aide to Representative  John Coghill,                                                               
introduced the  bill and  advised it is  a consolidation  of four                                                               
bills that  were previously  passed by  the House.  She described                                                               
the  bills  and the  reasons  Representative  Coghill feels  they                                                               
should be compiled into a single bill.                                                                                          
2:58:29 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MOSS  advised another  aspect of the  bill was  to strengthen                                                               
families  by  seeing  that extended  family  members  and  family                                                               
friends  are to  be first  and foremost  in the  consideration of                                                               
preference to  adopt children  in need of  aide (CINA).  The bill                                                               
gives an  affirmative responsibility  in rejecting  the placement                                                               
of children in the homes of  their extended family, friends and a                                                               
licensed foster  home respectively.  The bill would  disallow the                                                               
termination of parental rights on  the basis of poverty alone. It                                                               
encourages  the  Office of  Children's  Services  (OCS) to  train                                                               
foster parents to be mentors.                                                                                                   
3:02:13 PM                                                                                                                    
House  Bill 53  deals  with psychotropic  drugs  and would  allow                                                               
parents  to make  decisions regarding  the administration  of the                                                               
CHAIR  DYSON asked  Ms. Moss  whether she  is referring  to birth                                                               
MS. MOSS said that is correct.                                                                                                  
CHAIR  DYSON asked  whether parental  permission must  be secured                                                               
for any forms of medical treatment.                                                                                             
MS. MOSS said  parental permission must be secured  for all major                                                               
medical  procedures regarding  foster  children.  The bill  would                                                               
make the process  transparent by opening hearings  to the public.                                                               
The   hearing   could  be   closed   if   it  might   result   in                                                               
stigmatization,   if  it   might   interfere   with  a   criminal                                                               
investigation, or it might violate state law.                                                                                   
3:05:39 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELTON  asked whether it  is reasonable to expect  a court                                                               
to keep track of people who violate confidentiality.                                                                            
MS. MOSS  replied there would have  to be a complaint  filed with                                                               
the    court   that    the    aforementioned   person    violated                                                               
3:07:30 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MOSS continued  the bill would establish  a grievance process                                                               
for parents who feel the case  is not being handled properly. The                                                               
bill   would  also   allow  the   OCS  to   release  confidential                                                               
information  under  certain circumstances  such  as  to clear  up                                                               
public misconceptions.                                                                                                          
SENATOR  ELTON  said the  Open  Meeting  Act was  different  than                                                               
Section  10, which  applies to  the reasons  for closing  a court                                                               
hearing. He asked the reason for the difference in criteria.                                                                    
Ms. Moss  advised of a  provision in  the Open Meetings  Act that                                                               
states,  "if a  person's  reputation could  be  tarnished by  the                                                               
information being  released during  a hearing,  it could  go into                                                               
executive session."                                                                                                             
Senator Elton  asked whether that would  cover stigmatization and                                                               
inhibit a child's testimony.                                                                                                    
3:11:54 PM                                                                                                                    
STACIE KRALY,  senior assistant  attorney general,  Department of                                                               
Law (DOL), testified the distinction  is that a court hearing has                                                               
a different  process and different  rules than a  public meeting.                                                               
The exceptions  under the Open  Meetings Act would allow  the DOL                                                               
to protect  the process  if there were  information of  a private                                                               
nature that had to be discussed.                                                                                                
3:13:40 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  DYSON asked  whether  the DOL  was  substituting the  word                                                               
"relinquish" for the word "termination."                                                                                        
MS.  MOSS  responded  no.  The  state  does  not  have  statutory                                                               
authority to do  voluntary relinquishments and so  the bill would                                                               
establish that  statutory authority. It  would allow OCS  to keep                                                               
contact   rights   with   children    in   cases   of   voluntary                                                               
relinquishment. Another aspect of  the bill would encourage audio                                                               
and videotaping. The bill also  defines 'child advocacy centers',                                                               
a definition  that the  DOL, OCS and  the child  advocacy centers                                                               
all agree on.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  DYSON advised  Ms. Moss  of a  bill introduced  by Senator                                                               
French, which  proposes to  allow greater  taping ability  on the                                                               
part of OCS.                                                                                                                    
MS. MOSS was  unaware of the Senate Bill. HB  53 also establishes                                                               
criteria  for   schools  to  follow   when  a  child  is   to  be                                                               
interviewed.  It  directs OCS  to  work  with the  Department  of                                                               
Public Safety to  set up a procedure for the  interview. It would                                                               
allow the  legislative offices  to remain  non-party participants                                                               
to the case even when the parental rights have been terminated.                                                                 
3:18:43 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELTON  asked the reason  for the  extra step in  terms of                                                               
legislative access.                                                                                                             
MS. MOSS said  when a parent signs a disclosure  release they are                                                               
allowed  to ask  the Legislature  to inquire  into a  given case.                                                               
Once parental  rights are terminated, that  disclosure release is                                                               
no longer valid.  Since the budget of the Ombudsman  has been cut                                                               
so severely, the cases now go to the legislative offices.                                                                       
SENATOR ELTON  asked who would have  priority in a case  in which                                                               
there is an adult family member  and the child wants to stay with                                                               
someone else.                                                                                                                   
MS.  MOSS responded  if  the child  is 14,  the  child makes  the                                                               
3:22:05 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. SELINA  EVERSON testified  she is a  grandmother and  a great                                                               
grandmother and she would like the  bill to pass because a lot of                                                               
it has to do with Native children  and it is an important part of                                                               
Tlingit  culture  to intervene  when  a  mother  is not  able  to                                                               
fulfill  her parental  responsibilities. Native  people generally                                                               
believe  that Native  children  should be  kept  in Native  homes                                                               
unless the  child's grandmother is  not able to  intervene. There                                                               
are many  cases in  which children are  removed from  their homes                                                               
and placed in  non-Native homes. There are cases  in Alaska where                                                               
grandmothers  are  not  given  a chance  to  adopt  the  children                                                               
despite a willingness and ability to do so.                                                                                     
3:24:56 PM                                                                                                                    
SENTAOR DYSON held HB 53 in committee. There being no further                                                                   
business to come before the committee, he adjourned the meeting                                                                 
at 3:25:28 PM.                                                                                                                

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