Legislature(1997 - 1998)

03/20/1998 03:17 PM House HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         HOUSE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL                                    
            SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                        
                   March 20, 1998                                              
                     3:17 p.m.                                                 
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                
Representative Con Bunde, Chairman                                             
Representative Joe Green, Vice Chairman                                        
Representative Brian Porter                                                    
Representative Fred Dyson                                                      
Representative Tom Brice                                                       
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                 
Representative Al Vezey                                                        
Representative J. Allen Kemplen                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                             
* HOUSE BILL NO. 384                                                           
"An Act establishing the Legislative Commission on Family Law                  
Reform; and providing for an effective date."                                  
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                          
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 384                                                                   
SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVES(S) HODGINS                                         
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                          
 2/06/98      2239     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                  
 2/06/98      2239     (H)  HES, JUDICIARY                                     
 3/12/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
 3/12/98               (H)  MINUTE(HES)                                        
 3/20/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
BILL: HB 375                                                                   
SPONSOR(S): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                   
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                          
 2/02/98      2200     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                  
 2/02/98      2201     (H)  HES, JUDICIARY, FINANCE                            
 2/02/98      2201     (H)  INDETERMINATE FN (GOV/VARIOUS DEPTS)               
 2/02/98      2201     (H)  GOVERNOR'S TRANSMITTAL LETTER                      
 2/26/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
 2/26/98               (H)  MINUTE(HES)                                        
 3/03/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
 3/03/98               (H)  MINUTE(HES)                                        
 3/05/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
 3/05/98               (H)  MINUTE(HES)                                        
 3/12/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
 3/12/98               (H)  MINUTE(HES)                                        
 3/20/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
WITNESS REGISTER                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MARK HODGINS                                                    
Alaska State Legislature                                                       
Capitol Building, Room 110                                                     
Juneau, Alaska  99801-1182                                                     
Telephone:  (907) 465-3779                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified as sponsor of HB 384.                           
DIANA BUFFINGTON, Chairman                                                     
Alaska Task Force on Family Law Reform                                         
317 Maple                                                                      
Kodiak, Alaska  99615                                                          
Telephone:  (907) 486-2290                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384 and in                     
                     opposition to HB 375.                                     
WILLIAM PHILLIPS                                                               
Address Not provided                                                           
Telephone:  (471) 938-4423                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384.                           
ROCKY GRIMES                                                                   
P.O. Box 2975                                                                  
Kenai, Alaska  99611                                                           
Telephone:  (907) 262-5483                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384 and in                     
                     opposition to HB 375.                                     
CAROL PALMER                                                                   
P.O. Box 2402                                                                  
Palmer, Alaska  99645                                                          
Telephone:  (907) 746-2863                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384.                           
WALTER GAUTHIER                                                                
Box 2246                                                                       
Homer, Alaska  99603                                                           
Telephone:  (907) 235-2809                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384 and in                     
                     opposition to HB 375.                                     
SUZETTE GRAHAM                                                                 
P.O. Box 383                                                                   
Kenai, Alaska  99611                                                           
Telephone:  (907) 776-8658                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384.                           
DEBBIE NELSON                                                                  
P.O. Box 1064                                                                  
Sterling, Alaska  99672                                                        
Telephone:  Not Provided                                                       
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384 and in                     
                     opposition to HB 375.                                     
CINDY HOUSER                                                                   
HC 2, Box 596                                                                  
Kasilof, Alaska  99610                                                         
Telephone:  (907) 262-7937                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384.                           
CHRIS HUTCHINSON                                                               
P.O. Box 1323                                                                  
Kenai, Alaska  99611                                                           
Telephone:  (907) 283-2296                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384 and in                     
                     opposition to HB 375.                                     
MARTHA HODSON, Representative                                                  
Guardians of Family Rights                                                     
P.O. Box 3687                                                                  
Soldotna, Alaska  99669                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 260-9156                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384.                           
KAREN LEONARD                                                                  
310 West 76th, Number C                                                        
Anchorage, Alaska  99518                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 522-9268                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384.                           
YOLANDA BOMA                                                                   
11640 Northern Raven, Number 1                                                 
Anchorage, Alaska  99516                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 348-0715                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 384.                           
SUSAN 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:  Answered questions on HB 375.                             
RUSSELL WEBB, Deputy Commissioner                                              
Department of Health & Social Services                                         
P.O. Box 110601                                                                
Juneau, Alaska  99811-0601                                                     
Telephone:  (907) 354-3030                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions on HB 375.                             
DEAN GUANELI, Chief Assistant Attorney General                                 
Legal Services Section                                                         
Criminal Division                                                              
Department of Law                                                              
P.O. Box 110300                                                                
Juneau, Alaska  99811-0300                                                     
Telephone:  (907) 465-3428                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Addressed HB 375.                                         
DEBORAH DOWNS, Social Worker                                                   
  and Program Officer                                                          
Division of Family and Youth Services                                          
Department of Health & Social Services                                         
P.O. Box 1089                                                                  
Petersburg, Alaska  99833                                                      
Telephone:  (907) 772-2863                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
WILLARD S. ELLIS, Trooper                                                      
Alaska State Troopers                                                          
Department of Public Safety                                                    
P.O. Box 190                                                                   
Petersburg, Alaska  99833                                                      
Telephone:  (907) 772-3100                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
GENE ALTIG                                                                     
4396 Al Cory Road                                                              
North Pole, Alaska  99705                                                      
Telephone:  (907) 488-4216                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
ANITA ALVES                                                                    
Office of Public Advocacy                                                      
900 West 5th Avenue                                                            
Anchorage, Alaska  99501                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 269-3500                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 375.                           
JANE BURCHARD                                                                  
4222 Chena Hot Springs Road                                                    
Fairbanks, Alaska  99712                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 488-8371                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
GERALDINE BROWN                                                                
P.O. Box 74552                                                                 
Fairbanks, Alaska  99701                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 451-8042                                                     
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.                        
CHARLES ROLLINS                                                                
1403 Old Richardson Highway                                                    
North Pole, Alaska  99705                                                      
Telephone:  (907) 488-9030                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
BETTY ROLLINS                                                                  
P.O. Box 55163                                                                 
North Pole, Alaska  99705                                                      
Telephone:  (907) 488-6614                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
PAUL NELSON                                                                    
Address Not Provided                                                           
Haines, Alaska                                                                 
Telephone:  (907) 766-2458                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
SCOTT CALDER                                                                   
P.O. Box 75011                                                                 
Fairbanks, Alaska  99707                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 474-0174                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 375.                        
PAMELA SCOTT                                                                   
3605 Williams Street                                                           
Anchorage, Alaska  99508                                                       
Telephone:  (907) 561-1126                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
DON DAPCEVICH, Executive Director                                              
State Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse                              
Department of Health & Social Services                                         
P.O. Box 110608                                                                
Juneau, Alaska  99801-0608                                                     
Telephone:  (907) 465-8920                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 375.                           
JAYNE ANDREEN, Executive Director                                              
Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault                                  
Department of Public Safety                                                    
P.O. Box 111200                                                                
Juneau, Alaska  99811-1200                                                     
Telephone:  (907) 465-4356                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 375.                           
LAUREE HUGONIN, Director                                                       
Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault                           
130 Seward Street, Room 501                                                    
Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                          
Telephone:  (907) 586-3650                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375.                                      
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                               
TAPE 98-28, SIDE A                                                             
Number 0008                                                                    
CHAIRMAN CON BUNDE called the House Health, Education and Social               
Services Standing Committee meeting to order at 3:17 p.m.  Members             
present at the call to order were Representatives Bunde, Porter,               
Dyson and Brice.  Representative Green arrived at 3:25 p.m.                    
Representatives Kemplen and Vezey were absent.                                 
HB 384 - LEGISLATIVE COM. ON FAMILY LAW REFORM                                 
Number 0045                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced the first item on the agenda was HB 384,              
"An Act establishing the Legislative Commission on Family Law                  
Reform; and providing for an effective date."   He asked                       
Representative Hodgins to present his bill.                                    
Number 0064                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MARK HODGINS, Alaska State Legislature, Sponsor of              
HB 384, said this legislation, HB 384, will create a legislative               
commission to track new regulations concerning child and family                
issues, gather testimony on statutes and regulations already in                
force and fine tune them, and suggest draft legislation to create              
a statewide family court and other needed child protection laws.               
He said in looking at the situation with the Division of Family and            
Youth Services (DFYS) and other agencies involved in child                     
protection, this commission would help guide and review the various            
proposals being discussed this legislative session.  The commission            
consisting of three senators and three representatives  would guide            
future legislation as he is of the opinion this legislature would              
not be able to address every issue that needs to be fixed.  He                 
acknowledged that many people don't like commissions and he agrees,            
but additional legislation will be required on the child protection            
issues.  This legislation includes reviewing a family court system             
which may not be cost efficient, but he believed it needed to be               
looked at.  He stated Diana Buffington has been instrumental in the            
formation of House Bill 384 and asked the committee's indulgence in            
allowing her to comment at this time.                                          
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Ms. Buffington to present her comments.                   
Number 0248                                                                    
DIANA BUFFINGTON, Chairman, Alaska Task Force on Family Law Reform,            
testified via teleconference from Kodiak, stating the family law               
process in Alaska and elsewhere is broken and needs major fixing.              
Governors, agency employees, mediators, judges, counselors and                 
citizens all agreed the current system is too court-oriented and               
too confrontational to meet the needs of most families.  She said              
families live in a reality-based world while agencies of the state             
do not.  Most cases in family law in Alaska are prepared as if                 
going to court when only a small percentage actually do.  She                  
stated the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSED) and the DFYS are            
the two most complained about agencies in the state, respectively.             
Many clients complain of violations of civil rights and due process            
of law.  She said this legislation will bring a family oriented and            
family based common sense back to these agencies.  She said, "The              
task force that we headed up included persons here in the state of             
Alaska and included people all over the United States who were                 
involved in child protective services, helping persons going                   
through separation and divorce, and establishing parentage and we              
find that a nonadversarial system will go a lot farther instead of             
having to be so adversarial as these agencies currently are."                  
MS. BUFFINGTON pointed out the duties of the commission established            
by this legislation would be to review all current laws, practices             
and policies of the CSED, the DFYS, the court system, the custody              
investigators offices and the guardian ad litem program.  She                  
stressed it is important that individuals elected to the                       
legislature understand the current laws and practices of the                   
agencies.  Oftentimes, laws are passed by legislators without                  
understanding  the effects on people down the line.  Currently,                
CSED and DFYS are far out of balance and out of compliance with                
state and federal law.  Another duty of the commission is to help              
prepare legislation and assist legislators in submitting a report              
of finding of proposed legislation.  She said it's important for               
the commission to review the establishment of a family court of                
law.   A family court of law previously existed, but it was                    
dissolved under Judge Johnstone because it was too costly to the               
state.  She noted the buzz words in much of the legislation                    
relating to child protective services are "kid time."  She agreed              
that kid time was important but when kid time is put at the bottom             
of criminal hearings and the criminal process in the superior                  
court, kid time gets put off.  It's time to get back on real time              
and have a family court of law.  Most states have a family court of            
law to deal with issues that are family-based, family-oriented,                
child custody and visitation, child support and anything else                  
resembling a family matter.  A family court of law could also                  
address emergency hearings for domestic violence instead of having             
so many ex parte orders which are in violation of civil rights.                
She agrees that stronger laws are needed, but Alaska needs laws                
that are narrowly definable and with more specificity.                         
Number 0604                                                                    
MS. BUFFINGTON urged the committee to pass HB 384.  She stressed it            
was time to bring Alaska up to the level of, if not exceed, other              
states in family law.                                                          
Number 0646                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE remarked it appears the commission established in               
HB 384 is a duplication of what legislators currently do and an                
expansion of government.  He asked Ms. Buffington how she would                
balance a request for an expansion of government with the                      
frequently expressed need to reduce the role of government in an               
individual's life.                                                             
MS. BUFFINGTON said currently the legislature receives a number of             
calls per week concerning the CSED, the DFYS, the custody                      
investigators' office or the guardian ad litem program which                   
requires many staff hours dealing with these complaints.                       
Additionally, an exorbitant amount of money is being spent on                  
auditing the DFYS and CSED.  These agencies need to be brought into            
line and the money they spend should be based on their performance.            
She didn't see that happening and instead the agencies always want             
more money and more staff, while states comparable to Alaska are               
spending less money, have less staff and do a better job in family             
law areas.  This legislation will put an end to all the extraneous             
spending and will allow time for clients to express how these two              
agencies interact with and impact clients.                                     
Number 0793                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS reiterated the commission was made up of                
three senators and three representatives with the thought in mind              
that it's the legislature's duty to solve problems.  There is a                
problem in child protection currently and he believes it's wise to             
form a commission that would work with the Administration at                   
problem resolution within the confines of the departments.  He also            
believed the family court system should be revisited to determine              
if it's cost efficient.  He said it's time to review some of the               
problems with the child protection system and in his opinion, it's             
appropriate for the legislature to staff the commission that would             
be making the recommendations.                                                 
Number 0866                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE said this bill appears to be a duplication of a                 
legislator's current job and it seems to assume that the six                   
legislators appointed to this commission would somehow be                      
sensitive, more concerned or more opposed to the management of the             
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS explained last summer when he became                    
involved with the DFYS situation, he found that several of his                 
colleagues were referring people to him because of his active                  
interest.  This bill, by laying out specific areas needing to be               
addressed, makes the commission task orientated.  He noted this                
legislation is unnecessary if the Senate President and Speaker of              
the House appoint a committee to review and come up with                       
suggestions.  He found that he, working as a legislator without a              
committee structure, didn't have the credibility with some of the              
departments who felt they needed to come through the HESS Committee            
or the Children's Caucus and that was not solving his problem.                 
Number 0979                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE said the proposed commission would                    
recommend and prepare legislation to create a nonadversarial                   
conflict management system for families, and yet the very nature of            
these issues are full of conflict and emotion.  With that in mind,             
he asked Representative Hodgins to explain what kind of a system he            
had in mind.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS said when he came forward with the concept              
of this bill, he had not seen HB 375 and acknowledges there are                
some areas of HB 375 that address the adversarial issue such as the            
multi-disciplinary teams and the child protection teams.  He                   
explained these are natural areas for this commission to review;               
however, if some areas are covered in other legislation, the                   
commission could devote less time to those areas and more time in              
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced William Phillips was standing by to                   
testify offnet from Missouri.                                                  
Number 1047                                                                    
WILLIAM PHILLIPS testified offnet from Missouri, in favor of                   
HB 384.  He has experienced problems with the Alaska Child Support             
Enforcement Agency for about the past five years.  He explained he             
has been paying double child support, but the CSED wouldn't                    
acknowledge it.  He has experienced a number of problems with CSED             
and is of the opinion the laws need to be reviewed and revamped.               
Agencies like CSED need to listen to both sides; it's taken five               
years for CSED to finally review his side of the case.  He                     
reiterated his support for this proposed legislation.                          
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. Phillips and asked Mr. Grimes to testify            
at this time.                                                                  
Number 1112                                                                    
ROCKY GRIMES testified via teleconference from Kenai in support of             
HB 384.  He stated he's been paying child support timely for the               
past 13 years, and there was a modification effective February                 
1997.  Because it appeared it to be inevitable there would be an               
increase, he began paying the extra money immediately which                    
amounted to about $90.  The extra money was sent back to him along             
with a support payment for his monthly obligation.  A couple of                
weeks later he was contacted by his child's mother announcing the              
child support payment had not arrived.  After several unreturned               
phone calls to CSED, he finally figured out the agency had sent                
back the extra money plus the support payment.  When the agency                
asked him to return the payment, they charged interest even though             
it was their fault.  The agency continued to return the extra money            
submitted.  Finally, when the Attorney General's Office sent a bill            
it included interest on all arrearages back to February 1997                   
despite the fact he had indeed paid and CSED had returned it to                
him.  After several discussions, the interest was waived.  He has              
been given conflicting information from staff which is indicative              
of the need for additional training.  He reiterated his support for            
this legislation.                                                              
Number 1221                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE agreed that far too many complaints are received                
about Child Support Enforcement Division.  He said if this bill                
passed, the commission would exist for two years.  He wondered if              
Mr. Grimes viewed it as an ombudsman-type commission where he could            
have taken his complaint about CSED.                                           
MR. GRIMES said he didn't look at it so much in that direction,                
although it would be an important factor; he would like the option             
to (indisc.) the commission in and request that a state audit be               
done on his particular case.  He hoped this commission would do                
routine quality control as well, not just act as an ombudsman-type             
agency, although that's an important issue as well.                            
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. Grimes for his testimony and asked Carol            
Palmer to submit her remarks.                                                  
Number 1279                                                                    
CAROL PALMER testified via teleconference from Mat-Su in support of            
HB 384.  She suggested the commission be expanded to perhaps                   
include an attorney specializing in family matters and a couple of             
parents who have experience in dealing with the agencies.  She                 
agreed with Diana Buffington's comments on the family court system             
and added that family court mediation, which has been successful in            
Rock County, Wisconsin, would perhaps be a better idea.                        
Number 1341                                                                    
WALTER GAUTHIER testified from Homer via teleconference in favor of            
HB 384.  He referred to Chairman Bunde's previous remark on the                
expansion of government and said the Domestic Violence Prevention              
Act passed by the legislature in 1996 contained provisions                     
redefining a lot of violence and exposure to violence in the home              
in terms of child abuse.  Due to the passage of that legislation,              
in one year the Child in need of Aid (CINA) court cases for                    
superior court in Anchorage increased 60 percent and 25 percent                
statewide.  He believed a family court would alleviate some of the             
caseload for the superior court system and that some of these cases            
could be adjudicated through mediation, as suggested by the                    
previous speaker.                                                              
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. Gauthier for his remarks and asked                  
Suzette Graham to testify.                                                     
Number 1389                                                                    
SUZETTE GRAHAM testified via teleconference from Kenai, reiterating            
the remarks of Ms. Buffington.  As a foster parent, she believes               
this legislation would help hold accountable some of the offices               
involved in child protection and it would rectify some of the                  
concerns she has.  She noted that a lot of child protection cases              
are put on hold for criminal cases in the court and by giving                  
criminal cases precedence, it means a child in a foster home is put            
off even longer.  She suggested that an ombudsman-type agency for              
foster parents would be very helpful.                                          
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if Ms. Graham felt that talking with her                  
Senator or Representative wasn't adequate and that something more              
was needed.                                                                    
MS. GRAHAM replied it would be nice to have a centralized group                
that focused just on these issues.  Legislators are busy dealing               
with issues in many different areas, whereas this group could                  
devote their time to just these areas.                                         
Number 1459                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE pointed out for teleconference participants               
the state has an ombudsman office through the Legislative Branch               
which can be contacted regarding these issues and that office will             
go through the investigatory process to determine if things were               
done appropriately or not.                                                     
Number 1482                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS said it's important to realize the regular              
duties of a legislator in responding to constituent complaints or              
concerns would still be available.  This commission would actually             
focus more on solving longer range, bigger problems than an                    
individual legislator would do in responding to constituent                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Debbie Nelson to testify at this time.                    
Number 1519                                                                    
DEBBIE NELSON testified via teleconference from Kenai.  She's a                
foster parent and is definitely in support of HB 384.                          
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Nelson for commenting and called on                 
Cindy Houser to comment.                                                       
Number 1530                                                                    
CINDY HOUSER testified via teleconference from Kenai.  She, too, is            
a foster parent and supports HB 384.                                           
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Houser and asked Chris Hutchinson to                
testify next.                                                                  
Number 1540                                                                    
CHRIS HUTCHINSON testified from Kenai via teleconference.  She said            
in light of the upcoming audits of the Division of Family and Youth            
Services and Mental Health, the establishment of this commission is            
critical.  She said, "The DFYS has been a pain for we don't know               
how many years and right now we're looking at $31 million headed               
our way for three years - the only requirement of the state is to              
match $7 million according to Fran Ulmer last night.  Now we need              
to get this straightened out before we start siphoning that $31                
million into the mess we've got."  In her opinion what is needed is            
a family law court and some accountability for the DFYS; not more              
immunity.  She urged the committee to pass HB 384.                             
CHAIRMAN BUNDE referenced the $31 million of Medicaid funds and                
said $7 million will be used as matching funds for creating more               
Medicaid for making people eligible, particularly children, who                
live up to 200 percent above the poverty line, but the rest of the             
money will not go to the DFYS.                                                 
Number 1630                                                                    
MARTHA HODSON, Representative, Guardians of Family Rights,                     
testified via teleconference from Kenai in support of HB 384.  She             
related her personal experience with the Child Support Enforcement             
Division.  She requested a modification several times and finally              
after several years, they made her ex-husband prove what his                   
earnings were even though she had submitted tax forms, W-2s, and so            
on. Then when she had only one child left at home, CSED finally                
made him prove what he made.  She asked that it be made retroactive            
which is in accordance with the law, so now CSED has money paid by             
her ex-husband and she's having a difficult time getting it.  She              
said even though her child is now grown, it's her money; her ex-               
husband was ordered to pay it and he paid it directly out of his               
check.  She still runs into a brick wall every time she talks with             
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Hodson for her remarks and asked Karen              
Leonard to present her remarks.                                                
Number 1683                                                                    
KAREN LEONARD testified via teleconference from Anchorage in                   
support of HB 384.  She favored the idea of having a committee of              
legislators keeping an eye on child protective services to ensure              
the laws are being implemented in accordance with the intent of the            
law.  She has often heard comments that the courts, the DFYS, or               
the CSED are missing the point and this legislation would provide              
for a review of laws and regulations to ensure they are on track.              
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Leonard for her comments and asked                  
Yolanda Boma to present her testimony.                                         
Number 1763                                                                    
YOLANDA BOMA testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support            
of HB 384 in its entirety.                                                     
Number 1775                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if there were other individuals wishing to                
testify on HB 384.  There being no additional persons, Chairman                
Bunde announced HB 384 would be held in committee for further                  
review and brought up at a later date.                                         
HB 375 - CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN/FOSTER CARE                                   
Number 1797                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced the next bill before the committee was                
HB 375.  He asked Susan Wibker from the Department of Law and Russ             
Webb from the Department of Health & Social Services to come                   
forward.  He noted there were a number of people in Juneau and on              
teleconference waiting to testify on this bill.                                
Number 1868                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE explained the committee's role is to research the               
child protection issues.  There seems to be a pattern of problems              
the public is experiencing with child in need of aid cases and with            
the Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS).  Historically,               
the legislature has met the requirements of the department for                 
funding, but the problems are continuing.  It's important to                   
understand the cause of the problem and how this particular                    
legislation or any other legislation might address the problems.               
The committee is also attempting to get a better idea of the                   
management practices within the department.  The legislature cannot            
fix all the problems, but can address some of the proposed                     
legislative fixes such as HB 375.  His plan was to address specific            
questions about HB 375 followed by public testimony.                           
Number 1936                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Ms. Wibker to address the issue of immunity               
for DFYS in HB 375.                                                            
Number 1936                                                                    
SUSAN WIBKER, Assistant Attorney General, Human Services Section,              
Civil Division, Department of Law, said the public has expressed               
repeated concern that DFYS has all the control, but no                         
accountability.  She reminded everyone of the judicial oversight               
and control of the cases by the court system, so the department is             
accountable to the courts.  There's also a review committee in the             
Department of Administration, external to DFYS, that serves a                  
review function.  The Division of Family and Youth Services is                 
subject to an annual federal audit wherein federal auditors review             
randomly selected files for compliance with federal law.  If found             
to be in noncompliance, the state loses federal funds.  In                     
addition, there are several teams such as the placement review                 
team, foster care review team and permanency planning committee                
that operate both external and internal to the DFYS, reviewing                 
decisions made in the division.  Additionally, the legislative                 
audit of the division has just been completed and released.  So                
when she hears comments like no accountability, no review, all DFYS            
control and no oversight, she feels compelled to point out there               
are a number of ways in which the department is audited and                    
subjected to oversight.                                                        
Number 2012                                                                    
MS. WIBKER said with respect to immunity, the Division of Family               
and Youth Services has no more or no less immunity than any other              
public servant.  It is her understanding that government officials             
- policeman, fireman, paramedic, social worker - are allowed to                
make good faith mistakes, but are not allowed to make malicious,               
intentional, deliberate acts that would be detrimental.  Based on              
conversations with tort attorneys, she understands it really                   
doesn't matter what the bill says; there is a level of governmental            
immunity which applies across the board.                                       
Number 2041                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE observed that perhaps it shouldn't be included in               
the legislation if it doesn't matter and it's causing people some              
MS. WIBKER responded, "If you don't say it, my understanding is                
there's a -- public servants all have a comparable level."  She                
thought perhaps the public was assuming the language infers the                
DFYS cannot be sued or held accountable in a civil suit, but that's            
not the case; the DFYS gets sued and whether the language is                   
included in the legislation or not, that's going to happen.                    
Number 2069                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER asked what portion of the bill Ms.                 
Wibker was referring to.                                                       
MS. WIBKER directed him to page 42, line 27, which states, "Nothing            
in this title creates a duty or standard of care ...."  She thought            
this language was generating the public concern.                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE commented, "While we need laws that are equitably               
applied, there is, I guess in the legal profession, the appearance             
of justice as well as the actuality of justice and we need to be               
aware of that."                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER commented he had conducted research on a bill            
establishing these kinds of protections for public employees in                
general and it is his understanding that public employees are, by              
policy, protected or indemnified, but not immune.                              
MS. WIBKER said she's not a tort attorney and couldn't speak to                
that issue.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER continued that the state, as well as some                
municipalities, will defend any employee that is sued for a tort               
and indemnify their action assuming it was something done in the               
normal course of business; not gross or intentional.                           
CHAIRMAN BUNDE explained that he's bringing up questions that have             
been raised in public testimony and this issue will continue to be             
explored by the committee.                                                     
Number 2184                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN said, "You said there had been repeated               
audits and under current law is there a waiver of duty - is this               
implying or this portion is taking away something that there is now            
so that negligence could be brought under current law that this                
would evade because there's no duty established?"                              
MS. WIBKER suggested the committee ask that a tort attorney be                 
present at the next hearing to respond to those issue inasmuch as              
this language was drafted by the tort attorneys.                               
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if any of the audits had identified any             
of these situations as a problem area or a potential problem area.             
MS. WIBKER replied she wasn't aware of any, but deferred the                   
question to Mr. Webb.                                                          
Number 2228                                                                    
RUSSELL WEBB, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Health & Social               
Services, said he was not aware that the focus was on a particular             
case or a particular act of wrong doing in any of the audits.  He              
added the division commonly faces about four to five civil suits               
annually, not all of which are found justified.                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked of the four to five civil suits                     
annually, do any relate to some type of negligence as opposed to a             
tort of intent.                                                                
MR. WEBB did not have an answer to that question.                              
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said, "I'm just wondering why this -- this                
seems like this is going beyond, for the department, what would be             
held otherwise in private sector - they can't waive their duty."               
MS. WIBKER responded, "Based on my recent discussion with the tort             
attorneys, they are the ones that represent the agency and the                 
claims - they deal with the claims - they are almost external to               
the agency.  There were some recent Supreme Court Opinions that                
came down from civil suits and they used some of the language in               
those opinions to develop this."                                               
MR. WEBB pointed out for the committee the purpose of the language             
is certainly not, on the part of the department, to evade its                  
responsibilities or accountability, but simply to make certain the             
department is not subject to frivolous lawsuits or that employees              
have no protection and therefore, the department would be unable to            
get employees.  He said that's a critical issue.                               
Number 2316                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FRED DYSON advised a couple of tort attorneys had               
visited with him and his staff and as he recalls, the attorneys                
indicated they would have no problem with everything after the                 
first sentence being deleted in Section 47.  He said, "And as I                
understand it, the 47.14.985 - that sentence is there, I think in              
a defensive sense to not establish -- I think that they're worried             
about Cleary kinds of things where they might be sued if, you know             
optimum conditions that a child finds itself in are not being met."            
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said in his opinion, the first line is a                 
precaution to make sure that higher standards aren't set for these             
employees than would be for any other public or private sector                 
TAPE 98-28, SIDE B                                                             
Number 0009                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE noted there had been public concern expressed about             
the language in Section 1 on page 2 recognizing children as                    
individuals having legal rights.  He asked if that had changed from            
previous legislation.                                                          
MS. WIBKER referred to page 2, lines 11-16 and said the department             
isn't proposing this be law; it's designed to guide the courts in              
the interpretation of the law.                                                 
Number 0040                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if the department would be opposed to              
a Finding that children are individuals who have a right of                    
expectation of freedom and so forth as opposed to establishing a               
MS. WIBKER said the Department of Law tort attorneys reviewed this             
section as well as the immunity section and offered their advice on            
how it should be drafted.                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER speculated the second half of the immunity               
portion may not remain in the bill.                                            
MS. WIBKER said she expected the tort attorneys would advise that              
if language was removed from the immunity section, this section                
would also need to be revised; the two sections go hand in hand.               
Number 0084                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE next referred to the criminal nonsupport section of             
the HB 375 and asked if that section is essential to this                      
legislation or would it be better addressed in another piece of                
MS. WIBKER stated where it's addressed is certainly not as                     
important as the fact that it is addressed.  The criminal                      
nonsupport provision is in the bill because it's viewed as part of             
child protection and preventing child neglect in the current                   
climate of welfare reform, welfare to work.  She noted there are               
children whose ability to be covered by welfare is time limited and            
the only safety net for many of those children will be child                   
support collection.  It's designed to help fill a gap.                         
Number 0126                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Ms. Wibker to define criminal nonsupport as               
opposed to nonsupport.                                                         
MS. WIBKER deferred that question to Dean Guaneli.                             
Number 0148                                                                    
DEAN GUANELI, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Legal Services                 
Section, Criminal Division, Department of Law, said "Let me phrase             
it in terms of the elements needed to prove a criminal case of                 
nonsupport.  First, we would need to prove that the person who owed            
the support was aware of the support order.  Second, that the                  
person failed to pay support and really the most important is the              
person had the ability to pay the support; either that the person              
had assets, was hiding assets, or was able to be gainfully employed            
and was simply not looking for work or not being gainfully                     
employed.  That third element is really the crucial one.  It's not             
simply falling behind in payments - we know that people all the                
time fall behind, but it's more really in making good faith                    
efforts.  It's you've got the ability to pay and you simply refuse             
to do so."                                                                     
CHAIRMAN BUNDE commented in his mind, the most egregious is the                
hiding of assets.                                                              
MR. GUANELI said it happens on a fairly regular basis that assets              
are hidden.                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced the committee would begin to take public              
testimony at this time.                                                        
Number 0222                                                                    
CHRIS HUTCHINSON testified from Kenai via teleconference in                    
opposition to HB 375.  She said with respect to immunity, the state            
is already covered under Title 9 and additional coverage isn't                 
needed under Title 47; it's helpful for the state but not for the              
people.  She said a multi-disciplinary is unnecessary; it's staffed            
with all professionals and no lay persons.  As Mr. Webb testified              
previously, that information is not available to the prosecutors to            
get back at the criminal, so what purpose does this team serve.                
Number 0271                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if Ms. Hutchinson would have less opposition              
if the bill was crafted in such a manner that information would be             
available to prosecutors and law enforcement.                                  
MS. HUTCHINSON responded that was just one of many concerns she has            
with this legislation.  She suggested a commission could be used to            
review the entire area of child protection.  The money will be                 
coming in over a three year period, so there's no real hurry to                
revamp the DFYS, overturn Supreme Court decisions and so forth.                
CHAIRMAN BUNDE pointed out this legislation has no connection to               
the Medicaid money.  He asked if witnesses would identify specific             
fixes to the bill or to simply indicate there was no hope for the              
entire bill.  He thanked Ms. Hutchinson for her comments and asked             
Mr. Grimes to present his testimony.                                           
Number 0356                                                                    
JOHNNY GRIMES testified via teleconference from Anchorage in                   
opposition to HB 375.  He noted that SB 272 was identical to                   
HB 375, and the Senate is not going to support SB 272 because it's             
anti-father, big government and big spending.                                  
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Mr. Gauthier to present his comments on                   
HB 375.                                                                        
Number 0494                                                                    
WALTER GAUTHIER testified via teleconference from Homer.  He                   
referred to a newspaper article wherein a person was writing to                
Lynne Curry asking advice about an employment situation wherein a              
counselor backhanded a child.  He commented the counseling agency              
has promised a good reference just to get rid of the counselor.  He            
questioned if this case of child felony assault was being                      
investigated by DFYS or any other agency.                                      
CHAIRMAN BUNDE couldn't speak for the Division of Family and Youth             
Services.  He wasn't sure if something appearing in a newspaper is             
considered a valid complaint of child abuse, but if Mr. Gauthier               
wanted to make the charge, Chairman Bunde said he would insist the             
division investigate.                                                          
MR. GAUTHIER said with respect to HB 375, he wanted to read the                
following excerpts he received from Rick Toma (sp) concerning the              
state of Illinois concerning the death of a child:  "Subsequently,             
the Governor and the legislature raced to outdo each other to see              
who could write in the phrase 'the best interest of the child' in              
its new legislation.  They wrote it in 28 times into statute.  In              
1987, Illinois had 14,000 children in foster care; as of 1994, they            
have 45,000 children in foster care.  This best interest of the                
child is not just another feel good social worker slogan.  It is               
specific legal language with specific consequences."  If this bill             
is enacted into law, he predicted the number of children in foster             
care will double, along with a concurrent increase in demands for              
so-called nonprofit service provider that is funded by the                     
government through the Department of Health & Social Services.  He             
stated this bill has no redeeming value; it is nothing more than               
the expansion of a system whose biggest problem is the darkness of             
confidentiality.  No one can review anything DFYS does because it's            
all confidential.                                                              
CHAIRMAN BUNDE spoke of the challenge facing the committee  -                  
recently children have died of child abuse, children are born with             
FAS and FAE, children are born to drug addicts and so on.  The                 
committee is motivated to try and solve these problems and it's a              
challenge to do that without trampling on a person's rights.  He               
said the committee would welcome any advice the public could offer.            
MR. GAUTHIER said the system has plenty of power; the problem is a             
monopoly of the system.  If an agency budget is increased every                
time there's a report of a child death, the agency need only ignore            
certain situations purposefully.                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if Mr. Gauthier was suggesting that DFYS is               
killing children to make money.                                                
MR. GAUTHIER said he is suggesting that DFYS is deliberately                   
leaving some children in situations they know will result in cases             
which will make the newspapers.                                                
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. Gauthier for his comments and asked Ms.             
Downs to present her testimony.                                                
Number 0744                                                                    
DEBORAH DOWNS, Social Worker and Program Officer, Division of                  
Family and Youth Services, Department of Health & Social Services,             
testified via teleconference from Petersburg in support of the                 
portion of HB 375 establishing the multi-disciplinary teams.  Child            
abuse investigators, such as herself, would greatly benefit from               
having access to the resources that a multi-disciplinary team would            
provide.  She believed that emphasis should be placed on the term              
"resource" versus review.  As Ms. Wibker pointed out, there are                
many reviews that evaluate different functions, but people in the              
field need resources to do a better job relating to investigation              
of child abuse.  Although she is usually able to delineate when                
doing an investigation whether an injury has occurred or a child is            
at risk of harm, there are cases that have come to her attention               
where those definitive lines are not as clear.  That's when she                
relies heavily on a multi-disciplinary team as she goes through the            
investigation process.  In her 25+ years experience in child                   
protection, she has relied on multi-disciplinary teams working                 
closely with law enforcement, prosecutors and medical personnel,               
both in urban and rural settings.  The two things she wanted to                
stress to the committee for consideration were that by doing a                 
collaborative and coordinated approach to child abuse                          
investigations, the trauma to children is significantly minimized              
and secondly, allowing the field personnel such as herself, to draw            
on the expertise and experience of other people is a valuable                  
resource.  She urged the committee to pass the section of HB 375               
dealing with multi-disciplinary teams.                                         
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if Ms. Downs had a problem with information               
from a multi-disciplinary team being made available to law                     
enforcement personnel in the case of criminal activity.                        
MS. DOWNS said she would hope that law enforcement would be an                 
active participant in the process and therefore, would have total              
access to the information.                                                     
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Downs for her comments and asked Ms.                
Buffington to present her remarks at this time.                                
Number 0890                                                                    
DIANA BUFFINGTON testified via teleconference from Kodiak.  She                
said, "I'd like to point out several things in this bill, Mr.                  
Chairman.  Section 1 and a lot of this has been reviewed and put up            
against the U.N. Children's Bill of Rights which was not, I repeat,            
not ratified by the U.S. Congress, although the Children's Bill of             
Rights (indisc.) by the U.N. looked on the outside, many of these              
things - the ramifications of that bill -the reason Congress did               
not pass it, is written up in this bill."  She noted House Bill 375            
will overturn several Supreme Court and Superior Court rulings that            
she felt need to stay in place.  She referred to Section 11                    
regarding criminal nonsupport and said public assistance is added              
to a child support order and it would be very easy to get up to                
$10,000 in criminal nonsupport.  She noted there are over 53,000               
child support cases in this state of which 30,000 are Aid to                   
Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).  She believed that                    
Representative Ryan and Senator Ellis had received information from            
CSED indicating that anywhere from 39,000 to 49,000 cases are in               
arrears and yet if CSED can pull some money out, they will                     
certainly file nonsupport.  With respect to the immunity issue, she            
said no one should have immunity and DFYS and CSED are good at                 
creating omission intentionally to win a favorable court review.               
In conclusion, she said this bill needs to be defeated in its                  
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Buffington for her comments and asked               
Debbie Nelson to present her remarks.                                          
Number 1077                                                                    
DEBBIE NELSON testified from Kenai via teleconference in opposition            
to HB 375.                                                                     
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Nelson for her remarks and asked Trooper            
Ellis to testify at this time.                                                 
Number 1111                                                                    
WILLARD S. ELLIS, Trooper, Alaska State Troopers, Department of                
Public Safety, testified via teleconference from Petersburg                    
regarding the multi-disciplinary teams.  He's been a trooper for               
17+ years working in Palmer, Cold Bay and Petersburg working child             
investigations in all three locations.  He's had specialized                   
training on child abuse investigation and sexual assault response              
team training.  He said the purpose of the team is to facilitate               
civil investigations between two or more agencies over a specific              
incident and the use of a team helps to protect a child from                   
further traumatization.  By having the agencies work together as a             
team, the victim isn't asked to tell the story to each agency at               
different times.  These teams are usually made up of an individual             
from the police department, a social worker, a medical                         
professional, hopefully a victims' advocate and perhaps a                      
representative of the District Attorney's Office.  He emphasized               
the team is not for agency oversight; it's to protect the victim.              
If the purpose of the team was to provide oversight of an agency,              
he would be inclined to not participate on a team that wasn't to               
protect the victim and help prosecute a case.  With regard to the              
district attorney being in charge of the team, he thought it should            
be developed locally.                                                          
Number 1237                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON asked who had taken the leadership in setting             
up the multi-disciplinary team in the rural areas.                             
TROOPER ELLIS replied it's been his experience that law enforcement            
would take the leadership.                                                     
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Trooper Ellis for commenting and asked Gene             
Altig to comment.                                                              
Number 1256                                                                    
GENE ALTIG testified from Fairbanks via teleconference and said                
HB 375 can't work and should be scrapped.  He added that juries                
handle murder cases; not the DFYS.                                             
CHAIRMAN BUNDE commented he didn't see anything in HB 375 that                 
would supplant the jury system or an investigation by law                      
enforcement.  He thanked Mr. Altig for commenting and asked Anita              
Alves to testify at this time.                                                 
Number 1311                                                                    
ANITA ALVES, Office of Public Advocacy, testified via                          
teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 375.  She wanted to             
briefly address the proposed changes to the court jurisdiction for             
the child in need aid cases.  She often represents delinquents as              
an attorney and as a guardian ad litem and too many times she's sat            
across from a young person awaiting court for angry acts of                    
property damage or assaultive behavior and listened to them                    
describe a childhood of anger and violence in their home.  The                 
emotional harm to children that results from living with and                   
viewing acts of violence is devastating.  The cost of treating                 
these children as teenagers, the cost of locking these children                
away and the cost of the damage these children afflict on the state            
is immense.  The state needs to be able to intervene early in a                
child's life when they are experiencing this type of emotional                 
harm, as well as when they are experiencing physical harm or                   
neglect.  The time to act is when a child is young, working with               
the family, providing resources that the child can live in that                
family as long as it's a safe, stable home.  Once the child becomes            
a delinquent, it's often too late for the children and too late for            
the family.  Passing HB 375 will give these children a chance in               
their life when they're young before it's too late.                            
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Alves for testifying and asked Jane                 
Burchard if HB 375 should be fixed or scrapped.                                
Number 1417                                                                    
JANE BURCHARD testified via teleconference from Fairbanks and said             
HB 375 should be scrapped.                                                     
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Geraldine Brown to present her comments.                  
Number 1433                                                                    
GERALDINE BROWN testified via teleconference from Fairbanks and                
urged the committee not to pass HB 375 or anything that gives the              
DFYS any more power.                                                           
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Brown and asked Harry Niehaus to                    
Number 1481                                                                    
HARRY NIEHAUS testified from Fairbanks via teleconference in                   
opposition to HB 375.  He referred to a Supreme Court case that has            
granted social workers and others absolute quasi-judicial immunity;            
they are immune to perjury, manufacturing evidence, et cetera.  He             
said, "Therefore, if we are to sue them, we have to do it in their             
official and unofficial capacity."  There has never been a                     
successful prosecution or suit against the agency.                             
CHAIRMAN BUNDE inquired if the state has ever been sued and the                
people have prevailed.                                                         
MS. WIBKER said the DFYS gets sued five to six times a year and                
yes, people do prevail.                                                        
CHAIRMAN BUNDE commented he would continue with the public                     
testimony and asked Charles Rollins if HB 375 should be fixed or               
Number 1597                                                                    
CHARLES ROLLINS testified via teleconference from Fairbanks and                
said HB 375 should be scrapped.  The bill is too long and is not               
well written.                                                                  
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Betty Rollins to present her comments next.               
Number 1686                                                                    
BETTY ROLLINS testified via teleconference from Fairbanks in                   
opposition to HB 375.  She said it attempts to cover far too many              
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced HB 375 would be heard again in committee              
on Tuesday, March 24 but teleconference would be restricted to                 
listen only, as the committee would be addressing the issues.                  
Public testimony would again be taken once the committee has worked            
on the bill.                                                                   
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Rollins for her comments and asked Paul             
Nelson to present his statement.                                               
Number 1773                                                                    
PAUL NELSON testified offnet from Haines and said the Governor's               
transmittal letter that accompanied HB 375 states, "More than                  
15,500 reports of child abuse or neglect were filed last year in               
Alaska."  He said while this may be true, the Governor does not                
indicate how many of these reports were false nor how many                     
convictions actually occurred.  Despite the comments that have been            
made today, this bill seeks to grant total immunity to the DFYS.               
Even the President of the United States is not immune from                     
prosecution; the DFYS should be responsible for their actions.  He             
related his personal experience of having no criminal record,                  
paying child support and not seeing his daughter for 11 years                  
because he refuses to incriminate himself.  His civil rights are               
violated, yet no Alaska court will even address the civil rights               
issue.  He said there are families that live in fear of the DFYS               
and he requested the committee not grant DFYS more power by passing            
HB 375.                                                                        
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. Nelson for his testimony and asked Mr.              
Calder to comment at this time.                                                
Number 1910                                                                    
SCOTT CALDER testified via teleconference from Fairbanks and agreed            
with all the testimony presented against this bill.  He said the               
whole idea of the legislation is wrong.  After years of problems               
with people talking about children being kidnaped, injured while in            
foster care, et cetera, nothing has ever been done to correct those            
problems.  The DFYS is an agency which, in combination with other              
agencies, severely victimizes human beings in the state of Alaska              
and until that's addressed he didn't think there could be any                  
discussion about spending more money on more promises.                         
CHAIRMAN BUNDE reiterated this bill does not propose to spend any              
more money.  He called Pamela Scott forward to present her                     
Number 2023                                                                    
PAMELA SCOTT said she was testifying on behalf of her son.  She's              
a new mother of six weeks; she brought her son home not from the               
hospital, but from his tenth foster care placement.  Her home will             
be his permanent home.  She wanted to address the termination of               
parental rights section of HB 375.  Her son is seven years old and             
has never lived with his biological mother; however, the system is             
set up so she has been able to maintain her parental rights,                   
although she hasn't provided for the child.  She emphasized this               
bill is about child protection and in all the testimony presented,             
no one has talked about the voice of the child.  She is enjoying               
the possibility of being this child's mother for the remainder of              
his minority life and this bill gives her that opportunity.  She               
said there are foster children who want permanent placement and                
there are people who are capable and able to provide permanent care            
homes - adoptive care as well as permanent guardianship for                    
children in the system - but children are not given that                       
opportunity because the way the system is set up now, the children             
are not protected and parents are given too many rights.  She said             
there are things in this bill that are essential to protecting                 
children.  Children need love, stability and consistency which they            
can't get through foster care placement when they are moved from               
place to place.                                                                
CHAIRMAN BUNDE on behalf of the committee congratulated Ms. Scott              
on becoming a parent.  He asked Don Dapcevich to come forward to               
present his remarks.                                                           
Number 2258                                                                    
DON DAPCEVICH, Executive Director, State Advisory Board on                     
Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Department of Health & Social Services,             
said he had been instructed by the board to come before the                    
committee to testify in support of HB 375.  The board started off              
having some misgivings about this bill; some of the issues dealt               
with the seeming difference between 42 CFR, the federal                        
confidentiality rules, and this statute and there was also concern             
about the disincentive for treatment for parents that was present              
in the original bill.  There is, however, a proposed amendment that            
alleviates the fears of the board and they now support HB 375.  He             
said, "We try to walk that very delicate balance between ....                  
TAPE 98-29, SIDE A                                                             
Number 0007                                                                    
MR. DAPCEVICH continued " .... parents.  And the other side of that            
is to get rid of those parents - get those parents out of the lives            
of children when they refuse to or when they fail repeatedly to                
respond to treatment - and you have to make those hard decisions               
and I think this bill begins that process in getting to good                   
decisions with regard to protecting our children, which has to come            
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Mr. Dapcevich for his comments and called               
Jayne Andreen forward to present her comments.                                 
Number 0064                                                                    
JAYNE ANDREEN, Executive Director, Council on Domestic Violence &              
Sexual Assault, Department of Public Safety, said the council is               
supportive of HB 375; it's definitely fixable.  She said,                      
"Yesterday I talked about the increasing realization we have of the            
impact that domestic violence has on children.  We know that they              
are too often primary victims of child abuse.  We are starting to              
also recognize and realize what an impact it has on them as                    
secondary victims - just being in the home where domestic violence             
exists.  One of the things I want to share with you is during the              
Domestic Violence Summit, the children and youth focus group which             
spent most of one day looking specifically at children and youth               
issues and how that pertains to domestic violence, said                        
specifically that we need to define the emotional harm and include             
in that the witnessing of domestic violence."  She worked at the               
front lines of domestic violence for 11 years in Alaska and her                
greatest frustration with the DFYS was the fact they could never do            
enough for far too many children and it had nothing to do with a               
lack of compassion of the social workers; it had to do with a lack             
of resources and the lack of appropriate laws and structure.  She              
thought this legislation does an excellent job of recrafting how               
the state approaches the protection of children, which has to be               
done.  At the same time, it's important to be careful about how to             
respond to children in situations where domestic violence exists.              
Similar to Mr. Dapcevich's comments, the council also had some                 
concerns about HB 375, but is comfortable those concerns will be               
addressed in the forthcoming amendment.                                        
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced the committee would be addressing the                 
amendments the following Tuesday.  He thanked Ms. Andreen for her              
comments and asked Lauree Hugonin to come forward.                             
Number 0237                                                                    
LAUREE HUGONIN, Director, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence &                
Sexual Assault, said the network supports several sections of                  
HB 375; those relating to the child murder reclassification, the               
redefining of indecent exposure, the increased sentencing for a                
conviction of criminally negligent homicide when the victim is a               
child, the revisions to the sex offender registration laws and the             
development of the child and fatality review teams.  She                       
specifically wanted to address the emotional harm when children                
witness domestic violence and express some concerns the network has            
with the legislation.  She, too, felt confident the forthcoming                
amendments will address the network's concerns.                                
MS. HUGONIN noted there have been several studies done to see the              
tie-in between child abuse and domestic violence.  A lot of the                
research suggests that as many as 90 percent of children from                  
violent homes actually witness the abuse being perpetrated.  One               
study showed that some fathers deliberately arrange for their                  
children to witness the violence; other studies have shown violence            
occurs only when the children are present.  Unfortunately, male                
children who witness the abuse of mothers by their fathers are more            
likely to become men who batter the male children from homes where             
there's violence.  The decision to leave or stay often depends on              
the mother's assessment of what will be in the best interest of her            
children.  Understanding the mother's reasoning and the many forces            
that shape her decision is really important when looking at                    
ensuring safety for herself and her children.  She informed the                
committee of a couple of studies available in her office; the                  
American Bar Association study called "The Impact of Domestic                  
Violence on Children" and a study entitled "The Overlap Between                
Child Maltreatment and Woman Abuse".  She read the following                   
excerpts from "In the Best Interest of Women and Children; A Call              
for Collaboration Between Child Welfare and Domestic Violence                  
Constituencies:  "He hit me in the stomach when I was pregnant.                
Then he threatened to beat my daughter and you don't ever hit my               
kids.  I tried before, but when it comes to my kids, no more."  It             
was found in this particular study that women would decide to leave            
the home, not when necessarily the abuse was upon themselves, but              
when they felt they could no longer protect their children.  Other             
studies have indicated that some women choose to remain in abusive             
relationships in order to protect their children.                              
MS. HUGONIN stressed there's not this one easy answer to just leave            
and the children will be safe or just stay and the children will be            
safe; it's very situation specific.  She said it's important to                
realize that and to be careful when deciding what to do and how to             
respond in child abuse cases.  If a mother with no resources leaves            
the home, she may not have a choice to be find shelter in a                    
situation that's less than ideal for children, so she may leave her            
children with the abuser because there's a roof over their head,               
they're getting fed and clothed and sometimes the Child Protection             
Agency will step in and say she hasn't protected her child.  On the            
other hand if she stays, she may have that same failure to protect.            
So in both situations, without proper training and experience and              
carefully listening to what the adult victim is saying regarding               
her best safety interest and that of her children, things can be               
done which create more harm.                                                   
MS. HUGONIN stated that with the passage of the Domestic Violence              
Act in 1996, the DFYS was required to start looking at adult                   
victims of domestic violence.  If an adult victim of domestic                  
violence was observed while investigating a report of harm, the                
DFYS case worker would get information and referrals to the adult              
victim.  It's important that all victims in the family and in the              
situation be protected.                                                        
Number 0672                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Ms. Hugonin for her testimony.                          
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced HB 375 would be held in committee and                 
heard the following Tuesday.                                                   
Number 0704                                                                    
CHAIRMAN BUNDE adjourned the House Health, Education and Social                
Services Standing Committee at 5:00 p.m.                                       

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