Legislature(1997 - 1998)

03/24/1998 03:07 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
         HOUSE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL                                    
            SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                        
                   March 24, 1998                                              
                     3:07 p.m.                                                 
                                                                               
                                                                               
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                
                                                                               
Representative Con Bunde, Chairman                                             
Representative Joe Green, Vice Chairman                                        
Representative Brian Porter                                                    
Representative Fred Dyson                                                      
Representative J. Allen Kemplen                                                
Representative Tom Brice                                                       
                                                                               
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                 
                                                                               
Representative Al Vezey                                                        
                                                                               
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                             
                                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 375                                                             
"An Act relating to children in need of aid matters and                        
proceedings; relating to murder of children, criminally negligent              
homicide, kidnapping, criminal nonsupport, the crime of indecent               
exposure, and the crime of endangering the welfare of a child;                 
relating to registration of certain sex offenders; relating to                 
sentencing for certain crimes involving child victims; relating to             
the state medical examiner and reviews of child fatalities;                    
relating to teacher certification and convictions of crimes                    
involving child victims; relating to access, confidentiality, and              
release of certain information concerning the care of children,                
child abuse and neglect, and child fatalities; authorizing the                 
Department of Health and Social Services to enter into an                      
interstate compact concerning adoption and medical assistance for              
certain children with special needs; authorizing the establishment             
of a multidisciplinary child protection team to review reports of              
child abuse or neglect; relating to immunity from liability for                
certain state actions concerning matters involving child protection            
and fatality reviews and children in need of aid; relating to                  
persons required to report suspected child abuse or neglect;                   
relating to foster care placement and to payment for children in               
foster and other care and the waiver of certain foster care                    
requirements; relating to the access to certain criminal justice               
information and licensure of certain child care facilities;                    
amending Rule 218, Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure; amending               
Rules 1, 3, 15, 18, and 19, Alaska Child in Need of Aid Rules; and             
providing for an effective date."                                              
                                                                               
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                          
                                                                               
(* First public hearing)                                                       
                                                                               
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                
                                                                               
BILL: HB 375                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN/FOSTER CARE                               
SPONSOR(S): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                   
                                                                               
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                          
 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                        
 3/20/98               (H)  MINUTE(HES)                                        
 3/24/98               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                        
                                                                               
WITNESS REGISTER                                                               
                                                                               
KAREN PERDUE, Commissioner                                                     
Department of Health & Social Services                                         
P.O. Box 110601                                                                
Juneau, Alaska  99811-0601                                                     
Telephone:  (907) 465-3030                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 375 via teleconference.                   
                                                                               
LISA TORKELSON, Legislative Assistant                                          
   to Representative Fred Dyson                                                
Alaska State Legislature                                                       
Capitol Building, Room 428                                                     
Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182                                                      
Telephone:  (907) 465-3467                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on proposed committee substitute                
                     for HB 375.                                               
                                                                               
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:  Testified on proposed committee substitute                
                     for HB 375.                                               
                                                                               
SUSAN COX, Chief, Assistant Attorney General                                   
Civil Division                                                                 
Department of Law                                                              
P.O. Box 110300                                                                
Juneau, Alaska  99811-0300                                                     
Telephone:  (907) 465-3600                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on proposed committee substitute                
                     for HB 375.                                               
                                                                               
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                               
                                                                               
TAPE 98-32, SIDE A                                                             
Number 0007                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN CON BUNDE called the House Health, Education and Social               
Services Standing Committee meeting to order at 3:07 p.m.  Members             
present at the call to order were Representatives Bunde, Porter,               
Dyson and Kemplen.  Representatives Green and Brice arrived at 3:13            
p.m. and 3:14 p.m., respectively.  Representative Vezey was absent.            
                                                                               
HB 375 - CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN/FOSTER CARE                                   
                                                                               
Number 0020                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced the first item on the agenda was HB 375.              
The meeting was teleconferenced for listen only and Commissioner               
Perdue was available to testify offnet.  Chairman Bunde said, "As              
you've heard, we've had some heated testimony on this bill and I               
want to, I guess, establish why at least in my mind we are working             
in this arena and to also establish how this bill will work toward             
accomplishing what I think we all acknowledge are some problems in             
the child protection system."  He asked Commissioner Perdue to                 
bring the committee up to date on the present status of child                  
protection.  He asked if he was correct that statutorily, the                  
Department of Health & Social Services, through the Division of                
Family and Youth Services (DFYS) is required to investigate all                
reports of harm.                                                               
                                                                               
Number 0224                                                                    
                                                                               
KAREN PERDUE, Commissioner, Department of Health & Social Services,            
testifying offnet, said Chairman Bunde was correct, the statute                
states each report of harm shall be investigated.                              
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE commented the realities, however, are the department            
is at the point of not being able to obey the law.                             
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE affirmed that.  She pointed out that over the              
course of the years, the department has done what is referred to as            
"workload adjusting" which prioritizes the calls as they come in.              
Over time it has become more pronounced so now about 3,700 reports             
of harm are workload adjusted which Commissioner Perdue believes               
should, under statute, be investigated.                                        
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE recalled that over the past four or five years,                 
there have been about 5,000 reported cases of harm per year that               
were not investigated.                                                         
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE stated that figure may be a little overstated.             
She went on to explain that of those 5,000 reported cases, there's             
probably about 1,000 - 1,500 for which the department didn't have              
enough information.  So realistically there's probably 3,000 -                 
4,000 reported cases each year that are not being looked into.                 
                                                                               
Number 0288                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE reaffirmed that if a report of harm is received, the            
department, statutorily, doesn't have the choice to not investigate            
the report, but in some cases it can't be looked into because of a             
lack of information.                                                           
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said that was correct; for example, sometimes              
a caller isn't specific enough with the name, address or                       
whereabouts of the child.                                                      
                                                                               
Number 0319                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE concluded that in the last five years there have                
been approximately 15,000 - 20,000 reports of harm that have not               
been investigated.                                                             
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE thought that was a fair assumption.                        
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Commissioner Perdue to explain how this                   
legislation will reduce the number of reports of harm not being                
investigated.                                                                  
                                                                               
Number 0370                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE replied, "In comparing our system with other               
systems, we have a very high number of reports of child abuse in               
our state per capita and many people believe it's because we let               
some cases go where they're multiple reports of harm before we're              
able to go and look in on the situation.  In child protection                  
systems that are functioning effectively, there's a little bit                 
earlier intervention and over time there should be less crises that            
come to the attention of the division and children are not as                  
damaged.  There's not as much time gone by and I think what this               
bill would do would put in place clearer laws that would allow for             
instance, for the state to intervene in cases where there's serious            
substance abuse or a child is living in a crack house, those kinds             
of things.  Those are areas where we may not be able to intervene              
right now.  So over time what we would have, I think, is a more                
efficient system."                                                             
                                                                               
Number 0442                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE noted there's an old expression in the legislature,             
"Bad cases make bad law" and the cases that are brought to                     
legislature's attention are, of course, the worst cases.  The other            
side of that is the people who contact their legislator because                
they feel they've been treated in an unfair manner.  He asked                  
Commissioner Perdue if this legislation would address that                     
situation or do changes need to be made in basic managerial                    
procedures?                                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE said she believes there needs to be more                   
accountability for and more oversight of the system.  There are                
administrative changes in the bill that should lead to that; for               
example, foster parents having a more formal role as another set of            
eyes and ears for the child and having the multidisciplinary teams             
reviewing situations.  In other words, sharing the responsibility              
and oversight will help to ensure there are checks and balances in             
the system.  She said that, by itself, probably isn't enough;                  
administrative reviews need to be in place to make sure that                   
consistent decisions are being made statewide to ensure that                   
children in all parts of the state are being treated under the same            
standard.                                                                      
                                                                               
Number 0565                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE acknowledged the multidisciplinary teams are                    
addressed in this bill.  However, constituents working in the child            
care or medical field have expressed a high level of frustration               
with the lack of interagency cooperation, some people referring to             
it as a "turf battle."  Chairman Bunde asked Commissioner Perdue               
what changes the legislature could make that would help promote an             
interdisciplinary approach.                                                    
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE responded, "Well, I think, just off the top of             
my head, I don't think that some of these important decisions                  
should be made in isolation by one person.  I feel as though some              
of these decisions are so important that we should, in the very                
serious cases, have other levels of review - of course, we always              
have the courts when we remove the child, but in terms of how long             
we're taking to process a case and so on - I think that having                 
multidisciplinary teams and others involved in decision making is              
important.  You have to balance that against the issue of how                  
quickly the system needs to move because when you get more people              
involved, it sometimes takes more time.  So, you don't want to tie             
up the system at the emergency point with all kinds of coordination            
but you need to have regular points along way for somebody who is              
looking at the system.  Not inconsistent with federal changes that             
happened in November, this bill has a situation where the court is             
more heavily involved in a more frequent basis in the review time              
on the cases where the child is in state custody."                             
                                                                               
Number 0706                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE said another concern that's come to the committee's             
attention is that of the lack of training, or sophistication of                
some of the people who are hired and become social workers in name             
only.  He asked if Commissioner Perdue saw this as an issue that               
should be and could be addressed and if hiring individuals with a              
higher level of training would alleviate some of this problem.                 
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE replied this is a labor intensive business and             
the quality of the workforce is directly related to quality of                 
decision making and how much support and training is given to                  
workers.  She explained about 90 percent of the workers have a                 
college diploma and about 44 percent have a master's degree or                 
bachelor's degree in social work.  She wasn't convinced that an                
individual needed to be a social worker in order to do this type of            
work; frankly, some of the best workers are those with a lot of                
time in the field and may not have the right degree on paper.  The             
common denominator as she sees it, is reducing the turnover thereby            
reducing the vacancy, which means workers have to be supported                 
which in turn means they have to be trained.  She agreed the                   
minimum qualifications should be revised upward, but she didn't                
want to discount those long time workers who are doing excellent               
work without having a degree in social work.  The department's                 
training efforts have fluctuated over the years but it is currently            
working to establish a permanent arrangement with the University of            
Alaska for an ongoing academy much like the Alaska State Troopers              
using some federal dollars.                                                    
                                                                               
Number 0858                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE commented that while HB 375 doesn't address the                 
issue of training, he's hopeful Commissioner Perdue had indicated              
the department would be trying to hire more highly qualified                   
people.  Obviously, it's less expensive to hire someone who has the            
education and training than to hire someone who requires all the               
training.  He stressed it's not only important for the public to               
have confidence in the process, but the Administration must be                 
comfortable the process is working.                                            
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE added that in terms of frustration, when                   
turnover is high, there's a number of different people working on              
the same case which translates to interruption in continuity for               
the families, the children and the foster parents.  Therefore, a               
reduction in turnover and vacancy should result in better                      
efficiencies for the public.  She pointed out the department is the            
best it's been in seven years in terms of vacancies.                           
                                                                               
Number 0949                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE noted the legislature has been concerned that funded            
vacant positions be filled in a timely manner.  In an earlier                  
hearing, Chairman Bunde had asked who was the one person                       
responsible when these children "fall through the cracks" or who               
should be complimented when the system works properly.  While HB
375 doesn't address that issue, he had thought Commissioner Perdue             
had indicated that from a management point of view, there will be              
people specifically responsible for following a child through the              
process and reducing the number of workers families have to talk               
to, reducing the number of times children have to be interviewed               
and attempting to reduce the opportunities for a child to "fall                
through the cracks."                                                           
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE recalled that her answer to Chairman Bunde's               
question was that she has the responsibility as a manager to make              
improvements to the system and is very committed and serious about             
that.  It's a big job and while there's a lot to do, the department            
is reducing vacancies, improving training, hoping to have foster               
parents more actively involved in the process and the long term                
goal is to intervene more productively with families earlier and               
not to have children waiting in the system for long periods of                 
time.                                                                          
                                                                               
Number 1045                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE stressed that obviously was the goal of the                     
committee as well.  He commented this problem has been building and            
ongoing for a number of years and while no answers or conclusions              
have been reached, this legislation attempts to work with the                  
department to help solve the problems.  If this bill becomes law,              
the legislature will be following to see that it does, along with              
some managerial changes, allow the department to meet the statutory            
requirement to investigate all reports of harm.                                
                                                                               
COMMISSIONER PERDUE wanted to point out that even though this isn't            
an issue for consideration in this committee, the third part of the            
equation, beyond accountability and new laws, is there's simply                
not enough bodies to investigate all reports of harm.  She said                
that issue will be addressed in the budget.                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE reiterated frustration on the part of the                       
legislature because the department has been slow to fill positions             
which have been funded.  The legislature will be watching with                 
interest to see that the department is able to fill the positions              
more rapidly.  He emphasized it's Commissioner Perdue's                        
responsibility to keep the legislature aware of the challenges                 
facing the department and the problems with the system.  It's                  
unfortunate the legislature had to wait this long and that it took             
tragedies to encourage everyone to move on the issue.  In summary,             
Chairman Bunde said the legislature is committed to working with               
the department on this piece of legislation and whatever iteration             
it takes as it moves through the legislative process.                          
Additionally, the legislature, aware there's been problems with the            
system, will be closely monitoring the system and asks the                     
commissioner to inform the legislature in a timely manner if this              
doesn't correct the problems.                                                  
                                                                               
Number 1182                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced that Representative Dyson had drafted a               
committee substitute and Representative Brice had an amendment.                
                                                                               
Number 1234                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE FRED DYSON made a motion to adopt proposed committee            
substitute 0-GH2009\B, Lauterbach, 3/23/98, as a work draft.                   
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE objected for discussion purposes.                     
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Representative Brice to speak to his                      
objection.                                                                     
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said, "Frankly, it is a 56-page committee                 
substitute; the original bill was only 49 - there's 7 or 8 pages of            
other stuff that I'm just not sure that I want to be on record to              
support or oppose one way another at this point in time and this               
was the first day that I've gotten it.  Just to get that on                    
record."                                                                       
                                                                               
Number 1279                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE removed his objection after stating his                   
concerns.                                                                      
                                                                               
Number 1299                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON apologized to committee members about the                 
lateness of the proposed committee substitute, but his office had              
just received the document from Legislative Legal Services.  He                
noted that a number of individuals from the Administration had                 
spent an inordinate amount of hours working on the proposed                    
committee substitute and most of the differences between the                   
proposed committee substitute and the Governor's bill have been                
agreed upon by the Administration with the exception of the                    
leadership of the multidisciplinary team.                                      
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Susan Wibker and Lisa Torkelson to come                   
forward to the witness table.                                                  
                                                                               
Number 1385                                                                    
                                                                               
LISA TORKELSON, Legislative Assistant to Representative Fred Dyson,            
Alaska State Legislature, explained the rough summary of changes               
distributed to committee members had actually been prepared prior              
to the drafting of the proposed committee substitute and doesn't               
reflect all the changes.  She noted the sexual offender                        
registration sections were removed due to the single subject                   
requirement because it didn't relate to children.                              
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Representative Dyson to explain why Section 1             
should be codified and remain in statute.                                      
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON said the Division of Family and Youth Services            
has indicated that part of the problem has been a change that was              
made to the law in 1992 which places the primary emphasis and                  
states the intent to be the preservation of the birth family.  The             
division has argued the result of that change has been an over-                
emphasis on unification or reunification of the birth family to the            
point that children have been left in jeopardy or placed in                    
jeopardy and harm.  The new intent language in the proposed                    
committee substitute states the primary goal is a safe and                     
permanent home for the child with, of course, the first option                 
being the reunification and support of that home.                              
                                                                               
Number 1542                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE recalled a discussion regarding children's rights               
versus parents' rights.  He asked Ms. Wibker if the new Section 1              
will address that issue adequately and does it also then reduce                
some of the tort considerations.                                               
                                                                               
SUSAN WIBKER, Assistant Attorney General, Human Services Section,              
Civil Division, Department of Law, announced that Assistant                    
Attorney General, Susan Cox, who specializes in torts was available            
to answer questions.  She added if that language is in statute,                
there will need to be parallel language in the immunity section.               
                                                                               
Number 1594                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. TORKELSON explained that according to Terri Lauterbach of                  
Legislative Legal Service, Section 1(a) of the E Version was moved             
to Section 24 of the proposed committee substitute as a new                    
AS 47.05.065.                                                                  
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE noted there had been a number of concerns expressed             
by the public regarding indemnity for DFYS workers over and above              
that which is inherent with a state employee.  He asked Ms. Cox to             
speak to the rights section and the protection section having to be            
parallel.                                                                      
                                                                               
Number 1617                                                                    
                                                                               
SUSAN COX, Chief, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division,                  
Department of Law, reiterated that the language in Section 1                   
pertaining to children's rights has been codified in Section 24 as             
AS 47.05.065, Legislative Findings Relating to Children.  She noted            
the previously identified "rights" in the previous version are now             
expanded greatly in the new section.  She said the department has              
a concern in creating these rights if there is implied in that a               
duty or an obligation on the state's part to see to it that all                
children in the state have a safe and happy childhood, reasonable              
safety and adequate treatment, permanency with a safe, loving                  
family and the rest of the things listed.  She said one way to deal            
with that is to make it clear these are the goals and this is what             
the legislature would like to see in an ideal world, while at the              
same time, stating the legislature is not creating a new duty or               
standard of care that the state is now the guarantor of every                  
child's happy childhood or is not creating an impossible burden                
for DFYS and others involved in the process.                                   
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE surmised that would address the immunity issue.                 
                                                                               
MS. COX interjected, "Well, there are several things you can do and            
actually I think I should clarify some terms because when you first            
asked me a question, you referred to indemnity and that isn't the              
same thing.  Immunity actually prevents someone from suing or                  
getting civil damages in a personal injury or negligence action in             
certain circumstances - however you define the immunity.  We've got            
two issues here, you don't have to reach the question of immunity              
if you say up-front that we're not going to recognize a civil                  
action -- that these findings aren't creating a duty that give rise            
to civil lawsuits for damages -- and then you don't have to address            
the immunity of the people involved.  The immunity provision that              
was in the previous bill has been reworked in this committee                   
substitute - it's in Section 53 and it was before.  Basically the              
first sentence says that the bill did not create a duty or a                   
standard of care and then it goes on -- the other version had a                
different immunity provision that followed."                                   
                                                                               
Number 1787                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if Ms. Cox was of the opinion the proposed                
committee substitute did not require an immunity provision.                    
                                                                               
MS. COX referred to the statement in Section 53, "Nothing in this              
title [meaning AS 47] creates a duty or standard of care for                   
service to children and their families" and said that is an                    
important statement to make in order to prevent the Findings in                
Section 24 from creating an overwhelming burden on the state of                
guaranteeing every child's happiness.  She said there is a section             
in the proposed committee substitute that states, ".... subject to             
existing discretionary immunity in state law in AS 09.50.250....".             
Apart from that, the state will be liable for negligent acts or                
omissions; the negligence would be presumably determined by the                
court as it would be currently under normal and duty and (indisc.).            
                                                                               
Number 1834                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE surmised this proposed committee substitute creates             
no more immunity than that which exists for state employees in                 
general.                                                                       
                                                                               
MS. COX replied that Section 53 as written, states the immunity                
will continue that is currently available under AS 09.50.250 but               
that there can be liability for negligence.  She noted there may be            
a problem if it is read to repeal other immunity that's not in the             
statute that's referenced; e.g., judicial immunity, quasi-judicial             
immunity and other types of immunity that have been recognized by              
the courts.                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Ms. Cox to review this issue and report back              
to the committee at the next meeting.  He said it is the goal of               
the Chair to reduce the need for extraordinary immunity for child              
care workers.                                                                  
                                                                               
Number 1882                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER said, "It's my reading of this that -              
I wouldn't pass this unless I put immunity for parents in here                 
because we're guaranteeing a right to happiness in a child and it's            
the parent's responsibility to nurture and ...."                               
                                                                               
Number 1919                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. COX agreed to work on this issue. She said her only other                  
comment on immunity relates to the local, regional and district                
child fatality review teams getting the same immunity provided to              
the state child fatality review team under AS 12.65.140, but the               
draft has eliminated any immunity to the state team in AS                      
12.65.140.  She stated, "I think if you would consider the policy              
justifications for providing immunity to those teams, these are                
people who, after the death of a child, are appointed to look into             
the cause and the Governor's original bill did provide immunity for            
their duties in that regard and I think we've got a lot of nonstate            
employees who could potentially be asked to serve on those teams               
and if they're not going to be immunized for their jobs, it may be             
very difficult to find anyone to serve in that capacity."                      
                                                                               
Number 1965                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. TORKELSON pointed out that Legislative Legal Services has not              
completed the drafting on the state child fatality review teams.               
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE noted he would hold his questions on the state child            
fatality review team until the next meeting.  He asked if the                  
definition of abandonment in Section 28 of the proposed committee              
substitute had changed significantly from the previous version.                
                                                                               
Number 2019                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER noted it was on page 22 of the proposed committee                   
substitute and said it appeared to be different.                               
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE recalled the committee passed a bill out of                     
committee the previous week relating to poverty in Child in Need of            
Aid (CINA) cases.  He asked if Representative Dyson was rolling                
that proviso into Section 28?                                                  
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON said that had been his intention.                         
                                                                               
MS. TORKELSON said, "Instead of as a part of the CINA portion, it              
was just taken out and put into its own section 47.10.019 so that              
this poverty exclusion would take care - like blanket all the CINA             
proceedings rather than just that one -- I think it was 47.10.011              
in the Governor's version -- instead of putting in a little tiny               
portion of the CINA proceedings, it was put in so it would cover               
everything."                                                                   
                                                                               
Number 2124                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE next referred to Section 34 relating to removing the            
predator rather than the child from the home and said he assumed               
that would relate to a two-parent family or some kind of extended              
family.                                                                        
                                                                               
MS. TORKELSON responded this language was taken from laws of other             
states; instead of only focusing on removing the child, it looks to            
determine if it's in the best interest of the child to remove the              
predator.                                                                      
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if this language would create legal problems?             
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said from a legal standpoint, it's fine.  It's done                 
quite frequently because there's a federal duty to try to prevent              
removal and one of the ways to prevent the traumatic removal of a              
child from a safe parent is to keep the child with the nonoffending            
parent if the other parent is violent.  Often, if the nonoffending             
parent is a protective, good caretaker for the child, the worker               
will ask the court for a no-contact order that prevents the                    
offending, violent parent from being in contact with the child, the            
residence or family until certain conditions are met.  She said the            
state has offered amendments specifically addressing this issue, to            
make it very clear, particularly in cases of domestic violence.                
                                                                               
Number 2186                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE recalled that Ms. Wibker had been asked to give the             
committee an overview in terms of which sections of the original               
HB 375 are in response to federal mandates and requested that she              
provide a similar overview after reviewing the proposed committee              
substitute.                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER explained she had highlighted everything in the original            
HB 375 that was required by federal law and she would be happy to              
do the same with the proposed committee substitute.                            
                                                                               
Number 2234                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE pointed out the committee would go over the original            
HB 375 which is the genesis of the proposed committee substitute to            
determine what is federally mandated versus state generated.                   
                                                                               
Number 2244                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER noted some things are federally required because of a               
conflict with existing law, while other things are now allowed by              
the federal government that were not previously allowed; in other              
words it's permissive.  She directed the committee's attention to              
the first change on page 13, Section 18 of the original bill [0-               
GH2009.A] and explained that federal law allows the states to use              
child fatality review teams and to apply for grant money for those             
teams.  However, if the child fatality review teams are created,               
the statute must contain a provision that the reports can be made              
public.                                                                        
                                                                               
Number 2290                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if Ms. Wibker was saying that                      
information from a child fatality review team is public?                       
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER responded some of it is public information.  Of course,             
an identifying name cannot be revealed, but the child fatality                 
review team could release an annual public report indicating the               
team had reviewed 25 deaths of children; causes of death in the                
state of Alaska among children are such and such; a summarization              
of findings and data; et cetera.                                               
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER interjected the child fatality review team               
could not present information to the District Attorney for                     
prosecution.                                                                   
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER stressed it could be released; it's a prosecution tool.             
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked how that could be done without                     
revealing the name.                                                            
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER explained the reason this team exists is to do a cause              
of death determination, so the troopers and law enforcement will do            
their investigation ....                                                       
                                                                               
TAPE 98-32, SIDE B                                                             
Number 0001                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said he thought Ms. Wibker had inferred last             
week that because the complaint was originated from CINA records it            
had to remain confidential.                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER responded the records can be provided to the district               
attorney; CINA records can't be made public, but the information               
can be provided to the district attorney for prosecution.                      
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER inquired if there would be a problem with the            
name becoming public through a trial.                                          
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said it would become public through the trial.  If,                 
however, there's no prosecution for example, and the child fatality            
review team reviews ten deaths and determines those deaths were the            
result of a virus, the report couldn't release specific names.                 
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said he had thought it was a bar to                      
prosecution.                                                                   
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said it's a tool.  She explained there are about 100                
deaths per year among children in the state and there is suspect               
10-12 of those are probably homicides that get written off as                  
natural causes, accidental deaths, et cetera.  This provision                  
allows the law enforcement team to have a review to determine if               
it's really a homicide and if that team, after reviewing                       
everything, decides it's a homicide not an accident, the team will             
take it to the District Attorney's Office.  The idea is to promote             
prosecution of homicides and not let it slip through the cracks as             
accidental death.  He said this provision complies with the federal            
requirement in that it does allow the team to make reports public,             
although their meetings would not be.                                          
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER stated the change on page 26, line 12, Section 32, is a             
federally-mandated change that people caring for children in out-              
of-home care be given notice of hearings and an opportunity to be              
heard.                                                                         
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if Ms. Wibker was familiar with the foster                
care review panel legislation that passed last year and if so,                 
would it come into play with this change.                                      
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER noted that foster parents can attend reviews as well as             
hearings.                                                                      
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON interjected that was another issue.                       
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE explained the legislation passed basically follows              
a child through the entire process from the time the child is taken            
into custody and goes into foster care.  It appeared to him that               
legislation would be the vehicle for providing this review.                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER explained this provision allows foster parents to go to             
court and attend court hearings, as well as reviews.  In the past,             
a foster parent wasn't a party, and a party can attend court.                  
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE conceded this is a different situation.                         
                                                                               
Number 0137                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER referred to page 28, lines 14-17, and said federal law              
requires a permanency hearing in 12 months and every 12 months                 
thereafter.                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE inquired if this would apply to the situation where             
a parent involved in substance abuse would have 12 months to get               
treatment.                                                                     
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said that was correct.  Once the child is removed, a                
permanency hearing will take place in one year to review what has              
happened and every year thereafter.  This change is federally                  
mandated.  She said page 29, lines 11-18, requires the first                   
permanency hearing in 12 months rather than 18 months.                         
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER directed the committee's attention to Section 40 on page            
30, beginning at line 17 through the end of the page and said this             
is a federally mandated change as is page 31 in its entirety with              
the exception of lines 18-22.  The language on lines 18-22 is added            
by the state and deals with situations where the state would not be            
required to make reasonable efforts to return a child home.  In                
addition to the situations in federal law, the state added language            
to include cases whereby a parent has committed the homicide of the            
other parent of the child, such as the O.J. Simpson case.  The                 
language which reads "the parent or guardian is incarcerated and               
unavailable to care for the child during a significant period of               
the child's minority considering the child's age and need for care             
by an adult" was added for two reasons:  first, because it's                   
grounds for termination of parental rights under existing state law            
and secondly, there are many parents who demand all their parental             
rights while in jail.  She explained that it seems ridiculous to               
require a social worker to take the child to visit an incarcerated             
parent when that parent isn't going to be available to raise the               
child.                                                                         
                                                                               
Number 0269                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE noted that O.J. Simpson was found innocent                
criminally, but charged with wrongful death civilly and asked if               
that would apply to this situation.                                            
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER replied yes.  According to the federal attorneys giving             
technical assistance to the Department of Law, it was their intent             
to cover civil findings which is by a preponderance.                           
                                                                               
Number 0295                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER next referred to page 32, lines 2-3, and said while the             
language proposed by federal law is, "the child's health and safety            
shall be the paramount consideration", the state is allowed to give            
children more protection, but not less than what is required                   
federally.  The state chose to use the term "child's best                      
interests" to allow the court to consider more than just health and            
safety.                                                                        
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER directed the committee's attention to the Termination of            
Parental rights and responsibilities on page 32 and said lines 4-30            
are state law and line 31 on page 32 and almost all of page 33 are             
mandated federal changes.  She explained federal law now requires              
the state to file petitions to terminate parental rights in certain            
situations that are listed on page 33.  The exceptions which are               
state law, not federal law, are found on page 33, lines 11-14.  The            
language on page 34, lines 7-13 is a federally mandated change                 
requiring the state to do concurrent planning which means even if              
reasonable efforts are made to return the child home, permanent                
planning should also be done.                                                  
                                                                               
Number 0459                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said the change on page 40, lines 25, 26, 27 and one                
word on line 28 is permissive under federal law.  She explained                
it's an important change for increasing the tenure of foster                   
parents.  The remaining language on page 40 is existing state law              
and is not required change under federal law.                                  
                                                                               
Number 0497                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said the language pertaining to the use of                          
multidisciplinary teams on page 41, Section 52, is also a                      
permissive change.                                                             
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE said he had previously commented on the frustrations            
expressed by individuals working in other areas of child                       
protection, and he wanted to confirm this language would change the            
management style so there would be multidisciplinary teams.                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said that was correct.  This is supported by the                    
department; it increases team work, it increases exchange of                   
information and so on.                                                         
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked if this section was incorporated into the                 
proposed committee substitute.                                                 
                                                                               
MS. TORKELSON replied it is carried over in a modified form.                   
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER added the entire section on multidisciplinary teams is              
a permissive change.  She explained the statute allows people to               
share information without violating confidentiality so they can                
work on teams.  She noted that Chairman Bunde had earlier commented            
that bad cases make bad law; this is a great example of learning               
from the mistakes in bad cases.  She said, "When we go back and try            
to learn from bad cases, what we learn is often in state agencies -            
the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing and if                 
everybody could share information, you get a much better result."              
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER thought the law had been changed three or                
four years ago to allow public agencies to share information with              
other state agencies.                                                          
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said the confidentiality restrictions that allow the                
state to give more information to law enforcement and the public               
have been amended several times.                                               
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER thought it had been constructed to allow all             
of the agencies wanting to participate in these teams to be able to            
do so without any need for additional confidentiality legislation.             
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN asked if this section was permissive.                 
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said it's something the federal law allows and there's              
also grant money available to states for research and the use                  
different models.                                                              
                                                                               
Number 0644                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER next referred to page 44, Section 58, and said federal              
law requires states to do criminal background checks, including                
federal criminal background checks, using fingerprint                          
identification on any placement home to be licensed or paid by the             
state to care for children.  She had worked with the Department of             
Public Safety in developing a plan to include the federal                      
requirements and the specific requirements are contained in                    
subsection (6) on the bottom of page 44, regarding two sets of                 
fingerprints.                                                                  
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE assumed that child care facilities wouldn't have to             
comply with this since they are not considered foster care.                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said if a child care facility is licensed and gets paid,            
it must comply.                                                                
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE commented that apparently licensed facilities in                
Alaska are not included in the required reporting of suspected                 
abuse.                                                                         
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said child care providers are specified in the mandated             
reporting statute and must report suspected abuse or neglect.                  
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER continued to explain the state is giving more protection            
than what's required by proposing that anyone in a licensed home               
who would be caring for children would be required to go through               
this process.  Also, the state is proposing an amendment that would            
include the requirement that anyone in the home over the age of 16             
be subject to this process so the fingerprints of juveniles who                
have been waived as adults will be in the system.  So if a foster              
family applying for a license has a child living in the home who               
has been convicted as an adult in another state, the fingerprint               
background check will identify that individual.                                
                                                                               
Number 0751                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON said he thought the proposed committee                    
substitute set an age requirement of 12 for this section.                      
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said, "Let me suggest to you why 12 is not workable                 
right now; it will be.  We originally had 12 in our version because            
right now Public Safety and the FBI are working on developing a                
national juvenile Alaska Public Safety Information Network (APSIN)             
where you could run a juvenile through APSIN and get their record              
nationally, which you can't do right now.  That system is not in               
place yet.  Right now if you took fingerprints from a 13 year old,             
they're not going to match anything because there's no system --               
there's nothing to compare them to.  And it's expensive to take two            
sets of fingerprints and have Public Safety ask the FBI to do this             
- it costs I think right now $59 a set - and you're not going to               
get a result unless somebody is convicted under the waiver and has             
been waived into adult court which means they're 16 or older.  So,             
once the juvenile APSIN system is in place, it would be reasonable             
to come back to this and consider lowering that age, but right now             
it's just not a practical thing to do."                                        
                                                                               
Number 0818                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER noted that wasn't totally correct.  A person             
can be waived into the adult system by a means other than just an              
automatic waiver; a 13-year-old person can be waived.                          
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said, "Right.  And if they're tried and convicted as an             
adult, their prints will be in the system and we'll find it, so we             
put anybody over 16."                                                          
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said the fingerprints of a 13-year-old person            
waived into adult court will be in the system but the prints won't             
be available if the person is in the system as a juvenile offender.            
                                                                               
Number 0838                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON wondered why confidential juvenile records                
couldn't be accessed.                                                          
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER said that could be done.                                            
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON then inquired why it couldn't be left at 12               
years of age.                                                                  
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER responded it could be left at 12 but the juvenile                   
records would be Alaska only.                                                  
                                                                               
Number 0866                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER continuing with her overview said Section 59 on page 45             
addresses fingerprint background check requirements for foster care            
placement and emergency placements.  She explained that federal law            
states "any placement" but the problem with that is when a child is            
taken in the middle of the night, there isn't time to do a                     
fingerprint background check and most of the time the child is                 
taken to a licensed facility or to a relative.  A relative not                 
getting paid for this is not subject to these requirements, but                
there are other procedures in place.   She stated, "But if someone             
comes forward and says I would like an emergency license to care               
for these children - sometimes a teacher or a day care provider                
will say I'll take this child in as a foster child - what we put in            
place was a partial procedure where all of the criminal background             
information available immediately could be run.  That person, if               
they meet the federal requirements based on their history, they                
could get a provisional license if they agreed to give us the two              
fingerprints and give us something under oath about their history,             
then they get a provisional license until we get the results of the            
fingerprint check.  So we have some guarantees in place so that we             
don't prevent children from being able to go -- we have people who             
just can't afford to take children and need to get paid and we                 
would have to subject them to whatever we could do immediately to              
give them a provisional license.  Federal law is quite specific                
that there are some things that if they show up in the criminal                
history, you don't get a license ever and some things they will                
allow you to get a license if they're over five years old.  In our             
amendments we gave more protection than federal law requires - we              
actually were broader."                                                        
                                                                               
Number 0988                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER directed the committee's attention to page 46, lines 10-            
13 which requires the department to systematically recheck criminal            
justice information records.  She explained that under existing                
law, the duty is placed on the licensee to notify the department of            
any arrest, charge or indictment.  Rather than relying on the self-            
reports in existing law, HB 375 places the burden of rechecking                
criminal background information on the department.                             
                                                                               
MR. WIBKER said that concluded her overview of the changes and                 
explained that Alaska was already in compliance with some of the               
federal provisions so no state change was required in some areas.              
                                                                               
Number 1043                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE requested that Ms. Wibker be prepared to address the            
committee substitute at the next meeting; specifically to point out            
the federally mandated language versus the permissive language.  He            
noted the public had previously expressed concern this proposed                
legislation did not relate to federal requirements.                            
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Representative Dyson if the proposed committee            
substitute included the provision that information from the                    
multidisciplinary child protection teams would be available to                 
prosecutors, if warranted.                                                     
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON said that was his understanding and in fact,              
it was designed, as was the Governor's bill, to facilitate that                
process.                                                                       
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE noted that Section 53 of the proposed committee                 
substitute deletes the need for immunity except in gross                       
negligence.                                                                    
                                                                               
Number 1144                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. COX explained the original bill provided immunity except in                
circumstances of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.  The              
proposed committee substitute has eliminated immunity for simple               
negligence and instead imposes a liability for negligence or gross             
negligence.                                                                    
                                                                               
Number 1185                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER noted the multidisciplinary child protection             
teams are appointed by the district attorney under the proposed                
committee substitute.                                                          
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON said that was correct.  The Administration                
does not agree with this change; from their perspective the lead               
agency should be the Division of Family and Youth Services.                    
                                                                               
Number 1214                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. TORKELSON noted she is working with Legislative Legal Services             
to modify this language to read the district attorney shall form               
teams at the local level to develop written protocols to include               
who organizes the team, who enforces that everyone is there, et                
cetera.  The Department of Law has indicated they don't have the               
staff or resources to enforce these teams, but they would be                   
willing to commit to writing the protocols.                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE inquired how much of the proposed committee                     
substitute is anticipated to change.                                           
                                                                               
MS. TORKELSON said other than housekeeping changes, the section                
dealing with the multidisciplinary teams will be revised and there             
will be changes dealing with immunity.                                         
                                                                               
Number 1441                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE requested a revised proposed committee substitute               
be made available to committee members and Legislative Information             
Offices as soon as possible.                                                   
                                                                               
Number 1498                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE J. ALLEN KEMPLEN referred to Sec. 11.51.110(a)(3)               
and inquired about a situation in which one parent gets inebriated             
and passes out at a party and the possibility of the other spouse              
accusing the person of endangering the welfare of their child.                 
                                                                               
Number 1606                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE observed that if one parent is passed out but the               
other person is sober, the child is still being carried for.  It               
may be possible, however, for the sober parent to go across the                
street, for example, and make the charge.                                      
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER suggested the language should include "sole              
care" not just caring for the child.                                           
                                                                               
Number 1658                                                                    
                                                                               
MS. WIBKER pointed out under the original bill, the offense is for             
leaving a child when there's not a sober person around.                        
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE stated this is an issue that will be discussed at               
the next meeting.                                                              
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE reiterated his request for Ms. Wibker to address the            
mandated versus permissive language in the revised committee                   
substitute at the next meeting.  Additionally, he requested that               
Mr. Webb or Commissioner Perdue be prepared to express the                     
department's concerns and position.  He announced the committee                
would address HB 375 again on April 2.                                         
                                                                               
ADJOURNMENT                                                                    
                                                                               
Number 1893                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN BUNDE adjourned the House Health, Education and Social                
Services Standing Committee at 4:40 p.m.                                       

Document Name Date/Time Subjects