Legislature(1997 - 1998)

03/05/1998 03:30 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
         HOUSE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL                                    
            SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                        
                   March 5, 1998                                               
                     3:30 p.m.                                                 
                                                                               
                                                                               
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                
                                                                               
Representative Con Bunde, Chairman                                             
Representative Joe Green, Vice Chairman                                        
Representative Brian Porter                                                    
Representative Fred Dyson                                                      
Representative J. Allen Kemplen                                                
Representative Tom Brice                                                       
                                                                               
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                 
                                                                               
Representative Al Vezey                                                        
                                                                               
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                             
                                                                               
* HOUSE BILL NO. 375                                                           
"An Act relating to children in need of aid matters and                        
proceedings; relating to murder of children, criminally negligent              
homicide, kidnapping, criminal nonsupport, the crime of indecent               
exposure, and the crime of endangering the welfare of a child;                 
relating to registration of certain sex offenders; relating to                 
sentencing for certain crimes involving child victims; relating to             
the state medical examiner and reviews of child fatalities;                    
relating to teacher certification and convictions of crimes                    
involving child victims; relating to access, confidentiality, and              
release of certain information concerning the care of children,                
child abuse and neglect, and child fatalities; authorizing the                 
Department of Health and Social Services to enter into an                      
interstate compact concerning adoption and medical assistance for              
certain children with special needs; authorizing the establishment             
of a multidisciplinary child protection team to review reports of              
child abuse or neglect; relating to immunity from liability for                
certain state actions concerning matters involving child protection            
and fatality reviews and children in need of aid; relating to                  
persons required to report suspected child abuse or neglect;                   
relating to foster care placement and to payment for children in               
foster and other care and the waiver of certain foster care                    
requirements; relating to the access to certain criminal justice               
information and licensure of certain child care facilities;                    
amending Rule 218, Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure; amending               
Rules 1, 3, 15, 18, and 19, Alaska Child in Need of Aid Rules; and             
providing for an effective date."                                              
                                                                               
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                          
                                                                               
(* First public hearing)                                                       
                                                                               
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                
                                                                               
BILL: HB 375                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN/FOSTER CARE                               
SPONSOR(S): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                   
                                                                               
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                          
02/02/98      2200     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                  
02/02/98      2201     (H)  HES, JUDICIARY, FINANCE                            
02/02/98      2201     (H)  INDETERMINATE FN (GOV/VARIOUS DEPTS)               
02/02/98      2201     (H)  GOVERNOR'S TRANSMITTAL LETTER                      
02/26/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
02/26/98               (H)  MINUTE(HES)                                        
03/03/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
03/03/98               (H)  MINUTE(HES)                                        
03/05/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
                                                                               
WITNESS REGISTER                                                               
                                                                               
KAREN PERDUE, Commissioner                                                     
Department of Health & Social Services                                         
P.O. Box 110601                                                                
Juneau, Alaska  99811-0601                                                     
Telephone:  (907) 465-3030                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented comments and an overview of HB 375.             
                                                                               
RUSSELL WEBB, Deputy Commissioner                                              
Department of Health & Social Services                                         
P.O. Box 110601                                                                
Juneau, Alaska  99811-0601                                                     
Telephone:  (907) 465-3030                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented comments and an overview of HB 375.             
                                                                               
SUSAN G. WIBKER, Assistant Attorney General                                    
Human Services Section, Civil Division                                         
Department of Law                                                              
1031 West 4th Avenue, Suite 200                                                
Anchorage, Alaska  99501-1994                                                  
Telephone:  (907) 269-5100                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented an overview of the Division of                  
                     Family and Youth Services portion of HB 375.              
                                                                               
WALTER GAUTHIER                                                                
Box 2246                                                                       
Homer, Alaska  99603                                                           
Telephone:  (907) 235-2809                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
                                                                               
EUGENE ALTIG                                                                   
4396 Al Cory Road                                                              
North Pole, Alaska  99705                                                      
Telephone:  (907) 488-4216                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
                                                                               
SUZETTE GRAHAM                                                                 
P.O. Box 383                                                                   
Kenai, Alaska  99611                                                           
Telephone:  (907) 776-8658                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
                                                                               
BLAIR MCCUNE, Deputy Director                                                  
Public Defender Agency                                                         
Department of Administration                                                   
900 West 5th Avenue, Suite 200                                                 
Anchorage, Alaska  99501-0290                                                  
Telephone:  (907) 264-4400                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
                                                                               
MICHAEL COONS, Paramedic                                                       
P.O. Box 4229                                                                  
Palmer, Alaska  99645                                                          
Telephone:  (907) 745-6779                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
                                                                               
DIANA BUFFINGTON, President and State Coordinator                              
Children's Rights Council of Alaska; and                                       
   Chairman, Alaska Task Force on Family Law Reform                            
314 Maple Street                                                               
Kodiak, Alaska  99615                                                          
Telephone:  (907) 486-2290                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
                                                                               
HARRY NIEHAUS                                                                  
P.O. Box 55455                                                                 
North Pole, Alaska  99705                                                      
Telephone:  (907) 488-9328                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
                                                                               
CINDY HOUSER, Foster parent                                                    
HC 2, Box 596                                                                  
Kasilof, Alaska  99610                                                         
Telephone:  (907) 262-7937                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
                                                                               
JOHNNY GRAMES, Representative                                                  
DADS-Alaska                                                                    
P.O. Box 100827                                                                
Anchorage, Alaska  99510                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 274-3237                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
                                                                               
MARCI SCHMIDT, Representative                                                  
Parents United for Custodial Justice                                           
2040 Fishhook                                                                  
Wasilla, Alaska 99654                                                          
Telephone:  (907) 357-3618                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
                                                                               
SCOTT CALDER                                                                   
P.O. Box 73893                                                                 
Fairbanks, Alaska  99707                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 456-2866                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
                                                                               
BRADLEY LAYBOURN                                                               
700 North Wasilla Fishhook Road                                                
Wasilla, Alaska  99654                                                         
Telephone:  (907) 373-7786                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
                                                                               
CAROL PALMER, Representative                                                   
Parents United for Custodial Justice                                           
P.O. Box 2402                                                                  
Palmer, Alaska  99645                                                          
Telephone:  (907) 746-2863                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
                                                                               
MARVIN BERGESON, M.D.                                                          
Tanana Valley Clinic                                                           
1001 Noble Street                                                              
Fairbanks, Alaska  99701                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 459-3520                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 375.                           
                                                                               
GARY MAXWELL                                                                   
733 West 4th Avenue                                                            
Anchorage, Alaska  99501                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 277-1283                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
                                                                               
SUZANNE GOODRICH                                                               
191918 Jaime Drive                                                             
Eagle River, Alaska  99577                                                     
Telephone:  (907) 277-2554                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
                                                                               
MARTHA HODSON                                                                  
P.O. Box 3687                                                                  
Soldotna, Alaska  99669                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 260-9156                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
                                                                               
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                               
                                                                               
TAPE 98-20, SIDE A                                                             
Number 0001                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN CON BUNDE reconvened the House Health, Education and                  
Social Services Standing Committee meeting at 3:30 p.m.  Members               
present were Representatives Bunde, Green, Porter, Dyson, Kemplen              
and Brice.  Representative Vezey was absent.                                   
                                                                               
HB 375 - CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN/FOSTER CARE                                   
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced the committee would begin considered                  
HB 375, "An Act relating to children in need of aid matters and                
proceedings; relating to murder of children, criminally negligent              
homicide, kidnapping, criminal nonsupport, the crime of indecent               
exposure, and the crime of endangering the welfare of a child;                 
relating to registration of certain sex offenders; relating to                 
sentencing for certain crimes involving child victims; relating to             
the state medical examiner and reviews of child fatalities;                    
relating to teacher certification and convictions of crimes                    
involving child victims; relating to access, confidentiality, and              
release of certain information concerning the care of children,                
child abuse and neglect, and child fatalities; authorizing the                 
Department of Health and Social Services to enter into an                      
interstate compact concerning adoption and medical assistance for              
certain children with special needs; authorizing the establishment             
of a multidisciplinary child protection team to review reports of              
child abuse or neglect; relating to immunity from liability for                
certain state actions concerning matters involving child protection            
and fatality reviews and children in need of aid; relating to                  
persons required to report suspected child abuse or neglect;                   
relating to foster care placement and to payment for children in               
foster and other care and the waiver of certain foster care                    
requirements; relating to the access to certain criminal justice               
information and licensure of certain child care facilities;                    
amending Rule 218, Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure; amending               
Rules 1, 3, 15, 18, and 19, Alaska Child in Need of Aid Rules; and             
providing for an effective date."  He noted that Commissioner                  
Perdue would outline the Administration's suggested changes to deal            
with child abuse by presenting an overview.  The meeting was being             
teleconferenced to Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai, Homer, Kodiak and              
Mat-Su.  He asked Commissioner Perdue to begin her overview.                   
                                                                               
Number 0110                                                                    
                                                                               
KAREN PERDUE, Commissioner, Department of Health & Social Services,            
said she planned a 15-minute overview of some of the studies and               
audits the division completed which led to the drafting of the                 
child protection legislation, and would then proceed with the                  
actual overview of HB 375.                                                     
                                                                               
Number 0159                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE explained that graphic 1 shows the division                
received 15,547 reports of harm, representing about 10,638 children            
in FY 97.  The screening process screened out about 1,279 which                
were just not appropriate for the child protection agency, leaving             
10,529 cases.  She directed the committee's attention to the                   
adjusted workload of 3,739 cases which she wanted to discuss.  The             
division, in conjunction with the court, takes custody of about 8              
percent of the children that are brought to the division's                     
attention in any one year.  She said one of the questions in front             
of the committee is where should the custody line be drawn.  She               
suggested that perhaps the custody line is too conservative; in                
other words, the division is not going into enough cases and taking            
custody of children.  Of those children who do come into the                   
custody of the system, almost all of them go home, which is as it              
should be.  But there are children who cannot return home and for              
whom there needs to be permanent placement.                                    
                                                                               
Number 0293                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE continued graphic 2 indicates that 58 percent              
of the calls received are neglect, 27 percent are physical abuse,              
13 percent are sexual abuse and the remaining 2 percent are other.             
Nearly 70 percent of all reports of harm received by the division              
involve children under ten years of age; a good percentage begin at            
the age of six when children start school.                                     
                                                                               
Number 0359                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said when she came into her position as                    
commissioner, her perception was that a lot of the calls came from             
older children, especially the sexual abuse reports.  However, the             
largest number of reports of harm for sexual abuse involve children            
under ten years of age.                                                        
                                                                               
Number 0402                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said graphic 5 depicts the mandated reporters              
of harm in 1997 with school teachers being the number 1 mandated               
reporters to the division.  A large number are anonymous callers,              
and she believes it is important to protect the anonymity of people            
calling.  The division receives a number of calls from relatives,              
as well as doctors.                                                            
                                                                               
Number 0454                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said the division has seen a major increase,               
about 13 percent, in the number of reports of harm since July 1997             
and a 60 percent increase in custody filings.  She was of the                  
opinion that public awareness of child abuse as well as the system             
becoming more acutely attuned to child safety has contributed to               
the increase in reportings.  There's a record number 1,600 children            
in state custody, but over the last six months, 1,655 reports that             
should have been investigated were screened out due to the                     
workload.  She enthusiastically reported the division is at the                
highest staffing level in seven years with only 12 social worker               
vacancies statewide.                                                           
                                                                               
Number 0532                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said in identifying some key issues in the                 
system, she began with the 1992 legislative audit, the divisions's             
last legislative audit, which pointed out a number of issues                   
regarding the structure of the division.  The division had been                
reorganized in 1991 into a regional structure, and in looking at it            
now, the commissioner believed it was done with the very best of               
intentions, but a number of things have occurred.  First, there are            
blurred lines of responsibility and authority so that no one person            
was in charge of child protection and no one person in charge of               
youth corrections.  She believed that over time, that has caused               
the system to build up inconsistencies between regions and some                
lack of accountability.  The audit also pointed out the division               
lost between five and ten direct line service staff, which began               
the process where less and less calls were being investigated.                 
                                                                               
Number 0643                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE continued the division established an internal             
evaluation, research and development unit in 1996 to do ongoing,               
consistent audits of the functions.  Over the next two years, she              
requested five separate internal reviews of the division trying to             
determine what was going on and to identify changes that would be              
most productive.  The five audits included targeted reviews of the             
Anchorage office.  After an administrative review of the Anchorage             
office, it was determined that each and every open case in the                 
Anchorage area would be looked at and the University of Washington             
was brought in to complete that project.  A defining moment in her             
time as commissioner was the death of a child in Fairbanks, at                 
which time she and other cabinet members asked for an investigation            
to determine what could have been done differently.  In August,                
Judge Reese ordered that five cases be opened to the public and                
reviewed.  She asked the Kempe Center, a national center of experts            
in child abuse and neglect, to review those five cases to determine            
if there were some common elements in those cases.  Also, as a                 
result of that effort, an audit referred to as the 6+ review was               
conducted of each and every child in the system statewide that had             
six or more reports of harm in the last three years.  Some very                
basic questions were asked in the 6+ review:  1) Are these children            
safe; 2) was each report of harm accurately assessed; and 3) was               
appropriate action taken to assure the safety of those children?               
                                                                               
Number 0783                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said it was mind boggling to her that six or               
more reports of harm had been reported to the division for 838                 
children in 475 families, but these children were not in state                 
custody.  Divisional line workers were asked to go to the various              
sites and review the files, which in some cases were as long as a              
file drawer.  It was a very time consuming task, involving about               
1200 staff hours over a six week period.  This review revealed that            
78 cases involving 131 children needed further investigation.  Home            
visits were done on each of these cases and children in six of the             
cases were taken into state custody.  Commissioner Perdue said the             
audit was a defining issue in that it helped to understand just how            
many children were in a situation of being reported to the division            
multiple times and were the necessary policies and laws in place to            
protect those children.                                                        
                                                                               
Number 0862                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said the audit revealed some disturbing                    
problems.  Chronic substance abuse was a factor in more than 80                
percent of child abuse or neglect cases and domestic violence was              
a factor in nearly 60 percent of the cases; were workers                       
adequately equipped to deal with the issue of substance abuse and              
the chronicity of it; what was the policy of going into the home               
and finding substance abuse but not finding children necessarily               
with broken bones, bruises, et cetera; was there enough interfacing            
with the domestic violence and police community on the domestic                
violence issues; and too many reports of harm were never                       
investigated, even among the most serious at risk children.                    
                                                                               
Number 0910                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE referred to the next chart showing information             
from the audit and said basically, the division had had a policy of            
workload adjusting, which probably made some sense when it was                 
implemented.  Workload adjusting meant getting to the most serious             
cases first; e.g., if there was too much work in a day, the staff              
would try to take care of children who were most in trouble.  She              
explained that over time, cases in the lower priority level 3 were             
never responded to in some offices.  For example, of the case                  
samples in the northern region, there were about 3,235 reports of              
harm, but only 53 percent of those reports on the children looked              
at were actually investigated.  So, even in the most serious cases,            
over 20 percent of the reports of harm that came in on those                   
children were not looked into.  A review of the total system                   
revealed that was the case for about 25 percent of the reports of              
harm received.  She said that most of these were neglect cases, and            
the division learned that what the reporter was reporting was not              
necessarily what was happening to the child; the situation could               
have been better or worse.  She said this is a very serious                    
situation because the safety of the children cannot be guaranteed.             
She was aware that many jurisdictions do a triage system, but the              
level of the workload adjusting was beyond her comfort level.                  
                                                                               
Number 1018                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE pointed out that AS 47.17.030 states "The                  
Department shall, for each report received, investigate and take               
action ... that may be necessary to prevent further harm to the                
child or ensure the proper care and protection of the child."  She             
said that clearly is not being done.  That is where the philosophy             
of zero tolerance came about and that resources do need to be                  
expended to investigate each report.  She asked Russ Webb to                   
discuss the other areas discovered in the audits.                              
                                                                               
Number 1046                                                                    
                                                                               
RUSSELL WEBB, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Health & Social               
Services, said the audit findings were clear there was a lack of               
consistent practice between regions of the state and that the child            
protection system, based on its organizational structure, was not              
really managed as a system, but as three separate systems which                
resulted in three different sets of practices.  Additionally, it               
was found that record keeping of case documentation was not                    
adequate; some of which had to do with lack of time on the part of             
staff, high workload and inadequate training. A lack of                        
coordination was found between and among agencies with child                   
protection system responsibilities; there was clearly a need to                
better share information available so that good decisions can be               
made; and a need for regular mechanisms and protocols for agency               
coordination.  The audit also revealed that a "single event"                   
approach to child protection was being taken among division staff;             
i.e., the focus was too limited in determining the substantiation              
of a particular allegation rather than looking at the cumulative               
risk.  Also, as mentioned previously, was the overlap in substance             
abuse and domestic violence.                                                   
                                                                               
Number 1147                                                                    
                                                                               
MR. WEBB said, "Not mentioned on this, but I think critical and                
something we'll get to later on is what we found out about our laws            
- that really the laws drive the practice in many respects and                 
there are some real limits in terms of practice, based on the laws             
we have today."  He discussed the staffing situation, which has                
been an issue, but the division is in better shape today with only             
three budgeted vacancies than it has been since 1992.  Admittedly,             
there has been high turnover and vacancy in child protection for               
quite some time, which is not unusual given that it's stressful                
work, made more stressful by lack of training and high workloads.              
                                                                               
Number 1216                                                                    
                                                                               
MR. WEBB stated the audit also pointed out that Alaska's caseloads             
certainly exceed the national standards established by the Child               
Welfare League, which impacts the practice and the ability to                  
intervene and protect children.  Also, he has seen the training                
system created and destroyed on a couple of occasions.  Inadequate             
training of staff makes practice not as effective as it should be,             
and a good, comprehensive training system did not exist the last               
few years.  The expectations of supervisors have not been clearly              
defined and there wasn't a good system of supervisory quality                  
assurance.  He commented the world is a different place than it was            
25 years ago when he entered child protection work.  Case workers              
now go into some very unsafe places and situations.  Also, the                 
audit revealed there is clearly a shortage of foster homes and                 
other residential care placements.  As the juvenile facilities have            
become overcrowded, the residential child care facilities are being            
utilized for delinquent children, making foster homes critical for             
children in need of aid.  Adequate training has not been made                  
available for foster parents and there's been no respite care                  
provided.  He stressed the importance of case workers making                   
regular contact with foster parents and having time to provide                 
support to foster parents.                                                     
                                                                               
Number 1345                                                                    
                                                                               
MR. WEBB said that delays in the court process and in the case work            
process prevent the division from getting children out of the                  
system and into safe, permanent homes as quickly as it should.  He             
said, "Right now, as I understand it in Anchorage, even if you are             
prepared to move towards termination of parental rights based on               
long standing facts, if you try to schedule a hearing today it will            
be a year from now before you will actually try that case."  In the            
life of a child, that's way too long.                                          
                                                                               
Number 1375                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE directed the committee's attention to a                    
document listing 400 children in state custody who probably would              
not be going home; these are children legally free for adoption                
having very high needs or children in a status where reasonable                
efforts have been made and the state is now moving towards                     
guardianship or termination of parental rights.  Barriers these                
children have often include fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal alcohol              
effects; they are not simple children to place.  She said this                 
points out there are children languishing in foster care who really            
need to move on into safe, loving homes; many of the children are              
in safe, loving homes now, but their permanence is not guaranteed.             
In fact, one of the concerns foster parents have is if they raise              
the issue legally, the children will be returned home.  She said,              
"This is evidence of the fact that we do have children stuck in our            
system right now who we need to both invest the resources legally              
in getting them freed, invest them in the adoption efforts, which              
we are doing now with Catholic Social Services, and we've got some             
travel entities helping us find adoptive homes and then also                   
looking at our legal system to see how the laws work."  If this                
isn't done, the foster system will continue to grow as more                    
children come into the system.                                                 
                                                                               
Number 1471                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said other problems the division has identified            
is that police officers and others in the community say that                   
children are left at risk too long.  Certainly with children who               
are reported multiple times, the question continues to be, "how                
long is it safe to leave a child in a home?"  Often in helping                 
parents with substance abuse for instance, the children are                    
returned immediately to the parent once treatment has been                     
completed without adequate after care and support for the parent,              
so the children end up coming back into the system.  She sensed                
there was a feeling in the system that in some cases too much of               
the division's resources were being spent on making "reasonable                
efforts" for some families year after year.                                    
                                                                               
Number 1522                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE stated, "And then finally, a fact that we                  
discovered as we were working through some of this material, was               
that some child fatalities caused by child abuse and neglect were              
not going detected in our state.  In fact, we had evidence to                  
believe that approximately between 6 and 15 child deaths had                   
occurred in just infants from the years 1992 - 1995 that were not              
brought to the attention of the authorities and prosecuted."                   
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said she felt overwhelmed by the amount of                 
issues when the audit was completed.  She cautioned that when                  
looking at change, it's important to get strategic and focus on                
those things that will make the most difference. With that she                 
began to address HB 375.  As mentioned earlier, children's deaths              
were going undetected because there was no mechanism in place; in              
fact, Alaska was the only state that didn't have a child fatality              
review team.  She asked Mr. Webb to update the committee on what's             
been done so far.                                                              
                                                                               
Number 1596                                                                    
                                                                               
MR. WEBB said that a permanent child fatality review team was                  
established last May through the office of the state medical                   
examiner with a law enforcement officer, state trooper, prosecutor             
and a child protection worker involved as part of that multi-                  
disciplinary review process.  Since July the team has looked at 61             
deaths, identified 8 homicides, 10 suicides, 12 children who died              
of natural causes, and 31 accidental deaths.  House Bill 375                   
establishes the child fatality review team in statute.  He                     
explained that it was established under existing law, but it needs             
to be cleaned up.                                                              
                                                                               
Number 1635                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE recalled a couple of years ago a team reviewing                 
sudden infant deaths and their comments indicating there were                  
probably more homicides than accidental deaths, but people on the              
team were prevented from reporting these homicides.  He was                    
optimistic the child fatality review team would not be in a                    
similar situation.                                                             
                                                                               
MR. WEBB responded, "In part, this was designed to resolve that                
problem and the person who removed himself from that team is a                 
member this team."                                                             
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER inquired if there had been a situation             
whereby an individual was aware of a homicide and was somehow                  
precluded by law from reporting it.                                            
                                                                               
MR. WEBB replied, "They were retrospective reviews of child deaths             
over a period of years; they were identified long after the fact as            
being suspected at this point; weren't identified initially; based             
on the facts, as the team gathered all those facts, under existing             
law now, a review established under law with rules of                          
confidentially statutorily which enables them to gain information              
that they couldn't otherwise gain, were precluded from using that              
information outside for those prosecutorial purposes and other                 
purposes.  That was a problem."                                                
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE remarked he had been outraged when he had heard                 
about the situation.  The individual who resigned from the team was            
a police officer.                                                              
                                                                               
Number 1717                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE believed that more child deaths would be                   
discovered and while it may be shocking, the system is working to              
uncover things that may have previously gone undetected.                       
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE advised the committee that the agency had been             
restructured to improve the accountability.  The restructuring was             
aided by the passage last year of HB 6 which divided the juvenile              
code and the child code into two separate areas.  The division                 
believes in zero tolerance; in other words, all reports of harm                
checked out.  To that end, the division is considering triple-track            
pilot projects which allow the agency to work with community                   
agencies to investigate some of the less-risk cases and the                    
addition of staff workers to check out the reports.  She noted the             
division has identified federal funds to request to fund most of               
the additional workers.  The division is working with the Child                
Welfare League of America Center for Excellence to train and assist            
supervisors.  She noted the division, in partnership with the                  
University of Alaska Southeast, established the family services                
training academy to improve training programs.                                 
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said the multi-disciplinary teams established              
in HB 375 should improve teamwork which was previously discussed.              
Also, workers have better and faster access to criminal records and            
family abuse histories.                                                        
                                                                               
Number 1844                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE stated the division had requested that the                 
Kempe Children's Center include an attorney in the review of the               
five cases previously mentioned.  The attorney heading up the                  
American Bar Association's Children Section found that "Alaska                 
statutes are more narrowly drawn in certain respects than those of             
almost any other state."   Additionally, his findings concluded                
that in order for child abuse to have occurred in this state, a                
child would have to have suffered substantial physical harm or                 
imminent and substantial risk that the child will suffer harm.                 
                                                                               
Number 1890                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Susan Wibker from the Department of Law to                
provide her overview at this time.                                             
                                                                               
Number 1903                                                                    
                                                                               
SUSAN G. WIBKER, Assistant Attorney General, Human Services                    
Section, Civil Division, Department of Law, said she was                       
temporarily assigned to work with Commissioner Perdue on child                 
custody issues.  She stated her remarks will focus on the Division             
of Family and Youth Services (DFYS) portion of the bill and Dean               
Guaneli from the criminal division was available to answer                     
questions pertaining to the criminal portion of HB 375.  She said              
Sec. 47.05.090 on page 21 authorizes the state to join the                     
Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance.  The                    
statutory authorization being requested is to allow the state of               
Alaska to join thirty-seven other states who have become part of a             
compact to accept each state's medical eligibility determinations              
on hard to adopt children. This is part of the overall thrust of               
HB 375 to achieve faster, safe, permanent placements for children.             
She explained that currently if a special needs child from Alaska              
is adopted to a family in another state, or if a special needs                 
child is adopted in Alaska and the adoptive family moves to another            
state, the Medicaid eligibility for that child ends in Alaska and              
reapplication has to be made through the other state.  This compact            
allows states to honor the Medicaid eligibility of the other                   
states.                                                                        
                                                                               
Number 1993                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER pointed out this results in a negative fiscal note                  
because currently Alaska is accepting the Medicaid eligibility                 
determination of special needs children from other states who are              
being adopted by Alaskans.  There are currently 256 Alaskan                    
children adopted into other states who are in out-of-state homes.              
If HB 375 passes, Alaska would stop subsidizing those adoptions and            
the state where the child resides would pick up the Medicaid                   
eligibility.  In short, Alaska is paying for the kids coming in,               
but if Alaska joins this compact, other states will pay for Alaskan            
kids going out of state.                                                       
                                                                               
Number 2034                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER referred to Sec. 47.10.010, and said it's a statement               
about jurisdiction and the actual change in what defines a child in            
need of aid comes in 47.10.011.  She had heard the myth that the               
state is trying to double the number of children taken into state              
custody in that there were previously 6 grounds to take state                  
custody and under HB 375, there are 12.  She argued the state is               
not trying to double the number of children in state custody, but              
rather attempting to more precisely define the situations where the            
state should be involved in the families' lives.  She pointed out              
there are about four different factual situations under the                    
definition of abandonment in existing statute AS 47.10.010.  A                 
series of recent Supreme Court opinions have strongly advised the              
law be amended because the abandonment statute was not protecting              
children.  She said, "We were getting legal results that were                  
contrary to legislative intent."  She pointed out the first four               
grounds for jurisdiction - abandonment, incarceration, a child that            
has been left with someone and not picked up, and children who are             
habitually absent from home or refuse to go home - were all lumped             
together under old law.                                                        
                                                                               
Number 2092                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE said that parents frequently express frustration                
about runaways in their early teens but it was his understanding               
that under HB 375, the child could be considered a child in need of            
aid and the parents would have an opportunity to use legal                     
authorities to keep the child from running.                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER explained there is one entire statute that deals with               
runaways.  House Bill 375 more narrowly defines the situations                 
where the state would take legal custody of a child.  She noted                
there are runaways who run away for good reason and there are                  
runaways who run away for no good reason and explained, "what we               
did in defining under number 4, the runaways - it's legitimate for             
the state to step in and take custody as a child in need of aid -              
we restricted the definition to those cases where the runaway                  
conduct is actually threatening the child's physical or emotion                
health."                                                                       
                                                                               
Number 2135                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if a parent feels that the young child by                 
running away is threatening his/her physical and mental health, can            
the parent issue the complaint that the child is in need of aid.               
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER responded yes, the parent could call the Division of                
Family and Youth Services and make a report of harm.  She added                
that a parent can request the state to take custody of their child.            
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER continued that jurisdictional ground 5 is in existing               
statute, and is what's called medical neglect.  For example, a                 
child with a diagnosed medical condition and the parents are                   
refusing to get treatment.  There are some exceptions that would               
not allow the state to intervene, but this deals with a knowing                
failure to provide needed medical treatment to a child.  It also               
provides for a knowing failure to provide treatment for an                     
emotional condition in a child.  She said that jurisdictional                  
ground 6 goes directly to address the recommendations from the                 
Kempe Center.  She explained that under existing law, a child has              
to suffer substantial physical harm before the state could                     
intervene or there had to be an imminent and substantial risk that             
the child would suffer harm.  Commissioner Perdue had pointed out              
the problems associated with the harm having to be identifiable and            
immediate.  To address the Kempe Center concern, HB 375 allows                 
earlier intervention by the state.                                             
                                                                               
Number 2247                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER noted that jurisdictional ground 7 is sexual abuse and              
the language pretty much parallels the language for physical abuse,            
a child has suffered sexual abuse, or there is a substantial risk              
that the child will suffer sexual abuse.  She pointed out that a               
number of the sexual abuse cases that end up in the state's custody            
are because one parent or one caretaker is the offender and the                
other parent or caretaker is nonsupportive of the child or is                  
willing to allow the child to stay with the offender or visit the              
offender.  The risks defined under jurisdiction can also be found              
in the criminal portion under the endangering of a child statute,              
so the poor supervision that puts a child at risk could also result            
in a criminal offense.                                                         
                                                                               
Number 2287                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said, "Jurisdictional ground 8 is emotional harm. These             
are the cases where it's not -- they may come into the system as               
emotional neglect where you have a parent not getting care for a               
child that's maybe hostile, aggressive or suicidal and what happens            
is the child gets the treatment they need and you find out that                
this child's condition is not going to change or get better unless             
something changes at home.  The conclusion is that things are going            
on in the home that are creating this condition and all of the                 
treatment in the world cannot fix the problem."  Typically, these              
reports of harm come from places like Charter North Hospital where             
a child is being treated for setting fires, choking other children,            
et cetera, and the parents have dropped the child off and haven't              
been back.  She said that under existing law, not a whole lot can              
be done about these children unless it qualifies as medical                    
neglect.  Under the proposed changes, the state would be able to do            
something, not only to make sure the child got the treatment but to            
do something so the parents participated and were actually were                
able to do something to adjust whatever ...                                    
                                                                               
TAPE 98-20, SIDE B                                                             
Number 0001                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER .... that's contributing to the problem.  Jurisdictional            
ground 9 is physical neglect, which is in existing statute, but is             
worded differently under HB 375.  Jurisdictional ground 10 is the              
substance abuse.  She said these children come into the state's                
custody very early in life and the usual report of harm is neglect.            
For example, the child is not coming to school, hunger,                        
unsupervised, dirty, et cetera, and normally an investigation                  
reveals the real problem is that parents are abusing substances.               
There is no reference to the problem of substance abuse under                  
existing law and investigations have revealed that substance abuse             
exists in over 80 percent of the families of children in state                 
custody.  Under existing law, the only thing that could be done in             
a home where drugs or alcohol was being abused was to prove                    
imminent and substantial risk of harm, which often means waiting               
until something bad happens.  Thus, a provision was written in                 
HB 375 that the ability to parent has been substantially impaired              
by the addictive or habitual use of intoxicants or controlled                  
substances, including inhalants.                                               
                                                                               
Number 0064                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said jurisdictional ground 11 deals with parents who are            
mentally ill.  Often, these are cases where the parent is very                 
willing and loving, but just not able to care for the children and             
a case worker will take custody of a child to make sure the parent             
gets the needed treatment and stays on prescribed medication.  Many            
of these families require supervision to ensure the parent is doing            
what's needed to care for the child.                                           
                                                                               
Number 0088                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said that jurisdictional ground 12 is not a change from             
existing law, which is the situation where parents are actually                
encouraging a child to commit delinquent acts.  These children                 
often come into the system with charges of delinquency or as                   
children in need of aid.                                                       
                                                                               
Number 0105                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said some of the jurisdictional grounds actually narrow             
where the state can take custody, and the purpose of all of them is            
to try to reflect what's happening on the front line in the lives              
of social workers.  The goal was to get away from vague statements,            
such as imminent and substantial risk, and draft the legislation to            
reflect what's being encountered every day.                                    
                                                                               
Number 0127                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER referred to Sec. 47.10.013, and said abandonment has                
been drafted with a more common sense definition.  Under existing              
statute if there is a relative willing to care for the child, the              
child is not legally abandoned.  She explained there were                      
situations where one parent would move away and leave the child,               
but if an alcoholic relative was willing to care for the child, the            
child was not considered abandoned and parental rights couldn't be             
terminated so the child could be adopted in a permanent home.                  
There was factual abandonment, but not legal abandonment.  House               
Bill 375 separates that definition and makes it a more common                  
sense definition. It requires a track record and abandonment of                
younger children is treated more seriously than older children.                
Federal law requires a faster system for getting permanent homes               
for abandoned children so the proposed legislation was drafted to              
allow a shorter time period for declaring abandonment for children             
under six years of age who have a critical need to attach and bond.            
                                                                               
Number 0177                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER directed the committee's attention to the change in                 
wording from "minor" to "child" which is part of the separation of             
the code to distinguish the difference between children in need of             
aid and children in the juvenile delinquency system.                           
                                                                               
Number 0210                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said HB 375 proposes faster time lines, which is a                  
federal and national trend, so that children are not languishing in            
out of home care forever.  For example, a deadline for an                      
adjudication hearing, which is the trial on the petition filed by              
the state, has been established.  House Bill 375 proposes to adopt             
a federal law for child in need of aid proceedings to allow foster             
parents and people caring for children to receive notice of                    
hearings and to attend the hearings.  It basically requires a                  
loosening of confidentially and allows the people caring for the               
children to address the judge at every hearing.  In her opinion,               
that should result in better judicial rulings about what children              
need.  Additionally, the time line for appeals after the                       
termination of parental rights are being tightened up.  "She                   
stated, as Russ Webb mentioned earlier, if you were to file a                  
termination petition right now in Anchorage, you'd get a trial date            
in about January or February of 1999.  Sometimes when we finish the            
time, we wait nine months to a year for a ruling and then we wait              
up to a year for an appeal decision."   The time lines and fast                
tracking to safe, permanent homes is required under federal law.               
She referred to page 29, line 11, and said that every case where a             
child is in out-of-home care has to have a permanency hearing 12               
months after the child is removed.  At the permanency hearing, a               
judge will consider what the parents have done in the last year and            
make a decision as to whether the state should continue trying to              
reunite the child with the parents or if the state should look for             
a permanent, safe home for the child. This will solve the problem              
arising from the situation where a parent enters treatment on the              
eve of the hearing, throwing off the plan to terminate parental                
rights.  She stated there are cases where this pattern has been                
established and the cases have been open anywhere from five to ten             
years.  These are changes that have been made in the federal                   
Adoption and Safe Families Act, passed into law November 1997.                 
                                                                               
Number 0436                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER commented that HB 375 is proposing a couple of other                
changes that would drastically change the way social workers                   
practice currently.  One is the requirement that the department                
make reasonable efforts to reunite every child with their family.              
Changes in federal law have recognized that some cases are so                  
aggravated and the level of violence is so high in some families               
that the department no longer has to make plans to reunite every               
child in the home.  She explained those are cases where there's                
been a homicide of a child, a felony assault on a child, sexual                
abuse, torture, some type of chronic abuse, et cetera.  The change             
will result in the state focusing its resources on immediately                 
finding a permanent placement for the child.  She said, "So it                 
saves resources in the cases where the level of family violence has            
escalated so high that the resources are too little, too late to               
make a difference.  It allows the state to put its treatment                   
resources into the families where we can get in early and work to              
rehabilitate those families."                                                  
                                                                               
Number 0497                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said another change is in the filing of termination of              
parental rights petitions.  Currently, the filing of a termination             
of parental rights petition is totally at the discretion of the                
department and its attorneys.  As she mentioned previously, there              
are situations where the parents can use drugs for years and by                
entering treatment on the eve of a hearing, they keep the                      
department from ever getting the child into a safe, permanent home.            
Under existing law, the department has to prove by clear and                   
convincing evidence to a court that parental conduct which brought             
the child into state custody was likely to continue.  Under the                
proposed changes, petitions to terminate parental rights would be              
mandatory in some cases.  So if a parent uses drugs for two or                 
three years and goes into treatment a month before the termination             
trial, a judge can rule that it's not in the best interest of the              
child to take another chance and wait.                                         
                                                                               
Number 0559                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced the committee would now hear testimony via            
teleconference.  He asked Walter Gauthier to present his comments.             
                                                                               
Number 0563                                                                    
                                                                               
WALTER GAUTHIER testified via teleconference from Homer.  He                   
requested a copy of the audits and internal reviews conducted by               
the division.  He said that page 23 indicates that exposure to                 
domestic violence is prima facie evidence of emotional harm to the             
child.  He expressed concern that with the prima facie evidence                
language, children will go into state custody as a child in need of            
aid case automatically.  He said there will be situations where a              
woman calls police after being beaten, police take the husband                 
away, and the social workers take the children away.  This woman               
will have to go to court and prove "something to someone" in order             
to get her children back for the crime of allowing them to witness             
domestic violence.  In his opinion, HB 375 was 49 pages of                     
destruction of parental rights.  He said, "For the legislature to              
blame parental rights for the problems within the child protection             
system is no different from blaming a legal gun owner for crimes               
committed by people with guns."                                                
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. Gauthier for his testimony and asked                
Eugene Altig to testify.                                                       
                                                                               
Number 0684                                                                    
                                                                               
EUGENE ALTIG testified from Fairbanks via teleconference regarding             
the harm done to children when the family is broken up.  He                    
believed that leaders of social service workers should be elected              
so they could be held accountable by the public.  He noted that Ms.            
Wibker's comments sounded rational, but because of the ambiguity,              
many different things could be read into the legislation.  He said             
it's all a matter of interpretation and the language needs to be               
kept simple and more direct.                                                   
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. Altig for his testimony and called on               
Suzette Graham to present her comments.                                        
                                                                               
Number 0762                                                                    
                                                                               
SUZETTE GRAHAM testified from Kenai via teleconference.  As a                  
foster parent, she said there were certain provisions of HB 375                
that she supported such as quicker termination of parental rights              
if a parent refuses to make a reasonable effort.  She believed that            
"reasonable effort" should be defined, so if there's a six month               
case plan for example, the parent can't attempt to do something                
after five months and have it be considered a reasonable effort.               
She's had two children in foster care for two and one-half years               
and it's still at the reasonable effort stage.  She suggested that             
a good way to save money would be for the state to quit paying for             
repeated treatment for those parents going into rehab three and                
four times.  She would like to see "the best interest of the child"            
added to this legislation because everything that goes before a                
court should be in the best interest of the child, whether it be to            
reunite the child with parents, placement in another family or left            
in a foster home.  She said the willing to parent provision should             
be eliminated because it doesn't address the psychological,                    
emotional or financial ability to parent.  Personally, she thought             
the family court concept, similar to what Sitka has in place,                  
should be explored.  In conclusion, she said there were provisions             
of the proposed legislation she liked and others she didn't, but               
she encouraged the legislature to take action this session because             
there were many children needing help.                                         
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Blair McCune to present his comments.                     
                                                                               
Number 0898                                                                    
                                                                               
BLAIR MCCUNE, Deputy Director, Public Defender Agency, Department              
of Administration, testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  He            
confirmed the committee had received his written statement that had            
been faxed earlier and said he would be reiterating much of the                
testimony he had given on SB 218.  He referred to AS 47.10.011 and             
said, "This is where the age old problem of the power of the                   
government to intervene in a family's life to protect children                 
versus the family's right to raise their kids on their own.  This              
is the part of the statute that decides that basic policy question.            
And what I'm concerned about is the - there are situations covered             
by this bill -- and it's interesting, it says, 'the court may find             
a child to be a child in need of aid' -- I don't know if that has              
(indisc.) -- it seems to me like under the current legislation, the            
child is or is not a child in need of aid based on the sections of             
the statute.  But I'd like to have the court look at abandonment               
pretty carefully because under current law abandonment is                      
abandonment by both parents, the surviving parent or one parent if             
the other parent's rights have been terminated.  What this would do            
actually is as a single parent, if a father abandons a mother who              
has custody of the child, the state theoretically may take custody             
of this child and there's thousands and thousands of cases -- not              
to say that the department would step in in those situations, but              
I think we ought to have a law that limits when the department                 
might step in and when they might not.  And I think that same                  
problem exists in several other sections.  Like the substance abuse            
section, if one parent has a problem with substance abuse and the              
other parent doesn't, theoretically the state could come in and                
take custody of the child just based on one parent's problem.  I               
think what this does is, it doesn't recognize that families in                 
Alaska have a lot of resiliency where one parent stumbles, the                 
other parent picks up, where both parents stumble, often a                     
grandmother or grandfather or stepdad take care of the situation.              
I think that perhaps the statute ought to be relooked at."                     
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. McCune for his testimony and asked                  
Michael Coons to testify at this time.                                         
                                                                               
Number 1049                                                                    
                                                                               
MICHAEL COONS, Paramedic, testified from Mat-Su that he was worked             
in emergency services since 1981.  He said the bottom line in                  
reading the proposed legislation is, he hasn't seen any real change            
pertaining to the Division of Family and Youth Services --                     
meaningful punishment for those who neglect, abuse or exploit                  
children nor increased law enforcement role over that of the                   
division.  Since moving to Alaska, he's not had any contact with               
the DFYS; however, he has concluded that social service agencies               
from state to state are very similar.  He said what's needed is the            
ability for law enforcement to make the decision on site to start              
an investigation at least, or to remove the child.  He shared                  
experiences he had encountered as a paramedic where child neglect              
and possible sexual abuse were involved and the negative                       
interactions with case workers when reporting these incidents.                 
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. Coons for his testimony and asked Diana             
Buffington of Kodiak to present her comments.                                  
                                                                               
Number 1152                                                                    
                                                                               
DIANA BUFFINGTON, President and State Coordinator, Children's                  
Rights Council of Alaska (CRCA) and Chairman, Alaska Task Force on             
Family Law Reform, testified from Kodiak, stating that CRCA and the            
task force advocate the equity and equality of both parents in                 
furtherance of a genuine focus on the needs and rights of children             
and in recognition of the fundamental truth, issues that adversely             
affect the parents' ability to raise a child and nurture their                 
children adversely affect children.  The CRCA and the task force               
promote the right of children to receive the same access to both               
parents (indisc.) and sanction in the traditional family with                  
married parents.  Society needs to recognize that a family                     
intervention, transition through separation or (indisc.) without               
marriage is still family and that family values often cannot                   
survive when broken families disintegrate from the loss of a parent            
and the perpetuation of parental irresponsibility through neglect              
and abuse.  She said there are serious breakdowns in the justice               
system that have already affected many Alaskan families'                       
intervention in their children for decades.  In 1990 and 1991, the             
Alaska Senate task force held statewide public hearings to                     
determine areas of concern at DFYS, CSED, the custody                          
investigator's office and the guardian ad litem program in the                 
court.  Seven years later, none of the recommendations of that task            
force have been implemented in any of the family law referral                  
agencies.  In fact, the agencies have continued to adopt                       
administrative regulations that are loosely based on federal                   
legislation.  She concluded that the Children's Rights Council of              
Alaska and the Alaska Task Force on Family Law Reform cannot                   
support HB 375 in its present form.                                            
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Buffington for her testimony and asked              
Harry Niehaus to testify.                                                      
                                                                               
Number 1409                                                                    
                                                                               
HARRY NIEHAUS testified from Fairbanks via teleconference in                   
opposition to HB 375.  He said HB 375 gives broad statutory                    
authority to social workers and that families are being intimidated            
by social workers.  Also, he believes the language in HB 375 is                
much too vague.                                                                
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Cindy Houser to give her testimony.                       
                                                                               
Number 1461                                                                    
                                                                               
CINDY HOUSER, Foster parent, testified via teleconference from                 
Kenai, in opposition to HB 375 because it works against foster                 
families and it doesn't help the children.  While she agrees there             
are some good things in HB 375, she is of the opinion, it creates              
more loopholes and there's more wrong than good.  She agreed that              
in some cases parental rights should be terminated faster, but                 
social workers and judges need to be held more accountable for                 
sending children back to questionable situations in the home.  She             
said, "Us, as foster parents ought to have the same immunity as the            
division because we're with these kids -- we shouldn't be held                 
responsible for their actions to our neighbors and people of the               
community -- the state has custody of these kids, not us foster                
parents, so we ought to have some protection, too."  While much is             
said about bad foster parents, she believed that most foster                   
parents are good.  She suggested there should be mandatory drug                
testing for all state workers working with children, as well as                
foster parents.                                                                
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Johnny Grames to present his testimony.                   
                                                                               
Number 1585                                                                    
                                                                               
JOHNNY GRAMES, Representative, DADS-Alaska, testified from                     
Anchorage that he had been waiting all afternoon to testify.  He               
said fathers pay to raise their children and other people are                  
getting paid to come to teleconferences and to look after the best             
interest of the child and to protect the children.  The concern of             
DADS-Alaska is who protects the children from the government and               
the Administration.  He noted the Bill of Rights was written to                
protect the citizens from abuses of government power.  He concluded            
that legislation like HB 375 creates more problems than it solves              
and fathers in DADS-Alaska want to help raise their children.                  
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Marci Schmidt to present comments at this                 
time.                                                                          
                                                                               
Number 1820                                                                    
                                                                               
MARCI SCHMIDT, Representative, Parents United for Custodial                    
Justice, testified from Mat-Su, representing Parents United for                
Custodial Justice and the national organization that helped to                 
advocate for the passage of Public Law 105-89.  She said HB 375 is             
very ineffective and would do more damage to children and to                   
children's rights.  She suggested the committee shelve HB 375.  She            
stated there needs to be more accountability in all departments of             
government.  She urged the committee not to pass HB 375.                       
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Schmidt for her testimony and asked                 
Scott Calder to present his testimony.                                         
                                                                               
Number 1891                                                                    
                                                                               
SCOTT CALDER testified via teleconference from Fairbanks and                   
requested copies of reports, audits and documents referred to                  
during this meeting.  He concurred with the comments of Mr.                    
Gauthier and several other individuals who had testified that                  
HB 375 gives too much power to government.  He said clearly, the               
priority must be to protect people from this agency and not to                 
protect the agency from claims of liability, et cetera.  There                 
needs to be more accountability from the system.  He stated the                
issue of whether a child refuses to go home being equated with                 
abandonment is reprehensible.  He said, "The department is already             
having problems responding to parents who contact the department.              
Earlier it was said that a parent could make a report of harm to               
the department but then immediately the implication was floated                
right by that that would necessarily mean the parent was requesting            
the state to take custody.  Often times the parent needs some other            
person in the community to support them when they're having                    
difficulty with a discipline problem or something with a children."            
                                                                               
Number 2143                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE noted that additional public hearings would be held             
on HB 375. He felt it was appropriate to have a discussion of the              
proposed legislation so individuals wishing to testify could do so             
intelligently.  He called on Bradley Laybourn to testify next.                 
                                                                               
Number 2172                                                                    
                                                                               
BRADLEY LAYBOURN testified from Anchorage that until recently, he'd            
had no contact with social service agencies and he is appalled at              
the amount of power the agencies have and the lack of                          
accountability.   His permanent fund and income tax refunds have               
been garnisheed and his child has been living with him for over a              
year.  Several times he's attempted to contact the agency, only to             
be put on hold for up to four hours. He testified in opposition to             
giving agencies additional powers.                                             
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE pointed out that HB 375 is about child abuse, not               
child support.                                                                 
                                                                               
TAPE 98-21, SIDE A                                                             
Number 0001                                                                    
                                                                               
CAROL PALMER, Representative, Parents United for Custodial Justice,            
testified via teleconference from Mat-Su, said, "... about child               
support, is in here under Section 11, starting on page 9, and what             
I'm concerned about is the criminal nonsupport in the first degree,            
that's also in here on the bottom on 9, and on page 10, it's                   
criminal nonsupport in the second degree."  She didn't think this              
needed to be included in HB 375.  She referred to the statement at             
the top of page 10,"the person knowingly conveys assets, property,             
or any thing of value to another person in order to avoid payment              
of child support ...." and said there's a lot of misunderstanding.             
She discussed the problems a noncustodial parent on low income has             
making a living, so that person may need to take steps to protect              
their own interest to survive by signing over a car or property to             
another person.  Also, she expressed concerns about the vagueness              
of the language regarding abandonment of a child.                              
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Palmer and asked Dr. Bergeson to present            
his comments.                                                                  
                                                                               
Number 0189                                                                    
                                                                               
MARVIN BERGESON, M.D., Tanana Valley Clinic, testified via                     
teleconference from Fairbanks in support of HB 375.  He's concerned            
with children who have been abandoned by their parents, especially             
where there's substance and alcohol abuse involved, and the                    
children are being mandated by the courts to be reunited with                  
parents who have repeatedly failed in rehab.                                   
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Dr. Bergeson for his testimony and asked                
Gary Maxwell to present his testimony.                                         
                                                                               
Number 0262                                                                    
                                                                               
GARY MAXWELL testified via teleconference from Anchorage, and                  
questioned why allegations of child abuse were not investigated by             
police rather than by social workers.  Social workers should become            
involved after police have determined that abuse exists and could              
make placements as soon as possible.  With regard to the prevention            
of fetal alcohol syndrome and crack addicted babies, he suggested              
mandatory drug testing for all welfare recipients.  He's seen too              
many cases of drug and alcohol abuse in welfare homes.  Just                   
recently, he tried to help a grandmother from Oregon get her                   
grandchildren because the mother had been high on cocaine for three            
or four days, but the judge threw it out of court because the                  
grandmother had no standing.  He urged the committee not to grant              
the Child Support Enforcement Division any additional powers with              
the proposed criminal nonsupport provision.                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. Maxwell for his testimony and asked                 
Suzanne Goodrich to testify.                                                   
                                                                               
Number 0414                                                                    
                                                                               
SUZANNE GOODRICH testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  She             
is an adoptive parent with two children and she was testifying on              
behalf of Catholic Social Services.  She said, "I hope to leave you            
with some good news.  After talking about child protection and all             
of the issues covered today, there's a very exciting adoption                  
initiative that has just really taken off.  It's a collaborative               
effort between Catholic Social Services, Fairbanks Counseling and              
Adoption, and Catholic Community Services in Juneau, and working               
with the Indian Child Welfare Act children, the Bristol Bay Native             
Health Corporation in a consortium with ten tribal organizations."             
She said the group is finding new ways to work creatively together             
to create a new system for adoption in the state, a draft agreement            
has been established for a toll free telephone line.  A letter to              
the editor asking for interested parents has resulted in 37                    
families making inquiry.  She said the group has a draft                       
recruitment campaign ready to go pending approval for adoptive and             
foster parents in addition to working on a training program for                
adoptive parents.                                                              
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Goodrich for her testimony and asked                
Martha Hodson for her comments.                                                
                                                                               
Number 0596                                                                    
                                                                               
MARTHA HODSON testified via teleconference from the Kenai                      
Legislative Information Office, stating that parts of House Bill               
375 are okay, but there's a lot wrong with it as well.  She said               
there is not always reasonable effort in every case.  It's a crime             
to neglect or abuse a child, and the police officers need to be                
involved in investigating these crimes and stop expecting social               
workers to be police officers.  It is important to remember that               
not every case is abuse; parents need to be able to discipline.                
                                                                               
Number 0699                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE concluded public testimony and announced that HB 375            
would be heard in committee again at a later date.                             
                                                                               
ADJOURNMENT                                                                    
                                                                               
Number 0707                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE adjourned the House Health, Education and Social                
Services Standing Committee at 5:17 p.m.                                       

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