Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
05/06/2005 08:30 AM JUDICIARY
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CSSSHB 53(FIN)-CHILDREN IN NEED OF AID/ADOPTION/GUARDIAN 10:29:09 AM CHAIR RALPH SEEKINS announced HB 53 to be up for consideration. MS. RYNNIEVA MOSS, legislative aide to Representative John Coghill, introduced HB 53, which consolidates 3 current bills, SB 83, SB 84 and HB 17, along with items anticipated in prospective legislation. Representative Coghill met with all of the previously mentioned bill sponsors and took on the project of consolidating the bills so as to be sure to capture the desired end product. 10:30:48 AM The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), the Department of Law (DOL), the public defender's office and the Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) have all worked closely on HB 53 to ensure it is good for children and families. HB 53 eliminates language in AS 47.10.960, which said there was no duty for standard of care for children in state custody. HB 53 strengthens families by giving them priority over placement and adoption and a special priority over family members who have raised the child more than 12 months. It establishes a priority list and requires the Office of Children's Services (OCS) to do everything possible to provide visitation for the children and the parents and to reunify the family. 10:33:10 AM HB 53 establishes poverty is not a reason to deny placement with relatives. Parental rights cannot be terminated solely on the basis they have not received treatment required by OCS. HB 53 encourages OCS to train foster parents to mentor biological parents. 10:34:26 AM HB 53 amends the definition of major medical treatment to include medication that is used for diagnosed mental health disorders. HB 53 creates transparency of the process. It opens hearings to the public, while containing sideboards that would allow a judge to close the hearings. It establishes a grievance process for when parents disagree with what the state is doing with their child and also establishes a review panel. It provides that OCS could disclose confidential information in certain circumstances. When parents have disclosed information OCS has a right to explain their part of it. 10:36:30 AM HB 53 encourages the use of child advocacy centers. It requires mandatory videotaping of suspected victims of sexual abuse. It defines child advocacy centers and establishes criteria for schools to follow when children are to be interviewed. HB 53 requires OCS to report back to voluntary reporters in 20 days. It requires OCS to work with legislative offices and the ombudsman's office and to continue to participate after parental rights have been terminated. 10:37:54 AM In conclusion, HB 53 goes a long way in protecting and preserving families in Alaska and making government accountable while children are in state custody. Dealing with OCS should be a good process and transparent so that everyone knows what is going on in the case. Chair Seekins recessed the meeting at 10:39:06 AM. Chair Seekins reconvened the meeting at 3:58:54 PM. MS MOSS offered to answer questions. MS. TAMMY SANDERVALL, acting deputy commissioner, Office of Children's Services (OCS), reiterated earlier testimony from Ms. Moss regarding all of the different departments working together on HB 53 to make it good legislation. SENATOR FRENCH referred to Page 21, lines 22-23 and asked Ms. Sandervall to comment on inadequate or crowded housing. 4:01:33 PM MS. SANDERVALL answered there are times when OCS enters a home that appears too crowded but if the family can show a safe environment, the child would not be removed based on inadequate housing alone. Further factors should be considered. CHAIR SEEKINS said Senator Guess had a question but had stepped out of the room. MS. MOSS knew the question and offered to answer it. She said SB 83 and SB 84 incurred amendments in the Senate Judiciary Standing Committee and Senator Guess wondered whether those amendments were incorporated into HB 53. She reported they were except for the amendment, which added language saying only the commissioner or the commissioner's designee could disclose confidential information to the public. She said the commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) should not be making policy calls for the Department of Administration (DOA). She suggested changing the language to include the commissioner of the DOA. 4:06:21 PM SENATOR GUESS asked the reason the DOA would be discussing a report of harm. MS. MOSS answered the Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) and the public defender's office represent parents and OPA also represents children. SENATOR GUESS asked whether the language is different than in SB 83 and SB 84 in that the DOA is added to Section 27 (k). MS. MOSS responded yes. 4:09:49 PM MS. STACEY KRALY, senior assistant attorney general, Department of Law (DOL), advised the committee the Office of Children's Services investigates reports of harm. CHAIR SEEKINS asked the reason the Department of Administration (DOA) would disclose any information regarding reports of harm. MS. JAN RUTHERDALE, assistant attorney general, DOL, advised the DOA was added because they requested to be. 4:10:54 PM CHAIR SEEKINS said the intent on the disclosure side was to protect a department from unrighteous accusation. MS. KRALY advised Section 27 Paragraph (2) contains a circumstance where the DOA would be involved. The inclusion of the DOA was in response to a request made by OPA and the public defender agency who are queried by the press and want to be able to respond. 4:13:16 PM CHAIR SEEKINS aired the provision allows for a low level person to disclose sensitive information. It is the intent of the committee to exclude that. MS. RUTHERDALE advised it wouldn't be a low level employee; it would be someone from the central office involved in public relations. CHAIR SEEKINS pointed out that wasn't identified in the bill. He advised Ms. Rutherdale the committee previously restricted it to either the commissioner or the commissioner's designee. He asked whether there would be any objection from the sponsor or the DOL to restate on Page 18 that it would be either the commissioner of the DOA or the commissioner of the DHSS or the commissioner's designee. SENATOR FRENCH agreed. 4:17:19 PM CHAIR SEEKINS moved Amendment 1. Page 17 line 24 delete "Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Administration" and insert "commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services or the commissioner's designee; or the commissioner of the Department of Administration or the commissioner's designee as appropriate. Hearing no objections, the motion carried. SENATOR FRENCH proposed Amendment 2. Page 18, Paragraphs (1) and (2) delete the word "may", insert "shall" in its place. Hearing no objection, the motion carried. 4:19:26 PM SENATOR FRENCH proposed Amendment 3. He voiced approval from the sponsor of HB 53. 24-LS0251\O.1 Mischel A M E N D M E N T 3 OFFERED IN THE SENATE BY SENATOR FRENCH TO: SCS CSSSHB 53(HES) Page 2, line 7, following "Probate Procedure;": Insert "relating to the admissibility into evidence of the prior recorded statement of a crime victim less than 16 years of age; and amending Rule 801, Alaska Rules of Evidence." Page 30, following line 29: Insert a new bill section to read: "* Sec. 59. The uncodified law of the State of Alaska is amended by adding a new section to read: DIRECT COURT RULE AMENDMENT. Rule 801(d), Alaska Rules of Evidence, is amended by adding a new paragraph to read: (3) Recorded Statement by Child Victims of Crime. The statement is a recorded statement by the victim of a crime who is less than 16 years of age and (A) the recording was made before the proceeding; (B) the victim is available for cross- examination; (C) the prosecutor and any attorney representing the defendant were not present when the statement was taken; (D) the recording is on videotape or other format that records both the visual and aural components of the statement; (E) each person who participated in the taking of the statement is identified on the recording; (F) the taking of the statement as a whole was conducted in a manner that would avoid undue influence of the victim; (G) the defense has been provided a reasonable opportunity to view the recording before the proceeding; and (H) the court has had an opportunity to view the recording and determine that it is sufficiently reliable and trustworthy and that the interests of justice are best served by admitting the recording into evidence." Renumber the following bill sections accordingly. Page 32, line 28: Delete "sec. 59(d)" Insert "sec. 60(d)" Page 33, line 7: Delete "60" Insert "61" Page 33, line 20: Delete "sec. 59(a)" Insert "sec. 60(a)" Page 33, line 23: Delete: "sec. 64" Insert "sec. 65" Page 33, line 26: Delete "sec. 65" Insert "sec. 66" CHAIR SEEKINS objected for the purpose of discussion. 4:21:29 PM SENATOR FRENCH advised the amendment would allow videotaped statements made by a victim at a child advocacy center to be admissible in court. CHAIR SEEKINS removed his objection. Hearing no further objections, Amendment 3 was unanimously adopted. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked to have the immunity from liability restructure explained to him. 4:26:27 PM MS. GAIL VOITLANDER, chief assistant attorney general, DOL, could not answer the question, as she did not have the previous bill form. CHAIR SEEKINS said his analysis is the word "improper" was removed and changed the words "failure to disclose" to "non- disclosure", making it a more concise restatement without having to add another section. MS. VOITLANDER said the exception is when a situation implies that disclosure or non-disclosure is improper. 4:30:30 PM SENATOR GUESS asked Ms. Moss to talk about "adult family member". She asked where the other parent and step parents rank. MS. MOSS deferred the question to Ms. Rutherdale. MS. RUTHERDALE responded the reason parent and guardian are not included as a family member is those are the people the child is being removed from. 4:33:35 PM SENATOR GUESS asked the reason the other parent is not on the list. CHAIR SEEKINS asked the reason for including the siblings' legal guardian but not the child's legal guardian. MS. RUTHERDALE responded because the legal guardian is already a party to the proceedings. The preference section [AS 47.14.100(e)] is modeled after the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Under the jurisdiction scheme of AS 47.10.011, it assumes the other parent is considered. 4:36:38 PM SENATOR GUESS expressed concern with Page 20 line 22, which puts into statute a following order of preference. MS. RUTHERDALE relayed the judge always considers the other parent before the order of preferences. MS. MOSS added Page 8 line 3 refers to the other parents initially. SENATOR GUESS asked whether HB 53 includes stepsiblings. She continued to express concern that the best interest of the child might be lost. MS. RUTHERDALE responded an option could be to amend the statutes. 4:40:28 PM CHAIR SEEKINS asked whether the sibling's legal guardian would include a stepparent. MS. KRALY responded that it could. 4:41:41 PM SENATOR GUESS referred to Page 11 line 7 and stated for the record the country is over-medicating children. She expressed worry about a legal guardian deciding the child should be on medication with the parent objecting. She asked Ms. Kraly to explain the reason for addressing the situation in the bill. MS. KRALY said the impetus was a discussion between DHSS, OCS, and the DOL about what actually constitutes major medical. AS 47.10.084 is a provision, which says the residual rights and responsibilities of a parent include but are not limited to consent for major medical treatment. HB 53 clarifies that if the parent is available they will be involved but if they are not available it leaves an option. 4:44:24 PM SENATOR GUESS asked the difference between current procedures and the proposition of Section 17. MS. KRALY advised Section 17 was drafted by the DOL in an effort to codify current practice. SENATOR GUESS asked how HB 53 interacts with ICWA. MS. RUTHERDALE advised ICWA always trumps state law. HB 53 would mainly apply to non-Native children. 4:47:29 PM CHAIR SEEKINS noted HB 53 was written as if any child was the topic of discussion and wasn't written to exclude anyone. 4:49:00 PM SENATOR GUESS asked whether the department would ensure the child attends the same school and stays in the same area after being taken from the home. MS. SANDERVALL agreed that is the current practice. The department tries to keep the child in as many familiar settings as possible. CHAIR SEEKINS noted a good social worker generally tries to keep the child in close proximity to familiar surroundings. 4:53:18 PM SENATOR GUESS asked what HB 53 does to ensure the children get into permanent homes. MS. MOSS said Representative Coghill feels HB 53 makes sure the child is in good care but does not endanger making the family whole again. 4:57:15 PM SENATOR GUESS asked the recourse if treatment is not funded. MS. MOSS advised the House Health and Social Services Standing Committee increased funding for training of social workers and for treatment. SENATOR GUESS asked how HB 53 deals with foster care. MS. MOSS responded OCS trains foster parents for mentoring. Section 14, subsection (u) addresses that. SENATOR GUESS asked whether the bill slows down the process of getting kids into permanent placement. MS. MOSS said it does not but it places emphasis on looking for ways to fix the family as a whole. 5:03:28 PM SENATOR GUESS addressed the issue of reimbursement for foster parents and the lag time for repayment. She suggested measures be taken to try and fix the issue. 5:04:59 PM SENATOR HUGGINS moved SCS CSSSHB 53(JUD) from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). There being no objection, the motion carried.