Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205

02/14/2018 01:30 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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01:30:22 PM Start
01:31:33 PM Presentation: Department of Health and Social Services, Office of Children's Services "alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact"
02:52:16 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation: Department of Health and Social TELECONFERENCED
Services, Office of Children's Services
"Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact"
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
      SENATE HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                    
                       February 14, 2018                                                                                        
                           1:30 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator David Wilson, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Natasha von Imhof, Vice Chair                                                                                           
Senator Cathy Giessel                                                                                                           
Senator Peter Micciche                                                                                                          
Senator Tom Begich                                                                                                              
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
PRESENTATION: DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES~ OFFICE                                                                  
OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES "ALASKA TRIBAL CHILD WELFARE COMPACT"                                                                    
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
MELANIE BAHNKE, President/CEO                                                                                                   
Kawerak, Inc.                                                                                                                   
Nome, Alaska                                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented on the Alaska Tribal Child Welfare                                                              
CHRISTY LAWTON, Director                                                                                                        
Office of Children's Services (OCS)                                                                                             
Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS)                                                                                 
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented on the Alaska Tribal Child Welfare                                                              
CARLA ERICKSON, Supervising Attorney                                                                                            
Department of Law (DOL)                                                                                                         
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions  about the  Alaska Tribal                                                             
Child Welfare Compact.                                                                                                          
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
1:30:22 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVID WILSON  called the Senate Health  and Social Services                                                             
Standing Committee meeting  to order at 1:30 p.m.  Present at the                                                               
call  to order  were  Senators von  Imhof,  Giessel, Begich,  and                                                               
Chair Wilson. Senator Micciche joined shortly thereafter.                                                                       
^Presentation: Department  of Health and Social  Services, Office                                                               
of Children's Services "Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact"                                                                    
 PRESENTATION: DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES, OFFICE                                                             
  OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES "ALASKA TRIBAL CHILD WELFARE COMPACT"                                                              
CHAIR  WILSON announced  that the  Office of  Children's Services                                                               
would  give a  presentation on  the Alaska  Tribal Child  Welfare                                                               
1:31:33 PM                                                                                                                    
MELANIE BAHNKE,  President/CEO, Kawerak,  Inc., presented  on the                                                               
Alaska  Tribal Child  Welfare  Compact. She  shared  that she  is                                                               
originally  from  St.  Lawrence  Island. Kawerak,  Inc.,  in  the                                                               
Bering  Strait  region  of  Alaska, is  a  tribal  consortium,  a                                                               
nonprofit that operates about 20  programs. She was pleased to be                                                               
able to share  information with the committee  about the exciting                                                               
partnership tribes are forging with the state.                                                                                  
1:32:30 PM                                                                                                                    
CHRISTY LAWTON,  Director, Office  of Children's  Services (OCS),                                                               
Department  of Health  and Social  Services (DHSS),  presented on                                                               
the Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact.                                                                                        
MS. LAWTON  noted that Francine  Eddie Jones, Director  of Tribal                                                               
Social  Services  at Central  Council  of  Tlingit& Haida  Indian                                                               
Tribes of  Alaska, was in  the audience and Nicole  Borromeo with                                                               
the Alaska Federation of Natives was attending by phone.                                                                        
She  said data  shows  why the  compact is  so  important. As  of                                                               
yesterday, 2,855 Alaska children were  in state custody, 1,734 of                                                               
whom are Alaska Native/American Indian.  That is 61 percent, even                                                               
though they make up only 22  percent of the population in Alaska.                                                               
Alaska Native/American Indian children  are three times as likely                                                               
to be  in foster  care as their  Non-Native counterparts.  In the                                                               
eight years that she has been  director of OCS, there has been no                                                               
significant change to the disparity of who is in foster care.                                                                   
She said  Alaska Native children  are more likely to  have poorer                                                               
outcomes  that   Non-Native  children.  The  percent   of  Alaska                                                               
Native/American Indian  Children who  were reunified in  2016 was                                                               
55%, while the  number of Non-Native children  who were reunified                                                               
was 71%.                                                                                                                        
She said  disparities exist in  repeat maltreatment.  The percent                                                               
of Alaska Native/American Indian  children who experienced repeat                                                               
maltreatment in 2016 was 17.7% while  the rate was 10.2% for Non-                                                               
Native  children. Maltreatment  is defined  as when  a report  of                                                               
child  abuse   is  substantiated  and  then   another  report  is                                                               
substantiated in the next 12 months.                                                                                            
According to the  2009-2011 surveys by the  Alaska Pregnancy Risk                                                               
Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS)  Project, an on-going survey                                                               
of mothers of newborns initiated  by the State of Alaska Division                                                               
of Public Health,  Section of Maternal, Child  and Family Health,                                                               
one in  three in Alaska children  are reported to OCS  before age                                                               
8. For Alaska  Native children it is one in  two. There could not                                                               
be a more critical time for a new approach.                                                                                     
1:35:41 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MICCICHE  said it  must be frustrating  to feel  that the                                                               
state is  not moving the needle  in a better direction.  He asked                                                               
if  the  state  is  evaluating  programs  throughout  the  United                                                               
States. These  problems are shared  with American Indians  in the                                                               
lower 48. He asked if anyone was moving the needle.                                                                             
MS.  LAWTON  said  they  always pay  attention  to  research  and                                                               
literature  from across  the country.  American Indian  children,                                                               
and  children  of  other  ethnicities,  across  the  country  are                                                               
overrepresented. Lots of  states are trying many  things and some                                                               
have  found some  success, but  none  have solved  this issue  of                                                               
MS. BAHNKE  said their  work together was  assisted by  the Casey                                                               
Family  Foundation, a  national philanthropic  foundation focused                                                               
on the  well-being of  children. If a  silver bullet  existed, it                                                               
would have  been identified. It  is time  to try a  new approach.                                                               
Doing the same thing over and over isn't working.                                                                               
SENATOR  BEGICH asked  if  he  had the  figures  correct for  OCS                                                               
reports: one  in two of Alaska  Native children and one  in three                                                               
of all Alaskan  children, so a third of kids  are reported by age                                                               
eight to  OCS. He  asked if  that was a  percentage of  the total                                                               
population or just raw reports.                                                                                                 
1:38:53 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. LAWTON  replied the data  comes from the  population surveyed                                                               
by Public Health from 2009 to 2011.                                                                                             
SENATOR BEGICH  said he really  wanted to nail the  figures down.                                                               
One-third of  kids in Alaska  under age 8, probably  about 65,000                                                               
kids, are reported to OCS.  Some 20,000 individuals, not separate                                                               
reports, are being reported to OCS.                                                                                             
MS. LAWTON said yes.                                                                                                            
SENATOR VON IMHOF said then about  10 percent of kids reported go                                                               
into state custody. She asked what  happens to the other kids not                                                               
in state custody.                                                                                                               
MS. LAWTON  said OCS  receives over 15,000  reports a  month, and                                                               
those  reports typically  are about  multiple children.  OCS only                                                               
screens in  half of the  reports for an investigation.  The other                                                               
half  are  just  recorded.  Of   the  7,500  to  8,000  that  are                                                               
investigated,  10 percent  of cases  investigated involve  taking                                                               
children into custody.                                                                                                          
SENATOR VON IMHOF asked if this is similar to other states.                                                                     
MS.  LAWTON   said  lots  of  reports   exist  of  state-to-state                                                               
comparisons in many outcomes. She can find those reports.                                                                       
SENATOR BEGICH  said the  Casey Foundation  Kids Count  must have                                                               
1:42:13 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MICCICHE  said considering that  Alaska is number  one in                                                               
so many of the wrong demographics,  it is probably the same here.                                                               
He said  it is  not an  Alaska Native  or rural  issue. It  is an                                                               
Alaskan  issue--suicide,  substance   abuse,  domestic  violence,                                                               
sexual  assault,  adverse  childhood experiences.  If  Alaska  is                                                               
number one on  these issues, it probably is in  child custody. It                                                               
is all  one problem. But he  was curious if Alaska  is number one                                                               
in terms of child custody.                                                                                                      
MS. LAWTON  said the state  and OCS  have a long  history working                                                               
with tribes. They have been  meeting face-to-face, multiple times                                                               
a  year, for  almost  23 years.  In the  1990s  an agreement  was                                                               
signed  about  all the  things  that  would be  done  differently                                                               
following  the   Indian  Child  Welfare  Act,   in  engaging  and                                                               
communicating  to ensure  they were  doing the  best service  for                                                               
Alaska's kids.  That work has  been fantastic. Everything  in the                                                               
90s  plan   was  accomplished   and  built  into   OCS's  policy,                                                               
practices, and training.  Despite that, the state  still has this                                                               
One  of  the  results  of  the  23  years  of  the  tribal  state                                                               
collaboration   group  is   that   11   tribes  receive   federal                                                               
reimbursement   for   administrative  and   short-term   training                                                               
centered  on  child welfare.  The  funding  is provided  via  OCS                                                               
through tribal Title IV-E agreements.                                                                                           
In  the last  five  years two  IV-E  maintenance agreements  were                                                               
signed with Tanana  Chiefs Conference and Tlingit  and Haida that                                                               
allow them  to transfer  children to  tribal custody,  which they                                                               
have always  had the authority  to do, but  now they can  get the                                                               
federal revenue to pay for foster care.                                                                                         
MS. LAWTON  said OCS  has been doing  these legal  agreements for                                                               
many years. A compact is the  next natural step in letting tribes                                                               
do  the work  they already  have the  authority to  do. They  are                                                               
already doing many  programs. They are doing  more prevention and                                                               
early  intervention services  than OCS  can. Despite  the 23-year                                                               
history, and Francine Eddie Jones has  been at the table from the                                                               
very beginning,  there has been  no transformation in  the system                                                               
improving outcomes. This is what they hope the compact will do.                                                                 
SENATOR VON  IMHOF said the  DHSS audit several years  ago stated                                                               
that DHSS  is not  taking full  advantage Title  IV-E agreements.                                                               
She asked if the compact is part  of the response to the audit or                                                               
something separate.                                                                                                             
1:46:49 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  LAWTON said  she could  not recall  the report  exactly, but                                                               
tribes have to decide to enter  into an agreement. So far only 11                                                               
tribes or  tribal organizations have  done it. Many  other tribes                                                               
want  to  enter   into  Title  IV-E  agreements,   but  it  takes                                                               
infrastructure and  administrative things  to be put  into place.                                                               
The audit said DHSS hadn't done enough site visits.                                                                             
SENATOR VON IMHOF  said she may find the audit  to discuss later,                                                               
but it was something about federal  money being left on the table                                                               
that the state was not taking advantage of.                                                                                     
MS.  LAWTON said  she now  recalled what  Senator von  Imhoff was                                                               
referencing. That was  about the ability to draw  through what is                                                               
called the  penetration rate, which  is another set  of formulas.                                                               
The  department  has  made  significant  improvements.  The  IV-E                                                               
penetration  rate  is  at  an   all-time  high  because  of  some                                                               
innovative strategies.                                                                                                          
MS.  LAWTON said  prior to  her current  role, DHSS  Commissioner                                                               
Valerie  Davidson   was  part  of  a   national  commission  that                                                               
developed  the report  Attorney General's  Advisory Committee  on                                                               
American  Indian/Alaska  Native  Children  Exposed  to  Violence:                                                               
Ending Violence so  Children Can Thrive. Alaska's  issues were so                                                               
striking that it had an entire chapter in the report.                                                                           
She said one  of the recommendations in the report  was to create                                                               
a  task  force  to  look   at  finding  solutions.  They  started                                                               
strategic meetings  with tribal  leaders and some  attorneys from                                                               
organizations that were often suing  OCS for ineffectual services                                                               
to some Alaska Native families and  communities. It was a year of                                                               
tough, intense conversations.                                                                                                   
She said the result of that  work, which was heavily sponsored by                                                               
the  Casey Family  Programs,  is a  five-year  strategic plan  to                                                               
transform  child welfare  outcomes  for  Alaska Native  children.                                                               
This is where the idea of the compact was birthed.                                                                              
1:52:12 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. LAWTON shared the six strategic priorities of the plan.                                                                     
        1. Respectful Government-to- Government                                                                                 
          Collaboration & Partnership                                                                                           
        2. Self-Governance                                                                                                      
        3. Embrace & Implement the Spirit of ICWA                                                                               
        4. State Government Alignment                                                                                           
        5. Community Engagement                                                                                                 
        6. Continuum of Culturally Specific Services &                                                                          
She said they  held the first tribal consultation  in November in                                                               
Anchorage  that  involved all  the  divisions  of DHSS.  All  229                                                               
tribes in Alaska and many tribal  groups were invited. It was the                                                               
first time to speak across  disciplines with tribal colleagues in                                                               
many fields, and the intent is to continue it annually.                                                                         
MS.  LAWTON said  the compact  is  about self-governance  without                                                               
state  oversight.  They  need  some funding  from  the  state  of                                                               
Alaska. The  challenge with  some of  the Title  IV-E maintenance                                                               
agreements  is that  the federal  portion only  pays for  a small                                                               
portion of it.                                                                                                                  
CHAIR WILSON asked if DHSS had a fiscal note.                                                                                   
MS.  LAWTON said  nothing  is  in writing  yet.  The compact  was                                                               
signed  in  October, but  they  are  still  working on  the  last                                                               
details  of  the funding  agreements.  That  should be  available                                                               
soon. They hope to complete negotiations in the next week or so.                                                                
SENATOR  VON  IMHOF   asked  if  DHSS  should   award  grants  vs                                                               
additional  state  funds  or  the  same state  funds  paid  to  a                                                               
different entity.                                                                                                               
MS. LAWTON  said she  was not sure  she understood  the question.                                                               
They  are evaluating  all the  existing  funding at  OCS and  not                                                               
asking for more. There is  funding going to tribes through grants                                                               
and  contracts for  various services.  OCS  is considering  where                                                               
there are  efficiencies, what  to end funding  for to  fund other                                                               
things, fee for  service in the future, perhaps.  OCS is planning                                                               
to use  the Office  of Rate  Review to  establish an  analysis of                                                               
services. She  gave the  example of how  to analyze  and quantify                                                               
the cost  of the many  things a case  worker does. Tribes  have a                                                               
vision for  taking over  all of this  in their  geographic areas,                                                               
but it will  take time to build infrastructure to  do that. It is                                                               
new territory and they are trying to figure that all out.                                                                       
1:57:00 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  VON  IMHOF  said  she  likes  what  she  is  hearing--to                                                               
prioritize work within the system  to reallocate existing funding                                                               
and to see what is available at the local level.                                                                                
SENATOR MICCICHE  said he  assumed they  would be  discussing the                                                               
actual compact during this meeting.                                                                                             
MS. BAHNKE addressed the question of  why not just issue a grant.                                                               
She explained that compacting is  different than being a grantee.                                                               
It is  a formal relationship  between sovereigns. It is  not new.                                                               
Tribes and  tribal organizations have entered  into compacts with                                                               
the  federal government  for  over 20  years.  The Alaska  Native                                                               
health  care system  is  an example  of  a compacting  agreement.                                                               
Kawerak  has  compacts  for services  formerly  provided  by  the                                                               
Bureau of Indian Affairs and  compacts that allows Kawerak to use                                                               
federal  highway  resources to  build  roads.  But now  they  are                                                               
entering  into  this  type  of relationship  with  the  state  of                                                               
Alaska. The state  is a partner, and Kawerak is  not a grantee or                                                               
MS.  BAHNKE said  compacting  is not  something  new for  tribes.                                                               
Kawerak has successfully administered  state contracts and grants                                                               
for  over 20  years. Delivering  services closer  to the  service                                                               
population  has   been  successful.  One  example   is  the  work                                                               
requirements for  public assistance. The Department  of Labor was                                                               
not successful  in identifying work  sites in their  villages for                                                               
beneficiaries of Temporary Assistance  for Needy Families (TANF).                                                               
Kawerak has  human resources in  the villages and is  governed by                                                               
tribes in the region. Kawerak was  able to identify work sites in                                                               
every village, and  the state of Alaska is now  in compliance for                                                               
federal work requirements in their  region. They believe they are                                                               
capable. It  is about  stepping up  and taking  responsibility in                                                               
finding solutions to  the state's issues and the  issues in their                                                               
own  backyards.  It  is  a   natural  progression  from  being  a                                                               
contractor, a grantee, to a true partnership.                                                                                   
MS. BAHNKE made the following points about the Alaska Tribal                                                                    
Child Welfare Compact.                                                                                                          
   • It is a government-to-government agreement between the                                                                     
     State of Alaska and Alaska tribes and tribal organizations.                                                                
   • It recognizes tribes' inherent sovereign authority to serve                                                                
     their citizens as they have since time immemorial.                                                                         
   • It defines the services to be carried out by tribes and                                                                    
     tribal organizations in a defined jurisdiction or service                                                                  
 • Alaska's first Tribal-State compact has opened the door to                                                                   
     create other government-to-government agreements in other                                                                  
    service areas beyond Child Welfare and beyond Health and                                                                    
     Social Services.                                                                                                           
She  said  certain  efficiencies  will be  gained  by  the  state                                                               
entering into  agreements with organizations like  Kawerak, which                                                               
has  200  employees  and  is  in  every  single  village.  It  is                                                               
leveraging funds and resources.                                                                                                 
She  said 18  tribes  and tribal  organizations  have signed  the                                                               
compact. A number  of them jumped on this  opportunity. They feel                                                               
they are  ready and have  the capacity.  Some will need  to build                                                               
that capacity to reach the  level of sophistication that a larger                                                               
organization like Kawerak has achieved.                                                                                         
2:05:05 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  LAWTON   added  that  the   compact  describes   how  annual                                                               
negotiations will be  done and also specifies  when new cosigners                                                               
can  join the  compact  or funding  agreements.  They expect  the                                                               
number of tribes and tribal organizations to grow every year.                                                                   
MS. LAWTON said that for the remainder of Fiscal Year 18, tribes                                                                
are working on program development, infrastructure and capacity                                                                 
building, and training and technical support through individual                                                                 
She said  that with  the compact signed  in October,  some things                                                               
are  being implemented.  One of  the more  exciting parts  of the                                                               
compact   was   spelling   out  the   sharing   of   information,                                                               
particularly the  screened out  protective services  reports. The                                                               
policy  has been  for many  years to  contact the  tribe, if  the                                                               
tribe  is  known,  prior  to  going out  to  see  the  family  to                                                               
investigate a  report on an  Alaska Native  child, to see  if the                                                               
tribe  wishes to  have a  staff person  to join  OCS. OCS  is now                                                               
automatically sending  all reports, screened in  and screened out                                                               
reports, with the 18 cosigners  and the tribes connected to those                                                               
cosigners.  More importantly,  they also  get the  50 percent  of                                                               
reports that  OCS is not  doing anything  with. Some of  them are                                                               
already contacting  those families to  see if they can  offer any                                                               
services.  This  could  slow  down   the  trajectory  of  growing                                                               
problems within families who then  ultimately make their way back                                                               
to OCS.                                                                                                                         
MS.  LAWTON said  the three  priorities for  Fiscal Year  19 came                                                               
from  negotiations with  all the  partners. It  was difficult  to                                                               
choose three  priorities out  of the whole  universe of  what OCS                                                               
The FY2019 focus is primarily on                                                                                                
        • Initial Diligent Relative Search                                                                                      
        • Safety Evaluation for Unlicensed Relatives &                                                                          
          Prospective Foster Parents                                                                                            
        • Family Contact                                                                                                        
She  said  tribes  already  know   families  to  complete  safety                                                               
evaluations as compared  to someone from Anchorage  trying to fly                                                               
out to do this.                                                                                                                 
2:10:59 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. LAWTON shared the long-term vision:                                                                                         
        • Outcomes for all Alaska children will be                                                                              
        • Families will be served closest to home, in their                                                                     
          own communities in a way reflective of their                                                                          
          culture and traditions.                                                                                               
        • Families will be more receptive and engaged in                                                                        
          changing behavior which will mean over time that                                                                      
         the number of Alaska Native children in foster                                                                         
          care will decline as does the rate of                                                                                 
        • More tribes accessing Title IV-E funding to                                                                           
          operate programs autonomously with both the state                                                                     
          and federal funding required to be successful.                                                                        
She said  most of  the time Alaska  Native families  will respond                                                               
better to someone from tribal organization.                                                                                     
SENATOR MICCICHE  asked if  the number of  groups in  the compact                                                               
will grow past 18.                                                                                                              
MS. LAWTON  said other  tribes and  organizations are  welcome to                                                               
join the  compact every  year when  they do  annual negotiations,                                                               
but they cannot join outside of the annual negotiations period.                                                                 
SENATOR MICCICHE asked if anyone is operational at this point.                                                                  
MS. LAWTON said they are all  in different places. Many are going                                                               
on  screen outs  to offer  services,  for the  reports not  being                                                               
investigated. They  are still working  on funding  agreements for                                                               
relative searches. All is in the process of gearing up.                                                                         
MS.  BAHNKE said  they have  not yet  received a  penny from  the                                                               
state, but some are already  offering services. They need funding                                                               
to ramp it up.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR MICCICHE said  in the past the  Native organizations were                                                               
notified  if there  was a  report on  Alaska Native  children. He                                                               
asked if organizations  kept a log of who  was receiving services                                                               
or if this was completely new.                                                                                                  
2:14:26 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BAHNKE said  OCS is  supposed to  share information  when it                                                               
receives  a   report  of  harm   and  plans  to  do   an  initial                                                               
investigation, but they  were not receiving all  the screened out                                                               
reports. They are  now receiving information on  families who may                                                               
need  resources  and  family   preservation  services.  With  the                                                               
compact,  OCS is  mandated to  share information.  She is  not an                                                               
expert  in OCS  systems,  but  the majority  of  children in  OCS                                                               
custody  are not  there because  of the  first initial  report of                                                               
harm.  They want  to  work with  families at  the  first sign  of                                                               
support needed.  Hopefully this will  reduce children  going into                                                               
state or tribal custody.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  BEGICH said  with  the redeployment  of  funds with  the                                                               
funding agreements,  they are talking  about the pool  of funding                                                               
for what they both acknowledge is  not a working system. With the                                                               
partnerships these funds  can reach further out,  with more local                                                               
expertise. He saw  these as positive steps that  should have been                                                               
done decades ago.  The funding agreement is key,  how those funds                                                               
are redeployed. He noted that  the 18 signees represent more than                                                               
18 tribes. He asked how many tribes are with Kawerak.                                                                           
MS.  BAHNKE said  Kawerak has  20 federally-recognized  tribes in                                                               
their  region.  One of  them  is  an  independent signer  of  the                                                               
SENATOR BEGICH said  that means that for those  two entities they                                                               
are talking about  27 tribes at least. He said,  one, the idea of                                                               
redeployment, which he wants to  hear more about, two, the number                                                               
is more  than 18, and three,  incremental growth. It is  best not                                                               
to do everything  at once. He asked  is it fair to say  that as a                                                               
tribe expresses readiness, OCS is embracing that tribe.                                                                         
2:18:43 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. LAWTON  responded yes,  that is  exactly what  their strategy                                                               
has been. She guessed that  the cosigners probably represent over                                                               
100  tribes. Senator  Begich is  exactly right  about incremental                                                               
growth. They  need to get  it right  and be successful.  They are                                                               
being  strategic and  thoughtful  about how  to  start. The  most                                                               
exciting conversation  has been about redeployment  of resources,                                                               
as  they  can imagine.  They  spent  a  lot  of time  looking  at                                                               
documents of the OCS budget and  all the federal formula. "It's a                                                               
big, complicated pile," she said.                                                                                               
She said  they are looking at  funds where they have  a say about                                                               
how they  are used. Federal  funds have little  flexibility. They                                                               
have the most flexibility with  family preservation funds. In the                                                               
long  term, they  will  need to  be creative  about  how to  move                                                               
resources. The  other OCS budget  components are heavily  tied to                                                               
federal requirements and federal funding.                                                                                       
SENATOR BEGICH said looking back  on slide 9 of the presentation,                                                               
the program  development, infrastructure, etc., that  also builds                                                               
consistency. They are almost a provider of consistency.                                                                         
2:21:30 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  LAWTON said  she was  not sure  about the  word consistency.                                                               
Each tribe can  approach how they are going to  do these services                                                               
in their own unique way.                                                                                                        
SENATOR BEGICH  said he  should have  said best  practices. There                                                               
are best, evidence-based  practices that OCS will  be stewards of                                                               
and however they pick those best practices.                                                                                     
MS. LAWTON said there are many  things in child welfare that have                                                               
best  practice  and  many  things that  don't.  The  tribes  will                                                               
diligently try to find what works.                                                                                              
SENATOR GIESSEL said this is a  great idea. It is a concept being                                                               
discussed in  the education  realm. Commissioner  Michael Johnson                                                               
of Department of  Education and Early Development  (DEED) had the                                                               
Alaska Educational Challenge (AEC) last  summer. One of the ideas                                                               
that  emerged  was  the  idea   of  compacting  with  tribes  for                                                               
education. That was transformational.                                                                                           
She said that  as a nurse practitioner, she  often visualizes the                                                               
substance abuse crisis as a river  where we see people in a river                                                               
heading toward a waterfall. We  throw life preservers at them, we                                                               
swim out  to them to try  to get them  to shore, to get  on solid                                                               
ground, to get  their lives back in order. She  sees OCS that way                                                               
also. We  need to  go up  the river  to find  out why  people are                                                               
falling in the river and stop them.  At the end of the day, it is                                                               
about healthy families.  That is a people issue,  not a financial                                                               
issue.  When she  worked  at the  Alaska  Native medical  center,                                                               
there was a  program, perhaps family warriors, for men  on how to                                                               
be fathers.  Those kinds  of things will  stop people  falling in                                                               
and create  healthy families.  She asked if  part of  the mission                                                               
will be to cultivate healthy families.                                                                                          
She  said, "I  think you  took my  notes." She  cannot speak  for                                                               
other  organizations,  but this  is  true  for Kawerak.  The  OCS                                                               
mandate is  safety of  children first. Kawerak  will look  at the                                                               
well-being of  family units,  as well as  child safety.  The data                                                               
are not just numbers to them.  They see faces behind the numbers.                                                               
They are their  cousins, nieces. They feel  a true responsibility                                                               
to the  well-being of  their family  units and  communities. This                                                               
agreement allows a  more holistic approach. She  hopes that their                                                               
social  workers won't  be viewed  as just  enforcers or  there to                                                               
take  children away.  They will  know  that Kawerak  is there  to                                                               
provide support.                                                                                                                
2:27:43 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BAHNKE said  the State  of  Alaska hasn't  always gotten  it                                                               
right when it  comes to tribes. She hopes that  20 years from now                                                               
she  can report  the successes  they  have gained.  The State  of                                                               
Alaska will  be on  the right  side of history  when it  comes to                                                               
this agreement.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  GIESSEL said  government was  never meant  to deal  with                                                               
these kinds of  issues. It is local  families, local communities,                                                               
that are best suited to deal with these kinds of issues.                                                                        
CHAIR  WILSON said  the  committee would  like  to ask  questions                                                               
about the agreement itself.                                                                                                     
SENATOR MICCICHE said  the immediate benefit from  the compact is                                                               
that  he  assumes  a  high proportion  of  screened  out  reports                                                               
results in  an eventual visit  from OCS. Now, instead  of someone                                                               
from a different culture in  Anchorage, a friendly face will show                                                               
up to  help with  early intervention.  He expects  a dramatically                                                               
different  outcome just  because of  that. Capacity  is going  to                                                               
vary   dramatically   from    tribal   organization   to   tribal                                                               
organization.   Looking  at   the   section   on  licensing   and                                                               
certification,  he  asked about  qa  [quality  assurance] and  qc                                                               
[quality  check]  to assure  child  safety  and some  measure  of                                                               
qualification and outcome.                                                                                                      
SENATOR MICCICHE rephrased  his comments to ask how  the state is                                                               
assured that  the same  capacity exists  locally so  people don't                                                               
slip through the cracks and a child remains at risk.                                                                            
MS. LAWTON  said a great amount  of thought went into  that area.                                                               
Tribes are  going to  receive state funding  that OCS  would have                                                               
gotten. There  will be a  process for  OCS to visit  and evaluate                                                               
programs. The compact has a  provision to suspend or terminate on                                                               
both sides. OCS  will work to address problems.  That language is                                                               
built into  the compact. No  one wants  to end an  agreement. The                                                               
tribes could go to OCS with problems they perceive with OCS.                                                                    
SENATOR MICCICHE said he is  from a small community and sometimes                                                               
powerful  people  get a  different  outcome  than others.  He  is                                                               
concerned about that.                                                                                                           
2:33:28 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BAHNKE  said  it  sounded  as though  he  was  seeking  some                                                               
assurances  about  whether  OCS  will  be  qualified  to  deliver                                                               
services and comply  with the requirements She feels  OCS will be                                                               
held to an even higher standard that currently.                                                                                 
CHAIR WILSON asked about blended  families, with different tribal                                                               
members or nontribal members. He  asked about child support, such                                                               
as whether a tribal jurisdiction  can go after a nontribal member                                                               
for child support.                                                                                                              
MS. LAWTON said  they do see a lot of  blended families. With the                                                               
compact, the definition that applies  is whether the Indian Child                                                               
Welfare Act applies to the child.                                                                                               
CHAIR WILSON  asked about section, Child  Support, about                                                               
enforcement of child support, on page 18 of the agreement.                                                                      
2:37:09 PM                                                                                                                    
CARLA ERICKSON,  Supervising Attorney,  Department of  Law (DOL),                                                               
answered questions  about the  compact. She  said the  section is                                                               
about  access to  databases  and information,  not  about who  is                                                               
entering child support  orders. She will get back  him on whether                                                               
there is  authority for a  tribe to  enter a child  support order                                                               
over  a Non-Native  child, but  that was  not the  intent of  the                                                               
SENATOR  BEGICH responded  to Senator  Micciche's concerns  about                                                               
what happens at  the local level. He recounted a  story from when                                                               
he worked with  the Division of Juvenile Justice.  The village of                                                               
Togiak  created  a Community  Court  Tribunal  under a  fraternal                                                               
community court agreement. Since  Togiak was a divided community,                                                               
there  were  questions  about  fair  sentencing  because  of  the                                                               
factions in  the community. When  he reviewed the  court records,                                                               
he  did not  find one  example of  one group  retaliating against                                                               
another. He  has been impressed  by the commitment  to community,                                                               
whether  Native or  Non-Native, when  given the  ability to  make                                                               
decisions  at  the local  level.  He  has  seen  it as  a  direct                                                               
SENATOR MICCICHE  said he is  not brand new  to Alaska and  he is                                                               
not  brand new  to areas  that have  tribal responsibilities.  He                                                               
said it  goes both ways.  He said their diligence  must guarantee                                                               
the safety of  children. He doesn't doubt the  compact, but there                                                               
are examples in  Alaska in smaller, rural  communities where that                                                               
is not the case. He hears  what Senator Begich is saying, but for                                                               
the  isolated  child  who  cannot get  relief  because  of  local                                                               
protection, their job is to make sure it never happens.                                                                         
2:40:58 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH  said he completely  agrees. He asked if  5.3.5 on                                                               
page 11 provides enough time for the Negotiating Cycle.                                                                         
MS.  LAWTON said  they  don't  know since  they  haven't done  it                                                               
before  but  they  will  find  out. She  pointed  out  that  both                                                               
Senators  Begich and  Micciche  were correct  in their  comments.                                                               
Mistakes are  going to  happen. Mistakes  happen every  day under                                                               
her watch,  despite her very  best efforts. Child welfare  is not                                                               
an exact science. They are going to try to support each.                                                                        
MS. BAHNKE  said it is like  the stock market. Over  the long run                                                               
you do  well. She brought  up what  tribes have done  with health                                                               
care  in small  communities.  In her  region  some villages  have                                                               
built roads  to federal highway  standards. She said they  can be                                                               
trusted  and counted  on to  ensure that  they will  do right  by                                                               
these children.                                                                                                                 
CHAIR WILSON said he was  grateful that the department is looking                                                               
for other  ways to address  problems. He was concerned  about the                                                               
definition of tribal law in 2.19  on page 8 of the agreement that                                                               
states that tribal traditional law can  be oral. He asked if that                                                               
means tribes can change laws because of someone's whim.                                                                         
MS.  BAHNKE   said  the  definition,   in  relationship   to  the                                                               
agreement, is  more about  the authority of  tribes to  carry out                                                               
the  agreement. Section  3.3 Tribal  Authority on  page 9  delves                                                               
into tribal  authority. The  definition is  there to  explain the                                                               
authority  that  allows  them  to   enter  into  these  types  of                                                               
CHAIR WILSON said  the Division of Juvenile  Justice(DJJ) is part                                                               
of DHSS.  DJJ is  part of  the information-sharing  agreement. He                                                               
asked if this  means tribal organizations will take  over some of                                                               
those  arrangements or  is DJJ  just  in the  agreement to  share                                                               
information for juveniles that may have a record.                                                                               
2:46:06 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.   LAWTON  said   they  did   not  get   into  that   specific                                                               
conversation, but she knows her  tribal colleagues are interested                                                               
in delivering  any services that  could have better  outcomes for                                                               
their families. They might be  interested in becoming involved in                                                               
juvenile justice or any of the other DHSS services.                                                                             
SENATOR VON  IMHOF asked if the  committee can get a  report in a                                                               
year. She  asked if they are  quantifying the data to  be able to                                                               
report on how it is going.                                                                                                      
MS.  BAHNKE said  to expect  great change  in a  year is  a false                                                               
expectation, but  they will  be collecting data  to turn  it into                                                               
useful information. She  wants to know 20 years from  now that it                                                               
made  a  difference.  She  wants   to  know  she  contributed  to                                                               
meaningful change.                                                                                                              
SENATOR BEGICH said fundamentally  the legislature is responsible                                                               
for the safety of every child. He looks forward to that report.                                                                 
MS. BAHNKE said she sees  everyone is concerned about the welfare                                                               
of  children. They  are partners  in this  shared responsibility.                                                               
She   acknowledged  Commissioner   Davidson   for  her   fearless                                                               
leadership in trying  to find a new way to  address the long-term                                                               
statistics the state  faces. She feels very supported  by the top                                                               
leaders as they enter into this agreement with the state.                                                                       
MS. LAWTON echoed Ms. Bahnke's comments.                                                                                        
SENATOR  MICCICHE  said   when  they  are  back   home  in  their                                                               
districts, they hear  mixed messages on agencies  from Native and                                                               
Non-Native  families, rural  or urban.  There is  a gap  with the                                                               
local  influence that  could be  beneficial in  every one  of the                                                               
difficult statistics he  talked about earlier. He  thinks that it                                                               
is the  right way to  go. The outside  one-size-fits-all approach                                                               
has not  worked, and  he is  very supportive.  The state  has not                                                               
gained  ground  on  those  issues.   The  reason  he  is  in  the                                                               
legislature  is that  because  one day  he wants  not  to need  a                                                               
suicide  task  force, an  OCS,  because  they have  solved  those                                                               
problems. He knows  that is not real life, but  a new approach is                                                               
2:51:47 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON said ensuring child safety  is a key priority of the                                                               
state  of  Alaska. He  thanked  the  presenters for  looking  for                                                               
creative solutions.                                                                                                             
2:52:16 PM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair  Wilson adjourned  the Senate  Health  and Social  Services                                                               
Standing Committee at 2:52.                                                                                                     

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact 12.15.17.pdf SHSS 2/14/2018 1:30:00 PM
Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact
Legislative Update - Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact FINAL February 2018.pdf SHSS 2/14/2018 1:30:00 PM
Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact DHSS 2.14.18
AK Transforming Child Welfare Outcomes Strategic Plan Matrix.pdf SHSS 2/14/2018 1:30:00 PM
Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact