Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/08/1999 03:06 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         HOUSE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL                                                                                     
            SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                                         
                   April 8, 1999                                                                                                
                     3:06 p.m.                                                                                                  
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                                 
Representative Fred Dyson, Co-Chair                                                                                             
Representative John Coghill, Co-Chair                                                                                           
Representative Jim Whitaker                                                                                                     
Representative Joe Green                                                                                                        
Representative Carl Morgan                                                                                                      
Representative Tom Brice                                                                                                        
Representative Allen Kemplen                                                                                                    
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                  
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                              
PRESENTATION BY DIVISION OF FAMILY AND YOUTH SERVICES ON GROUP                                                                  
FOSTER HOMES                                                                                                                    
     - CANCELED                                                                                                                 
* HOUSE BILL NO. 175                                                                                                            
"An Act requiring the Department of Health and Social Services to                                                               
provide notice to a community council on receipt of an application                                                              
for a license to operate a certain kind of foster group home."                                                                  
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
* HOUSE BILL NO. 149                                                                                                            
"An Act relating to insurance coverage for treatment of mental                                                                  
illness and substance abuse; repealing provisions of ch. 8, SLA                                                                 
1997, that terminates required mental health benefit coverage; and                                                              
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
* HOUSE BILL NO. 142                                                                                                            
"An Act relating to the education credit for the fisheries business                                                             
tax and the fisheries resource landing tax; and providing for an                                                                
effective date."                                                                                                                
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
(* First public hearing)                                                                                                        
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                                                                 
BILL: HB 175                                                                                                                    
SHORT TITLE: LICENSING OF FOSTER GROUP HOMES                                                                                    
SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVES(S) GREEN, Dyson, Halcro                                                                             
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                                                                           
 3/31/99       628     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                                                                   
 3/31/99       628     (H)  HES, CRA                                                                                            
 4/06/99       661     (H)  COSPONSOR(S): HALCRO                                                                                
 4/08/99               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                         
BILL: HB 149                                                                                                                    
SHORT TITLE: INSURANCE: MENTAL HEALTH & SUBSTANCE ABUSE                                                                         
SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVES(S) DAVIS BY REQUEST                                                                                 
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                                                                           
 3/19/99       516     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                                                                   
 3/19/99       516     (H)  HES, L&C, FIN                                                                                       
 4/08/99               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                         
BILL: HB 142                                                                                                                    
SHORT TITLE: EDUCATION CREDIT FOR FISHERY TAXES                                                                                 
SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVES(S) DAVIS                                                                                            
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                                                                           
 3/19/99       514     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                                                                   
 3/19/99       514     (H)  HES, FINANCE                                                                                        
 4/08/99               (H)  HES AT  3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                         
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                                
JEFF LOGAN, Legislative Assistant                                                                                               
   to Representative Joe Green                                                                                                  
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Capitol Building, Room 214                                                                                                      
Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                                                                           
Telephone:  (907) 465-3727                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented sponsor statement for HB 175.                                                                    
SONIA VASCONI                                                                                                                   
140 Bree Avenue                                                                                                                 
Anchorage, Alaska  99515                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 345-8830                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in favor of HB 175.                                                                              
GAIL IGO, Co-President                                                                                                          
Anchor Foster Care Association                                                                                                  
1922 Logan                                                                                                                      
Anchorage, Alaska  99508                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 272-4948                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 175.                                                                                       
MARBETH JOHNS, Advocate                                                                                                         
Disability Law Center of Alaska                                                                                                 
615 East 82nd, Number 101                                                                                                       
Anchorage, Alaska  99518                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 344-1002                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 175.                                                                                       
CHERYL SHROYER                                                                                                                  
220 Bree Avenue                                                                                                                 
Anchorage, Alaska  99515                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 345-0859                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 175.                                                                            
HEIDI POLLARD                                                                                                                   
220 Bree Avenue                                                                                                                 
Anchorage, Alaska  99515                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 345-3152                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 175.                                                                            
BOB BELL, Assemblyman                                                                                                           
Anchorage Assembly                                                                                                              
2610 Curlew Circle                                                                                                              
Anchorage, Alaska  99515                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 343-2430                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 175.                                                                                       
JEFF JESSEE                                                                                                                     
13030 Back Road                                                                                                                 
Anchorage, Alaska  99515                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 269-7960                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 175.                                                                                       
JAY BUSH, Administrator                                                                                                         
Customer Satisfaction and Quality Assurance                                                                                     
Hope Community Resources                                                                                                        
540 West International Airport Road                                                                                             
Anchorage, Alaska  99518                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 564-7434                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified against HB 175.                                                                                  
JOHN VOTE                                                                                                                       
311 Bree Avenue                                                                                                                 
Anchorage, Alaska  99515                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 348-0209                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 175.                                                                                       
KRISTAN JEZ, Development Director                                                                                               
Hope Community Resources                                                                                                        
540 West International Airport Road                                                                                             
Anchorage, Alaska  99518                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 564-7434                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified against HB 175.                                                                                  
RACHEL FARALAN                                                                                                                  
Alternative Community Mental Health Center                                                                                      
11644 Eagle River Loop Road Spur                                                                                                
Eagle River, Alaska  99577                                                                                                      
Telephone:  (907) 694-7644                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified against HB 175.                                                                                  
KARIN ST. CLAIR                                                                                                                 
5904 Buckner Drive                                                                                                              
Anchorage, Alaska  99504                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 338-8716                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified against HB 175.                                                                                  
PELTON GOUDEY                                                                                                                   
1922 Logan Street                                                                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska  99508                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 272-4948                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 175.                                                                                       
RITA BARRAS                                                                                                                     
4261 Chelsea Way                                                                                                                
Anchorage, Alaska  99504                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 333-6220                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified against HB 175.                                                                                  
STEPHANI SOCK                                                                                                                   
9763 Newhaven Loop                                                                                                              
Anchorage, Alaska  99507                                                                                                        
Telephone:  (907) 349-0380                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified against HB 175.                                                                                  
RUSS WEBB, Deputy Commissioner                                                                                                  
Department of Health and Social Services                                                                                        
P.O. Box 110650                                                                                                                 
Juneau, Alaska  99811                                                                                                           
Telephone:  (907) 465-3030                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided information on HB 175.                                                                            
THERESA TANOURY, Administrator                                                                                                  
Family Services                                                                                                                 
Division of Family and Youth Services                                                                                           
Department of Health and Social Services                                                                                        
P.O. Box 110650                                                                                                                 
Juneau, Alaska  99811                                                                                                           
Telephone:  (907) 465-3191                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided information on HB 175.                                                                            
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                                
TAPE 99-31, SIDE A                                                                                                              
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON called the House Health, Education and Social                                                                 
Services Standing Committee meeting to order at 3:06 p.m.  Members                                                              
present at the call to order were Representatives Dyson, Coghill,                                                               
Green, Morgan, Brice and Kemplen.  Representative Whitaker joined                                                               
the meeting at 3:13 p.m.                                                                                                        
HB 175 - LICENSING OF FOSTER GROUP HOMES                                                                                        
Number 0052                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON announced the first order of business as House                                                                
Bill No. 175, "An Act requiring the Department of Health and Social                                                             
Services to provide notice to a community council on receipt of an                                                              
application for a license to operate a certain kind of foster group                                                             
JEFF LOGAN, Legislative Assistant to Representative Joe Green, came                                                             
forward to present the sponsor statement.  He said HB 175                                                                       
establishes a notification requirement as AS 47.35.018, so that                                                                 
community councils will have information about new facilities going                                                             
in their area, and it establishes a definition for a foster group                                                               
home.  The need for HB 175 became apparent to Representative Green,                                                             
the sponsor, and his constituents after a group foster home was                                                                 
established in his district with no notification, high barriers to                                                              
information for citizens, and long delays in response times by the                                                              
Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS).  While it may be true                                                             
that some local governments may choose to require certain types of                                                              
notification through the zoning process, other local governments                                                                
may choose not to.  After some consideration, Representative Green                                                              
decided that all Alaskans, not just those in municipalities or                                                                  
boroughs with tight zoning restrictions, should have the benefits                                                               
of notification.                                                                                                                
MR. LOGAN stated that it is important to note that HB 175 does not                                                              
do anything to empower a community council to slow down, stop or                                                                
prohibit a residential care facility.  There might be testimony                                                                 
today that this will be the eventual result, but they believe that                                                              
informing citizens of what their government is doing in their                                                                   
neighborhood is good public policy and a legitimate function of                                                                 
this legislative body.  The sponsor fully understands that the                                                                  
state has a responsibility for the children being cared for in                                                                  
these facilities.  He also understands that Alaskans have a right                                                               
to know what their government is doing and believes HB 175 is a                                                                 
good balance between the two.                                                                                                   
Number 0305                                                                                                                     
SONIA VASCONI came forward to testify.  She read the following                                                                  
     Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.                                                                  
     I'd like to thank you for providing me with the                                                                            
     opportunity to testify in favor of HB 175, which will                                                                      
     allow communities all throughout the state to be notified                                                                  
     of the establishment of foster group homes in their                                                                        
     My name is Sonia Vasconi.  I come before you as a parent,                                                                  
     as a neighbor and as a concerned citizen.                                                                                  
     Let me start this testimony by giving you some basic                                                                       
     background regarding foster group homes as I see it.                                                                       
     The idea behind the establishment of foster group homes                                                                    
     was well intended.  Keeping large group of siblings                                                                        
     together was logical and thoughtful.                                                                                       
     However, what foster group homes have become resembles                                                                     
     little of what they were intended to be.                                                                                   
     Today, a single foster group home parent can care for up                                                                   
     to eight or more unrelated children in a home. These                                                                       
     children can potentially present severe mental                                                                             
     dysfunctions such as sexual predatory behaviors, arsonist                                                                  
     tendencies and aggressive behaviors.  Some or perhaps all                                                                  
     of them have "wrap around services" which provide these                                                                    
     children with psychological and social services at home                                                                    
     or at other facilities.                                                                                                    
     These facts and the increased traffic from social                                                                          
     workers, relatives, friends and the police have a                                                                          
     tremendous impact in neighborhoods surrounding foster                                                                      
     group homes.                                                                                                               
     This situation creates frustration among those of us who                                                                   
     try to do the right thing.  We abide by the laws,                                                                          
     faithfully pay our taxes and try to raise our children                                                                     
     the best we can by, among other things, living in the                                                                      
     safest neighborhood we can possibly afford, sometimes                                                                      
     with sacrifices.                                                                                                           
     Suddenly, we find ourselves dealing with safety issues we                                                                  
     didn't previously have, and nobody took the time to                                                                        
     inform us about.  And when we tried to inform ourselves                                                                    
     we found that the system is arrogant and answers are                                                                       
     vague and misleading.                                                                                                      
     We are expected to embrace these programs in our                                                                           
     neighborhoods when we don't even know what they are all                                                                    
     Additionally, foster parents find themselves in a bind as                                                                  
     well.  Sometimes, they, themselves, don't know enough                                                                      
     about the children they are supposed to are for.  And                                                                      
     when safety issues arise they are limited by what they                                                                     
     can do or say.  This adds more confusion to the whole                                                                      
     Ignorance creates suspicion.  Let's put the issues on the                                                                  
     table at our community councils.  That's what they were                                                                    
     created for.                                                                                                               
     House Bill 175 is the least a community should be                                                                          
     entitled to have; the right to be notified.                                                                                
     This bill encourages communication and creates a balance                                                                   
     between the needs of foster group homes and the                                                                            
     communities that they so depend on for the success of                                                                      
     these programs.                                                                                                            
     Thanks again Mr. Chairman and members of this committee                                                                    
     for introducing legislation that assists both foster                                                                       
     parent and the communities in addressing the needs of                                                                      
     foster children.                                                                                                           
     I respectfully encourage you to support and help this                                                                      
     bill be enacted into law.                                                                                                  
     If you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer.                                                                         
Number 0545                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked if it would make a difference about the                                                                 
concern about danger if the children were all infants for instance.                                                             
MS. VASCONI said it wasn't even if they were teenagers; it is the                                                               
kinds of problems that they have.  People cannot avoid having these                                                             
children in their communities.  She believes open communication                                                                 
would be better than suddenly realizing next door is a foster group                                                             
home with severely emotionally disturbed children living there.                                                                 
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON agreed that communication is important, but his                                                               
question was, if all the children in that home were infants, would                                                              
she still be afraid.                                                                                                            
MS. VASCONI answered no.                                                                                                        
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked if there was an age group which starts to                                                               
be a safety issue in the neighborhood.                                                                                          
MS. VASCONI responded that it depends on the issues of the                                                                      
children.  In this case, they are teenagers labeled severely                                                                    
emotionally disturbed; that worries her.                                                                                        
Number 0760                                                                                                                     
GAIL IGO, Co-President, Anchor Foster Care Association, testified                                                               
via teleconference from Anchorage.  She informed the committee that                                                             
she is concerned about the confidentiality and information that                                                                 
would be shared with the community council for those foster parents                                                             
who have four or more children.  Foster parents are members of the                                                              
public record, and anyone can go to DFYS and find out whatever they                                                             
need to know.  She is concerned about the tenor of this, and said                                                               
it begins to feel like a police state.  She tries to teach respect                                                              
to her foster children.  In order to teach respect, they need to                                                                
show respect.  She doesn't believe that HB 175 is respecting the                                                                
rights of the children.                                                                                                         
Number 0827                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked Ms. Igo if the kind of children                                                                      
generally in foster care are awaiting adjudicatory hearings through                                                             
the DFYS juvenile justice system.                                                                                               
MS. IGO answered that she didn't have any statistics on that.                                                                   
There is full range of children as well as problems.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE commented that group homes provide services to                                                             
a wide variety of children.                                                                                                     
MS. IGO agreed and said different foster homes provide different                                                                
services to different children.                                                                                                 
Number 0922                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Ms. Igo to show him where in the bill it                                                             
implied that it would show no respect to the children.                                                                          
MS. IGO responded that if she were running a group home she would                                                               
have to tell the community council.  These children do not need                                                                 
attention brought to them.  Foster parents are integrating the                                                                  
children back into society; to have their homes the focus of public                                                             
attention is difficult and is not showing the children respect.                                                                 
Children who are placed in a group home are selected because they                                                               
are a lower risk for reoffending or causing trouble in the                                                                      
community.  They also need to protect the children's                                                                            
Number 0981                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he appreciated what she is saying, but                                                                
asked if she really believes where they have foster group homes                                                                 
that the neighborhood doesn't become aware of them.  "You're saying                                                             
there should be no discussion with the neighbors who have children                                                              
of their own about what's going to happen in this foster group                                                                  
home, I think works against the very principle that you're trying                                                               
to establish, in that they are trying to be rehabilitated into the                                                              
community, the people in this particular case I know, would welcome                                                             
them with open arms, to be part of the neighborhood.  What they                                                                 
object to is to have it put upon them without any notification at                                                               
all.  Had DFYS come to these people and said, 'We are considering                                                               
buying house X over here because we want to establish a group home                                                              
for children, what can we do, how can you help us, will you help                                                                
us?' I think there would have been no problem whatsoever."  The                                                                 
neighborhood would have welcomed them; they would have helped them                                                              
adjust.  The problem is that they first weren't told, and then when                                                             
they finally began to find out, then they were not given                                                                        
information.  He had two different meetings with DFYS and several                                                               
letters trying to get information about what was going on, and he                                                               
still got no information.  They don't want to know the background                                                               
of each child; what they want to know is what is going to happen.                                                               
MS. IGO responded that her neighbors know she is a foster parent;                                                               
she did not give them any details.  They don't have a large number                                                              
of children usually.  They did approach the community council and                                                               
told them they were experienced foster parents.  She and her                                                                    
husband moved to Alaska from Vermont and have over 20 years of                                                                  
experience fostering children.                                                                                                  
Number 1125                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN appreciated her comment and noted that would                                                               
have gone a long way.  In her case she and her husband went to the                                                              
neighbors and told them what their plan was.  In this case, it was                                                              
a single man and the neighbors questioned if this was the best                                                                  
approach to have four children being supervised by a single person                                                              
who is frequently out of the house.  He doesn't believe that is an                                                              
invasion of the privacy of the children; it is a protection for                                                                 
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON respectfully reminded Representative Green that                                                               
he is debating the issue and maybe with the wrong person.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he was trying to find out why Ms. Igo                                                                 
asked that question.  His point is information exchange.  He said                                                               
he was agreeing with her now, not debating with her.                                                                            
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked what does she have to do to protect the                                                                 
confidentiality of the children at her home.                                                                                    
MS. IGO said she cannot even say that she is a foster parent.  They                                                             
went to the community council and announced that they were foster                                                               
parents moving here from Vermont.  She is not allowed to give any                                                               
information about any particular child or the reasons the child is                                                              
with them.                                                                                                                      
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked for confirmation if she had said she                                                                    
couldn't even say she is a foster parent.                                                                                       
MS. IGO answered that is correct.                                                                                               
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON questioned that; they will pursue that later.                                                                 
Number 1238                                                                                                                     
MARBETH JOHNS, Advocate, Disability Law Center of Alaska, testified                                                             
via teleconference from Anchorage.  She told the committee the                                                                  
reasons they are interested in HB 175 are because many of the                                                                   
children in foster care have disabilities.  They are concerned that                                                             
notice to community councils suggest that some communities may try                                                              
to exclude some children with disabilities.  In AS 47.35.105 there                                                              
already is a process for complaints if a community member believes                                                              
a foster home has violated their condition of license.  The                                                                     
alternatives to Alaska's system of foster group homes are out-of-                                                               
state placement or institutional placement, which are both                                                                      
expensive.  They find very little support for this bill and urged                                                               
the committee to find ways to increase the availability of                                                                      
therapeutic foster care, not decrease it as this bill could do.                                                                 
Number 1294                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked in addition to decreasing availability of                                                               
homes, are they concerned about the children being stigmatized in                                                               
the neighborhood.                                                                                                               
MS. JOHNS answered yes they are.                                                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked her to speak about her concern.                                                                         
MS. JOHNS explained that a regular family can move into a                                                                       
neighborhood without having to give notice.  If individuals with                                                                
disabilities have to give notice, that does stigmatize them and                                                                 
points them out to everybody in the neighborhood.  It is treating                                                               
them differently from everybody else.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked if, from a legal view, she is aware of                                                               
any other class or group that have to post notice of moving into a                                                              
MS. JOHNS answered sexual assaulters.                                                                                           
Number 1366                                                                                                                     
CHERYL SHROYER, testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  She                                                               
stated her support of HB 175, and she encourages resident                                                                       
involvement in neighborhood and community-wide planning.  The                                                                   
community council is the forum that provides opportunities for all                                                              
the residents to be thoughtful and active participants.  They can                                                               
discuss community issues that affect the neighborhood like speeding                                                             
in front of the  park, snowmobiles in the street and a foster group                                                             
home.  A foster group home creates traffic and safety problems, and                                                             
difficulty communicating with DFYS.  She would hope that                                                                        
notification to the community council regarding application for a                                                               
license for a foster group home would help educate the community,                                                               
increase public knowledge, and ensure that all persons and                                                                      
community groups have an opportunity for a fair voice in decisions                                                              
affecting their neighborhood.                                                                                                   
Number 1430                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked if Ms. Shroyer lives in the neighborhood                                                                
where the problem arose.                                                                                                        
MS. SHROYER answered that is correct.                                                                                           
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked if her family had been harassed or had                                                                  
property damage or anything from the children in the foster home.                                                               
MS. SHROYER answered no.                                                                                                        
Number 1448                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN asked if there was a mechanism in place to                                                               
remedy situations with conflict between a group home and the                                                                    
neighborhood, would that make Ms. Shroyer more comfortable about a                                                              
group foster home being located in her neighborhood.                                                                            
MS. SHROYER answered of course.  The idea of an ombudsman is                                                                    
perfect.  Their problem is that the neighbors never know what is                                                                
going on or why.  They see police cars going by, they hear rumors                                                               
and that could all be ended if there were someone as Representative                                                             
Kemplen described.                                                                                                              
Number 1544                                                                                                                     
HEIDI POLLARD, testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  She                                                                
testified on behalf of Ev Irvin and herself.  She supports HB 175                                                               
because it is the basic communication a community should hear.                                                                  
Additionally, she would like to support an amendment to specify how                                                             
many children are in the care of a foster group home, and what                                                                  
level of care is in that home.  Neighbors should be aware of the                                                                
impact in their neighborhood.  She lives on the same street as the                                                              
foster group home and is aware of how the traffic situation and the                                                             
constant police visits have impacted the neighborhood.                                                                          
MS. POLLARD participated in a neighborhood group who researched                                                                 
foster group homes.  They have been at it for over a year, and they                                                             
have learned who to ask, how to ask, how to beg for information and                                                             
find out who to call.  They have had bad luck at getting anything                                                               
out of DFYS and the Department of Health and Social Services                                                                    
(DHSS).  They have called or had meetings with DFYS staff:  Gwen                                                                
McAlpine, Steve McComb, Karl Brimmer, Russ Webb, Leonard Abel,                                                                  
Daryl Johnson and Jane Steele; Department of Health and Development                                                             
Disabilities Foster Care Review panel, the Anchorage Police                                                                     
Department, probationary officers and planning and health                                                                       
departments, the assembly people, Jeff Jessee, the mental health                                                                
association director, the Oceanview/Old Seward Community Council                                                                
and Representatives Joe Green and Pete Kelly.  One year of phone                                                                
calls and meetings has resulted in HB 175.                                                                                      
MS. POLLARD supports HB 175 because getting this kind of                                                                        
information should not be this difficult, and these meetings would                                                              
not have taken place without the intervention of the Oceanview/Old                                                              
Seward Community Council and Representative Green.  It has been                                                                 
like pulling teeth to get DFYS and DHSS to listen to their                                                                      
concerns.  She encouraged the committee to support HB 175.                                                                      
Number 1697                                                                                                                     
BOB BELL, Assemblyman, Anchorage Assembly, testified via                                                                        
teleconference from Anchorage.  He has been working with the                                                                    
neighborhood for quite some time.  It seems to him that they should                                                             
be able to find some kind of balance.  The discussion here is about                                                             
group foster homes, not just foster homes.  It is important to try                                                              
to maintain a neighborhood identity and environment.  Maybe in some                                                             
cases a group home doesn't fit into that environment very well.  In                                                             
all his discussions, no one has said they need less opportunity for                                                             
foster homes.  The programs are necessary, and no one is trying to                                                              
restrict it; but the neighbors shouldn't be impacted too much                                                                   
MR. BELL suggested the idea of a citizen's committee with staff                                                                 
support from DFYS, that would look at the applications for group                                                                
foster homes to see if they fit in the community.  If they end up                                                               
in a community that doesn't want them there, that has a negative                                                                
impact on the foster home, as well as the community.  He believes                                                               
that HB 175 starts in the direction of finding a balance.  He                                                                   
doesn't think there is any intent for the community council to                                                                  
interrogate the foster parents or children.  It is more a "let us                                                               
know what you're doing there, and let's see if we can find some way                                                             
to fit into our community in the best way possible."                                                                            
Number 1788                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN asked if Mr. Bell believes that every                                                                    
neighborhood had the responsibility to share in the burden of                                                                   
dealing with community issues.                                                                                                  
MR. BELL responded absolutely.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN asked Mr. Bell if he would support a                                                                     
feedback mechanism being established in the neighborhoods.                                                                      
MR. BELL replied that he wasn't sure where he was going with that.                                                              
It strikes him that HB 175 sort of accomplishes that because once                                                               
the community council is notified that there is an application,                                                                 
they would start providing feedback.  He asked Representative                                                                   
Kemplen if he was talking about before or after the fact.                                                                       
Number 1868                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN answered both.  He continued that the bill                                                               
doesn't have a system to develop a set of rules for a stronger                                                                  
sense of partnership between the neighborhood and the group foster                                                              
home, or other social agency.  When there are instances when                                                                    
someone steps over the line, that person will be dealt with in a                                                                
swift fashion.  By changing the legislation to require that set of                                                              
rules to be developed between the agency and the neighborhood                                                                   
represents that feedback mechanism.                                                                                             
MR. BELL assumed that notification to the community council would                                                               
infer that the DFYS and the foster parents who were planning to                                                                 
bring a group foster home into the neighborhood would be doing that                                                             
maybe on a less formal basis.  After the fact, if it turns out that                                                             
the foster home is causing problems beyond what would normally be                                                               
anticipated, he would assume that DFYS would have the mechanism to                                                              
deal with that.                                                                                                                 
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked Mr. Bell if they thought about dealing with                                                             
this on a local zoning basis.                                                                                                   
Number 1998                                                                                                                     
MR. BELL replied that they were having a meeting next week with the                                                             
municipal attorney to look at that.  They have two concerns with                                                                
that, one the state doesn't have to comply with local zoning                                                                    
requirements and two, it might be a bit more draconian than they                                                                
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked Mr. Bell why they haven't dealt with this                                                               
issue in municipal code as opposed to bringing it to the                                                                        
MR. BELL reiterated that the state isn't obligated to abide by                                                                  
municipal code.  The municipality can't overrule the state.  It                                                                 
also gets into the U.S. Federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans                                                              
with Disabilities Act (ADA) and gets complicated.  They are looking                                                             
at that to make sure there is a fair balance.                                                                                   
Number 2069                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked Mr. Bell how quickly he thought they would                                                              
get through that process locally.                                                                                               
MR. BELL anticipated several months.                                                                                            
Number 2099                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN confirmed that Mr. Bell has been working with                                                              
them on the issue and did advise them last year that rezoning                                                                   
probably wouldn't be effective.                                                                                                 
MR. BELL agreed he did, and he got back a letter from an attorney                                                               
who expressed a lot of reservations of what they could do legally                                                               
with zoning considering the Fair Housing Act and ADA.  The only                                                                 
place he thought there was an opportunity to deal with it on zoning                                                             
would be on public safety issues.                                                                                               
Number 2149                                                                                                                     
MIKE KEECH, President, Foster Care Providers Association, testified                                                             
from Anchorage via teleconference.  He noted some of the issues                                                                 
that HB 175 raises for him on a personal level and as a                                                                         
representative of the Foster Care Providers Association.  If he can                                                             
afford to live in a neighborhood and has to go to a community                                                                   
council, that seems in direct violation of the Fair Housing Act.                                                                
He should not be segregated because he is a foster family.  A group                                                             
home is a family, it is not a business.  He asked if he had                                                                     
biological children with problems, would he also be required to let                                                             
the community council know he was moving into a neighborhood.                                                                   
MR. KEECH went to two meetings at Oceanview, but he went to get                                                                 
involved in trying to understand where foster families come from.                                                               
They are a ministry to children for the state; they desire to help                                                              
the children, but where they live should be deemed by what they can                                                             
afford and where they choose to live, not out a community council                                                               
saying "We don't want you in our neighborhood."  He asked if this                                                               
would be grandfathered, and would he be forced to move because his                                                              
neighborhood decides they don't want foster families.                                                                           
MR. KEECH added that confidentiality would also be an issue not                                                                 
only for the children, but for his family.  What they choose to do                                                              
as a family, as long as they are controlling the foster children                                                                
the same as their own, should not be an issue, and should not need                                                              
the community council's approval.                                                                                               
Number 2232                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON indicated he didn't think there was anything in                                                               
the bill that gives a community council any kind of approval                                                                    
process at all.                                                                                                                 
MR. KEECH mentioned that the situation in Oceanview has forced that                                                             
gentleman to put his house up for sale, and he will more than                                                                   
likely take a loss on it, because of the pressures put on him                                                                   
because of all of this.  He doesn't want to see that happen to                                                                  
other foster parents.  The city desperately needs foster parents.                                                               
Number 2283                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN asked if Mr. Keech heard the conversation                                                                
with Mr. Bell about balance and feedback mechanism.                                                                             
MR. KEECH answered he had.  He noted most of his neighbors know he                                                              
does foster care, and he understands the traffic issue.  Most of                                                                
the children running the streets are not his children.  Most foster                                                             
families keep their children in a controlled environment.  He has                                                               
training to deal with foster children, and most families do.  He                                                                
sees the checks and balances, but most communities don't get                                                                    
involved.  In fact, Oceanview didn't get involved until they saw                                                                
something that they didn't like.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN asked Mr. Keech where the accountability                                                                 
mechanism is in a neighborhood with a foster home.                                                                              
TAPE 99-31, SIDE B                                                                                                              
Number 2349                                                                                                                     
MR. KEECH answered he didn't know.  He asked how someone is held                                                                
accountable when their biological child does something.  In the                                                                 
case of children the foster parents can't control, they call DFYS                                                               
and say this child needs to move for whatever reason; they need                                                                 
more care than what is provided.  If his neighbors report that his                                                              
foster child is doing something outside the realm, he will deal                                                                 
with like any parent would.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN asked if the Foster Care Providers                                                                       
Association have any policies that address the issue of                                                                         
accountability.  It seems to him there needs to be a mechanism                                                                  
established when there is a violation of community norms, action                                                                
will be taken.  He asked if they had thought about establishing                                                                 
some self-policing rules for group foster homes.                                                                                
MR. KEECH answered they hadn't at this point.  The association is                                                               
just now getting back on its feet.  It has been inactive for about                                                              
three years.  The purpose is to establish more foster care                                                                      
associations in the local areas, have strong voice with the                                                                     
legislature, and to give support to each other.  Accountability                                                                 
hasn't been looked simply because it is too new of an organization.                                                             
Number 2216                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked if Mr. Keech owns his own home or does                                                               
an agency have title to it.                                                                                                     
MR. KEECH answered he owns his home.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked about training Mr. Keech has received as                                                             
a foster parent.                                                                                                                
Number 2175                                                                                                                     
MR. KEECH answered he has had Mandt training, which is a way to                                                                 
control a child physically without harming them; training for fetal                                                             
alcohol and drug addiction, emotional problems and sexual                                                                       
molestation.  He has had recurring training on how to deal with all                                                             
those problems, and there is information available on the Internet.                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if Mr. Keech thought foster parents                                                                  
would be able to handle the variety of children without that                                                                    
MR. KEECH said he didn't feel they would, especially initially, but                                                             
as time goes on, foster parents do learn more.                                                                                  
Number 2111                                                                                                                     
JEFF JESSEE testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  He is a                                                               
resident of the Oceanview community council area and was a                                                                      
participant on the work group the community council formed to look                                                              
into the issue of this particular group home.  He believes this                                                                 
bill is an example of "hard cases make bad law."  He understands                                                                
the concerns for safety, their frustration in terms of getting                                                                  
adequate, timely answers from DHSS, but he can't understand how                                                                 
this bill is going to solve the problem; he believes it will make                                                               
the problem worse.  Much of the information the neighbors really                                                                
want is confidential, and they won't be able to get it.                                                                         
MR. JESSEE agreed there needs to be some mechanism to answer                                                                    
concerns.  One of the recommendations of the community group, which                                                             
many agreed with, was an independent review group.  The Foster Care                                                             
Review Board might have been that kind of organization; it recently                                                             
was defunded.  He encouraged them to look at those kinds of options                                                             
rather than this bill.                                                                                                          
Number 1943                                                                                                                     
JAY BUSH, Administrator, Customer Satisfaction and Quality                                                                      
Assurance, Hope Community Resources, testified via teleconference                                                               
from Anchorage and is against HB 175.  He noted it seemed to be a                                                               
restriction on the rights of individuals who experience                                                                         
disabilities for fair housing and rights protected under the ADA.                                                               
He appreciates the concerns he has heard in support of the bill.                                                                
He agrees that foster children should have a safe, caring                                                                       
environment that meets their needs, as well as protects them, and                                                               
provides for their furthering education and acquiring life skills.                                                              
MR. BUSH is concerned any time another hoop to jump through is                                                                  
created which is not a hoop anyone else moving into a neighborhood                                                              
would be forced to jump through.  If he had children with special                                                               
needs and moved into a neighborhood, he wouldn't have to go to the                                                              
community council to seek their permission.  He believes that this                                                              
bill infers that permission has to be granted.  It is incumbent                                                                 
upon any foster parent to reach out to the neighborhood because                                                                 
children are raised by the neighborhood.  They are not raised only                                                              
by the single family.  It really does take a village to raise a                                                                 
child.  It is important to have good supportive neighbors because                                                               
everyone is involved in the parenting of a child.                                                                               
MR. BUSH doesn't see this bill as building community; he sees it                                                                
building walls and barriers and providing for more gated-controlled                                                             
communities in America.  The needs for foster children in Alaska                                                                
are great, and bills are needed to support more good foster parents                                                             
and more good opportunities for children who can't be supported in                                                              
their natural family.                                                                                                           
Number 1826                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN disagreed with Mr. Bush's conclusions.  He                                                                 
doesn't think there is anything in the bill that impairs the                                                                    
ability to establish a group home in the neighborhood;                                                                          
notification certainly isn't a restriction.  People are far more                                                                
willing to accept things when they are informed instead of finding                                                              
out after the fact.  The neighbors are only asking that they be                                                                 
MR. BUSH said his concern about the bill is that it doesn't require                                                             
a natural family who may have four or more children with special                                                                
needs to jump through the same hoop.  If they are making a special                                                              
class of people who have to go through one more hoop to live in a                                                               
neighborhood, he is concerned and it smacks of civil rights.  If                                                                
they were taking out the clause that says "disability" and putting                                                              
in "person of color," they would not even be having this                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN said he is quite familiar with these type of                                                             
issues at the neighborhood level.  He has seen agencies come in and                                                             
work with the community council and be accepted by the                                                                          
neighborhood.  The notion of "after-the-fact" is a key concern of                                                               
neighborhoods.  He asked Mr. Bush why he feels group foster homes                                                               
can't be up-front with neighborhoods.                                                                                           
Number 1602                                                                                                                     
MR. BUSH said he is not saying foster group homes should not be up-                                                             
front with the neighborhood.  He is concerned that the legislation                                                              
requires notification to a body, which may or may not be able to                                                                
make a comment or restrict moving into a neighborhood.  People                                                                  
should reach out to their neighbors and become a society of people                                                              
who sit on their porches and say "hello" to people as they walk by;                                                             
but it shouldn't be legislated.  He believes the legislation sets                                                               
a tone that may not be intended.                                                                                                
Number 1532                                                                                                                     
JOHN VOTE testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  He is the                                                               
foster group home that resulted in HB 175.  He responded to                                                                     
Representative Green's remarks about his Oceanview neighbors                                                                    
wanting to welcome him with open arms.  "Within a short period of                                                               
time after I moved into this neighborhood, they did, I don't know                                                               
how, but they were made aware of that I was here, and they were                                                                 
also given a bunch of false information as far as what type of kids                                                             
I was working with.  When they were asked to come down and meet me,                                                             
... one of the comments from one of the neighbors which actually                                                                
testified, I believe, was 'When hell freezes over.'  You'll find                                                                
that also in the newspaper comments because that comment was even                                                               
made to--well actually it was overheard by--Lisa Demer from the                                                                 
Daily News because she was standing there when the comment was                                                                  
made.  I feel that this bill comes out of bigotry.  Do we pass laws                                                             
because of bigotry?  That is my feeling because I'm the one that's                                                              
had to put up with this for one year."                                                                                          
Number 1431                                                                                                                     
MR. VOTE continued that as a foster parent, he is restricted by                                                                 
regulations as far as what information he can relate to others.                                                                 
One would be telling people he is moving in, and he has foster                                                                  
children.  In some ways he is not supposed to tell people he is a                                                               
foster parent.  The fact that he is a foster parent isn't a secret                                                              
but how it is said or where, could end up letting people know that                                                              
the children are foster children, and that is against regulation.                                                               
A group home means there are more than three children in care.                                                                  
This bill seems to be directed at homes that have more than three                                                               
children.  He doesn't see why more than three children is the                                                                   
issue.  He believes that this bill could lead to restriction of                                                                 
free movement.  Most DFYS group homes are for sibling groups.   As                                                              
soon as there are more than three children, it becomes a group                                                                  
home.  These are mostly specific group homes meaning that they are                                                              
living with grandparents or a friend who has agreed to take these                                                               
children.  If this bill were to pass, then these people would now                                                               
have to report to the community council that they were a group home                                                             
for their relatives                                                                                                             
MR. VOTE noted that he has put his home up for sale due to the                                                                  
near-constant harassment that he has felt since he has been there.                                                              
He has not harassed his neighbors to his knowledge.  His close                                                                  
neighbors have never had any problems; they have been supportive.                                                               
The fact that his neighbors know that he is a group home, they                                                                  
start developing rumors, jumping to conclusions, and that causes                                                                
them not be able to live there and feel comfortable.  They are                                                                  
being watched constantly; he can't even have a meal in his home                                                                 
without a neighbor driving by, stopping and watching them.  It                                                                  
creates harassment when people find out, and he doesn't see how                                                                 
this bill will help; it will target other people who are going to                                                               
do this.                                                                                                                        
Number 1248                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN wondered since Mr. Vote's adjacent neighbors                                                               
were congenial, where is the harassment.                                                                                        
MR. VOTE replied that the harassment comes from the people on the                                                               
street, most of whom testified today.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if Mr. Vote thought it was harassment                                                                
when several state cars drove by the neighbors' houses.                                                                         
MR. VOTE asked if they were stopping and looking in their windows                                                               
at them.                                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if people were looking in Mr. Vote's                                                                 
MR. VOTE answered yes they are and taking down license plate                                                                    
numbers.  He believes his neighbors called Representative Green                                                                 
when one of his children was brought home by a worker who had to                                                                
use her limousine to drive him home.  "That made it all the way to                                                              
the Governor, I think."                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN commented that what he had learned about some                                                              
of the children was in the newspaper.  He mentioned since Mr.                                                                   
Vote's house is up for sale, there will be a lot more people                                                                    
stopping to look in the house.                                                                                                  
MR. VOTE commented that they won't be his neighbors.                                                                            
Number 1141                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked Mr. Vote if he had a job besides being a                                                                
foster parent.                                                                                                                  
MR. VOTE acknowledged he did up until the time he had six children.                                                             
His children do have special needs and as a result, he has a                                                                    
tremendous number of appointments and commitments that he responds                                                              
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked Mr. Vote the age group of his children.                                                                 
MR. VOTE said they are between sixth grade and ninth grade; he has                                                              
had children as young as nine and as old as 16.                                                                                 
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked Mr. Vote if he pays anyone to help him with                                                             
the children.                                                                                                                   
Number 1074                                                                                                                     
MR. VOTE answered that he hires respite people to give him a break                                                              
or cover situations he can't.                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked if any of the children in Mr. Vote's care                                                               
had been arrested during the time he has been in the neighborhood.                                                              
MR. VOTE answered one had been arrested.                                                                                        
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked if it was a crime in the neighborhood.                                                                  
Number 1042                                                                                                                     
MR. VOTE answered it wasn't a crime toward the neighborhood.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN asked Mr. Vote if he thought any community                                                               
norms on accountability would work for him as a foster parent.                                                                  
MR. VOTE asked if it were for things like noise levels.                                                                         
Number 0975                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN answered noise level, or a foster parent                                                                 
letting their children play out on the street at 1 a.m. in a                                                                    
boisterous fashion.                                                                                                             
MR. VOTE replied that would be great.  He questioned that it would                                                              
be necessary because he is not aware of foster parents letting                                                                  
their children cause problems.  However, they are held very                                                                     
accountable; they are bound by licensing regulations.  If the                                                                   
neighborhood has a problem with either the children or the foster                                                               
parents, all they have to do is call DFYS with their concern or                                                                 
report of harm.  It is immediately acted upon.                                                                                  
Number 0878                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN commented that the people who testified                                                                  
earlier in favor of this legislation indicated that accountability                                                              
is not there, and the department is not able to address their                                                                   
concerns in a timely manner.  He asked Mr. Vote if he agreed that                                                               
it is better for neighbors to work with neighbors to produce                                                                    
solutions rather than going to government as a mediator.                                                                        
MR. VOTE replied certainly but in this instance, the department                                                                 
does have authority and power over the foster parents.  The                                                                     
department can require and enforce change.  As far as the comments                                                              
from people who testified in support of HB 175, his interpretation                                                              
was that they were not able to get their questions answered, not                                                                
that they had particular issues.  To his knowledge they have had no                                                             
problem with his home, except that they have concerns about the                                                                 
amount of traffic, which he has detailed.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Mr. Vote if he has undergone training                                                                
for foster parents.                                                                                                             
MR. VOTE answered in the four years that he has been a foster                                                                   
parent, he has 43 hours of documented training for the past 12                                                                  
months and about the same amount of undocumented training to total                                                              
about 80 hours of actual training.  He is only required to turn in                                                              
ten hours; he seeks out much more than that because it is helpful.                                                              
Number 0553                                                                                                                     
KRISTAN JEZ, Development Director, Hope Community Resources,                                                                    
testified, via teleconference from Anchorage, in opposition to HB
175.  She believes HB 175 invades the privacy and confidentiality                                                               
of the children they are trying to help and protect.  "Foster                                                                   
parents are licensed care givers and that should be the important                                                               
issues, not whether or not the community is aware of them.                                                                      
Children deserve a chance, a safe home and a community to live in.                                                              
It appears that this bill would automatically single out these                                                                  
children and their foster homes.  Foster homes shouldn't be treated                                                             
any differently than you or I and our families."  There shouldn't                                                               
be segregation between them and their community members.  Once they                                                             
are in a community, it should be up to them and their community                                                                 
around them, to become involved with each other.  Foster care homes                                                             
are a fact of life; with open-mindedness, they should welcome                                                                   
diversity in their communities.                                                                                                 
Number 0469                                                                                                                     
RACHEL FARALAN, Alternative Community Mental Health Center,                                                                     
testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  She commented that                                                                
the nation has worked hard on the fair treatment of children                                                                    
getting away from orphanages, institutions and going out-of-state.                                                              
She said she believes this bill is a step backward.  Foster                                                                     
children are not criminals, and being foster children does not make                                                             
them unsafe people.  She cited examples of crimes biological                                                                    
children have made upon their biological parents.                                                                               
MS. FARALAN reiterated the crisis in Alaska of needing more foster                                                              
homes, and sometimes they do need to create group homes to                                                                      
accommodate the children.  Her solution is if people don't want                                                                 
group foster homes in their neighborhood, they should sign up to be                                                             
foster parents and take one or two children into their homes.  She                                                              
agrees with neighbors supporting each other.  She agreed that Mr.                                                               
Vote has been harassed.  She has been in his home and watched his                                                               
neighbors drive up, stop and peer into his windows, and "we waved                                                               
at them" and they continued to stare.  That is harassment; no one                                                               
does that to her in her neighborhood.  It is true that HB 175                                                                   
doesn't say people have to get permission to move into a                                                                        
neighborhood, but it infers it.  She believes once someone does                                                                 
move into a neighborhood, they will get harassed and have to move                                                               
out, so it is segregation.  She stated she does not support this                                                                
bill; it is a step backward.                                                                                                    
Number 0220                                                                                                                     
KARIN ST. CLAIR testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  She                                                               
is a foster parent, doesn't have a group home, but she would if her                                                             
house were big enough.  Her mother was a foster parent, and she has                                                             
been involved in foster care her entire life.  She stated, "I agree                                                             
that this is harassment.  We need to be here for our children as a                                                              
community."  She said she felt that Oceanview is not there for the                                                              
children.  If they were, they would take some of these children                                                                 
into their homes, and then there wouldn't be any need for group                                                                 
homes.  There is a great need for homes in the entire state.  These                                                             
children need love, and they cannot get that in orphanages and                                                                  
institutions.  The group homes are families; not businesses.  They                                                              
are there to love those children.                                                                                               
MS. ST. CLAIR added the neighbors like to know exactly what kind of                                                             
children are in these homes, but these children have a right to                                                                 
privacy.  The foster parents are not allowed to tell why the                                                                    
children are in their homes and what has happened to them.  She is                                                              
against HB 175 and agrees with the previous testifier about people                                                              
getting involved and taking these children into their homes.                                                                    
TAPE 99-32, SIDE A                                                                                                              
Number 0009                                                                                                                     
PELTON GOUDEY testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  He                                                                  
believes that there needs to be a solution to the problem, but that                                                             
HB 175 is not necessarily the solution.  He concurred with the                                                                  
statement "It takes a village to raise a child."  This means                                                                    
society is responsible as a group for the children.  The children                                                               
are the most valuable resource.  They need to be loved shown                                                                    
respect no matter what.  He described some of the awful problems of                                                             
two children that he cared for.  Since his working with them and                                                                
having a supportive community, now they are productive members of                                                               
society.  He agreed that communities do have a right to have                                                                    
community norms, but he doesn't think a foster home would go out of                                                             
its way to violate those norms.  He tries to be sensitive in his                                                                
community and teach the children he works with to understand the                                                                
norms.  Being a good neighbor is very important to him.  He                                                                     
indicated that the tenor of HB 175 is negative.  He would like to                                                               
see them work in the direction of finding solutions.  Coming back                                                               
to accountability to the community support, he also believes                                                                    
communities need to be accountable to the children.                                                                             
Number 0272                                                                                                                     
RITA BARRAS testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  She                                                                   
stated her opposition to HB 175.  She made the following statement:                                                             
"I have been a foster parent since 1982, and I do have a group                                                                  
home, and I have taken all kinds of children.  I am in the same                                                                 
neighborhood I have been in since I started and I have not had any                                                              
problems with my neighbors.  ... My children do not cause any                                                                   
problems in the neighborhood and I have a real problem with this                                                                
having to disclose information about my foster children, which I                                                                
have not ever had to do.  ... I hope that this does not come to                                                                 
pass.  My foster children are not labeled foster children.  I have                                                              
several here today.  They tell everybody that they are                                                                          
'godchildren,' that they are my godchildren that they were sent to                                                              
me by God.  I take care of them and I am real opposed to putting                                                                
labels on people because I have been labeled myself since birth.                                                                
So that is where I'm coming from.  If the people would take the                                                                 
time to walk where we walk, and to experience some of the things                                                                
we're experiencing, perhaps maybe to apply to become a foster                                                                   
parent and try to help some of these children instead of trying to                                                              
find reasons to get them out of their community."                                                                               
Number 0408                                                                                                                     
STEPHANI SOCK testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  She                                                                 
informed the committee that she runs a group home and believes this                                                             
bill is an issue of segregation.  She asked if she were a single                                                                
mother with children with disabilities or problems, would she be                                                                
under scrutiny from a neighborhood council and not allowed to                                                                   
purchase a home because they didn't like the fact that her children                                                             
had problems, or were afraid they might be a problem to the                                                                     
neighborhood.  She believes they are invading the privacy of her                                                                
family and taking away a home atmosphere by doing this.  She has                                                                
been threatened and harassed by angry parents.  She believes the                                                                
safety of her family and those staying with her will be jeopardized                                                             
by announcing their presence in a neighborhood.  She wondered if                                                                
other people would be willing to be required to put their names                                                                 
before a council and be pointed out so all the neighbors knew who                                                               
they were.                                                                                                                      
MS. SOCK addressed the issue of the neighbor children being safe.                                                               
She asked, "Do I know if my children are safe from their children?                                                              
I don't think so.  I don't think that we're always self-assured by                                                              
how anybody's children are going to behave in the neighborhood.  We                                                             
have to sometimes have a little bit of trust.  We are a family                                                                  
setting and we're here to set an example to these children that                                                                 
come in who have had no example."                                                                                               
MS. SOCK noted that foster parents are more protective of their                                                                 
children, and they do not let their children run around the                                                                     
neighborhood.  They keep a close eye on them since they are                                                                     
constantly under a magnifying glass because of what they do.  She                                                               
believes her children are better behaved than a lot of the children                                                             
in the neighborhood; she has never had any problems with her                                                                    
children.  She has had many hours of training; she worked eight                                                                 
years in mental health even before she became a foster parent.  She                                                             
summarized that this bill is wrong, and they need to look for other                                                             
ways to deal with this problem.                                                                                                 
HB 149-INSURANCE: MENTAL HEALTH & SUBSTANCE ABUSE                                                                               
Number 0679                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON announced the next order of business as House                                                                 
Bill No. 149, "An Act relating to insurance coverage for treatment                                                              
of mental illness and substance abuse; repealing provisions of ch.                                                              
8, SLA 1997, that terminates required mental health benefit                                                                     
coverage; and providing for an effective date."  He indicated that                                                              
HB 149 would be held over for further hearing.                                                                                  
HB 142 - EDUCATION CREDIT FOR FISHERY TAXES                                                                                     
Number 0682                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON announced the next order of business as House                                                                 
Bill No. 142, "An Act relating to the education credit for the                                                                  
fisheries business tax and the fisheries resource landing tax; and                                                              
providing for an effective date."  He indicated that HB 142 would                                                               
be held over for further hearing.                                                                                               
The committee took an at ease 4:53 - 4:54 p.m.                                                                                  
HB 175 - LICENSING OF FOSTER GROUP HOMES                                                                                        
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON announced the committee will return to the                                                                    
hearing on HB 175.                                                                                                              
Number 0746                                                                                                                     
RUSS WEBB, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Health and Social                                                                 
Services (DHSS), Acting Director, Division of Family and Youth                                                                  
Services (DFYS), came forward to testify.  He apologized for                                                                    
missing the earlier testimony, so he is not clear about all of the                                                              
issues that were raised.  He referred to the difficulty in getting                                                              
information from the department.  It has been about a year since                                                                
the department began meeting with the community council and                                                                     
neighborhood.  The DHSS answered some 60 questions, and doubtless                                                               
they have not given everybody all the answers that they want.  He                                                               
said he is accountable for that, but they have made a good faith                                                                
MR. WEBB continued in terms of their licensing procedures, he has                                                               
heard people say they want the department to meet its mandate to                                                                
provide safe, appropriate placements for children in family and                                                                 
community settings with well-trained foster parents who provide                                                                 
supervision and nurturing care, monitoring and correction for                                                                   
children that everyone would want for their own children.  Many                                                                 
folks have pointed out that DHSS is in a bit of a box in trying to                                                              
meet that mandate and responsibility; that is simply because they                                                               
don't have enough foster parents.  Clearly recruitment, retention,                                                              
training and reimbursement support are essential; there is a need                                                               
to develop a full continuum of care in foster care is critical.                                                                 
Having kids in community-based settings is important.  They are a                                                               
long way from where they want to be.                                                                                            
MR. WEBB indicated foster care is in the developmental stage, and                                                               
they are trying to develop a system of foster care levels.  They                                                                
are trying to set in place licensing and training requirements, and                                                             
ratios of children in homes, particularly the ones with high needs.                                                             
He believes they will have to rewrite their foster care regulations                                                             
to fully implement that system.  His opinion is many of the issues                                                              
that are addressed in the last year can be dealt with in that                                                                   
process without legislation.                                                                                                    
Number 0990                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked if it is true foster parents can't tell                                                                 
people that they are foster parents.                                                                                            
MR. WEBB answered he didn't believe it is impossible for people to                                                              
admit they are foster parents, and frankly they want them to do                                                                 
that; but it is true that they must be very careful to protect the                                                              
rights of the children in their care, protect the confidentiality                                                               
of those children and to not compromise the ability of those                                                                    
children to be in the community.  There are restrictions about what                                                             
they can share, but it is a matter of public record who is licensed                                                             
as a foster parent.                                                                                                             
Number 1052                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked if the foster parent can tell anyone the                                                                
classification of the foster home and the types of children they                                                                
are licensed for and trained to provide services for.                                                                           
MR. WEBB said yes they can.  They can certainly explain that they                                                               
are licensed and what the licensing requirements are.  They are not                                                             
licensed for a specific type of child; they are licensed for age                                                                
groups and can talk about age groups.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked what the ages and numbers of the                                                                     
children in foster care are currently.                                                                                          
MR. WEBB answered that they certainly have that information, but he                                                             
doesn't have it off the top of his head.  He can make that                                                                      
information available.  He did tell them that about sixty percent                                                               
of the children in care are under 12 years old.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked Mr. Webb to answer some questions on the                                                             
demographics of the children.  He also asked how this legislation                                                               
would impact those ages and the classifications of children.                                                                    
MR. WEBB responded by saying there are approximately 2,000 children                                                             
in custody in out-of-home care who are there by virtue of being                                                                 
abused or neglected.  The majority of those children are in either                                                              
relative or foster care.  He estimated there are 44 delinquent                                                                  
children who are in foster care, and 75 or fewer in foster care                                                                 
largely as a result of emotional problems.                                                                                      
Number 1281                                                                                                                     
THERESA TANOURY, Administrator, Family Services, Division of Family                                                             
and Youth Services, Department of Health and Social Services,                                                                   
informed the committee that there are eight foster group homes in                                                               
Anchorage so there are not a lot of them.  However, there are homes                                                             
that go beyond the licensing regulations of three per home.  There                                                              
are approximately 30 foster group homes statewide, and the majority                                                             
of those are in the northern region.                                                                                            
Number 1306                                                                                                                     
MR. WEBB said the bill redefines a foster group home by saying that                                                             
is a home where there are more than four children, which                                                                        
potentially could be a good number of homes.  The bill would place                                                              
some burden on the DHSS when someone applies to be a foster group                                                               
home, but he didn't think it would be a great burden.  He mentioned                                                             
that foster parents already discussed the chilling effect that this                                                             
might have on someone's willingness to become a foster parent;                                                                  
particularly if they felt they might be subject to disapproval or                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN asked how many children a foster parent can                                                              
have before they become a foster group home.                                                                                    
Number 1380                                                                                                                     
MS. TANOURY replied that a foster group home is no more than eight.                                                             
A foster home by regulation is three.  There are variances if it is                                                             
a sibling group or emergency, short-term ones.  Unfortunately, that                                                             
happens quite often due to the shortage of foster homes.                                                                        
Number 1411                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN wondered if some foster parents are in it                                                                
for the money or treat it as a business.                                                                                        
MR. WEBB responded that he would be happy to provide the rates they                                                             
pay foster parents but on review of those rates, it would be                                                                    
imminently clear that foster care as a business is not a money-                                                                 
making venture.  Foster care is reimbursement for care of the                                                                   
children; it is not an income to the parent.  He thought it would                                                               
be very difficult for someone to make a living as a foster parent.                                                              
MR. WEBB stated that nationally, foster care is in a transition                                                                 
period.  Years ago most foster homes had one parent who didn't work                                                             
outside the home; that is not necessarily the case today, and that                                                              
presents some problems.  They are trying to develop a system of                                                                 
care for children that allow them to be present in the community,                                                               
hopefully in a family based setting, but with people who are                                                                    
trained to provide the type of care they require.  Maybe later,                                                                 
they will begin to development professional foster parents.                                                                     
Number 1531                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN asked for some background information                                                                    
explaining the system Mr. Webb is trying to put into place.  He                                                                 
also asked Mr. Webb to address a mechanism to deal with the                                                                     
concerns of neighbors when community-based services will go into                                                                
their neighborhoods.                                                                                                            
Number 1663                                                                                                                     
MS. TANOURY answered that the application for a foster parent                                                                   
license is public record as is a completed complaint, but there are                                                             
pieces of the foster care application that are not public record.                                                               
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked what DHSS can tell a neighbor who calls and                                                             
asks what is going on at a certain address.                                                                                     
MS. TANOURY explained they would take the information down as a                                                                 
complaint and go investigate it.                                                                                                
Number 1693                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked Ms. Tanoury if a neighbor calls and asks if                                                             
there is a foster group home or foster home there and how many                                                                  
children it is licensed for, can the department answer that                                                                     
MS. TANOURY answered yes.                                                                                                       
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked if they could tell the age group of the                                                                 
MS. TANOURY answered yes.                                                                                                       
Number 1710                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked Ms. Tanoury if she thought that worked well                                                             
in this situation.  The neighbors seemed frustrated; and he                                                                     
wondered if this was a breakdown of one time only.                                                                              
Number 1720                                                                                                                     
MR. WEBB answered that question.  He explained that they did have                                                               
several meetings with the folks in the community, but he doesn't                                                                
know what occurred in a specific phone conversation.  He does know                                                              
that information has certainly been provided to the folks in the                                                                
community.  They could not answer questions like "What are the                                                                  
children's problems; do they have records of delinquency; are they                                                              
sex offenders?"  Those type of questions are confidential.  That                                                                
proved to be frustrating for people who have high levels of fear of                                                             
the danger an unknown group of kids may pose in the neighborhood.                                                               
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON confirmed that confidentiality laws preclude them                                                             
from releasing that information.                                                                                                
Number 1766                                                                                                                     
MR. WEBB responded that's correct.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked Mr. Webb if HB 175 will address that                                                                 
MR. WEBB answered no.                                                                                                           
Number 1779                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked if the DHSS requires any private home                                                                
owner to notify a third party for any purpose outside of sex                                                                    
MR. WEBB answered he cannot think of a circumstance that the DHSS                                                               
requires that.                                                                                                                  
Number 1817                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON recessed the meeting at 5:18 p.m. until Saturday                                                              
morning.  [HB 175 was held over.]                                                                                               

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