Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/20/1998 03:17 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 SHORT TITLE: LEGISLATIVE COM. ON FAMILY LAW REFORM 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 SHORT TITLE: CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN/FOSTER CARE 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 Missouri 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 DFYS. 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 others. 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 concerns. 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 CSED. 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 angst. 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 employees. 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 right. 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 legislation. 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 entirety. 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 testify. 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 scrapped. 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 issues. 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 testimony. 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 first." 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. ADJOURNMENT Number 0704 CHAIRMAN BUNDE adjourned the House Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee at 5:00 p.m.