Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

04/06/2009 01:30 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 2(HSS) Out of Committee
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Moved CSSB 139(HSS) Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 27(HSS) Out of Committee
          SB  27-FOSTER CARE AGE LIMIT/TUITION WAIVER                                                                       
2:25:32 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS announced  consideration of SB 27.  [CSSB 27, version                                                               
E was  before the  committee having been  adopted at  the 3/11/09                                                               
TOM OBERMEYER,  staff to Senator  Davis, said this  bill provides                                                               
waivers of  tuition and  fees combined  with other  assistance to                                                               
help   foster  or   out-of-home  care   children  to   enjoy  the                                                               
opportunity and benefits of higher education afforded to others.                                                                
The  University  of  Alaska  (UA)  has increased  from  5  to  10                                                               
students statewide who  were in foster care  for tuition waivers,                                                               
but that isn't nearly enough.  This bill attempts to provide many                                                               
more foster kids  to go to college, it extends  a court order age                                                               
to 21 for a child committed  to the custody of the department, it                                                               
significantly  changes "foster  care" to  "out-of-home care"  for                                                               
purposes of  a transition to  an independent living  program, and                                                               
adds a  monetary stipend for  children in the  transition program                                                               
for a specified period of time up  to one year. In the past these                                                               
youth  who  "aged  out"  of  foster  care  were  given  financial                                                               
assistance for housing up to two months.                                                                                        
At ease from 2:27 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.                                                                                             
2:30:51 PM                                                                                                                    
MIKE  LESSMAN,  Manager,   Community  Relations  and  Legislative                                                               
Contact,  Office  of  Children's Services  (OCS),  Department  of                                                               
Health and  Social Services (DHSS),  said there are  three fiscal                                                               
notes,  because  three components  of  the  OCS budget  would  be                                                               
impacted. First,  this extends the  age a  child can be  in state                                                               
custody  to  21;  so  the  department  would  be  paying  for  an                                                               
additional  year  for some  youth.  Another  financial impact  is                                                               
found in  Section 12,  the provision  that provides  for monetary                                                               
living  expense stipend.  And third,  the  state automated  child                                                               
welfare  system,  ORCA,  would  require  programming  changes  to                                                               
accommodate age changes.                                                                                                        
CHAIR DAVIS  said he might  want to  just run through  the fiscal                                                               
2:34:46 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. LESSMAN  explained that  this is new  territory for  the OCS,                                                               
and these figures are basically their best guess.                                                                               
SENATOR  DYSON  asked  if  he could  say  what  the  department's                                                               
position is.                                                                                                                    
MR. LESSMAN replied that the department is neutral.                                                                             
SENATOR  DYSON asked  if he  is correct  that the  cost would  be                                                               
about $2.5 million per year.                                                                                                    
MR. LESSMAN replied  that in FY2010 the  monetary stipend portion                                                               
alone is about $5 million. The  foster care age increase to 21 is                                                               
about $725,000.                                                                                                                 
2:37:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS  said this  is a  positive way  to spend  the state's                                                               
money. The fiscal  note represents all of the  children who could                                                               
conceivably be  served, but not  all will take advantage  of this                                                               
program.  She  noted that  she  heard  no objections  other  than                                                               
MR. LESSMAN  explained that the  premise behind  the department's                                                               
neutral position  is a simple  matter of priorities. He  said OCS                                                               
recently got  its results  of the federal  review that  said they                                                               
really  need  to  concentrate on  timeliness  of  investigations,                                                               
keeping  children in  their homes  if it  is safe  to do  so, and                                                               
doing  more  home visits.  Families  need  to be  reunified  more                                                               
quickly and safely.  So their priorities are on the  front end of                                                               
the system.                                                                                                                     
2:40:02 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DYSON said he'd like to see a copy of the audit results.                                                                
MR. LESSMAN said it is on the OCS web site.                                                                                     
SENATOR PASKVAN moved to report CS  for SB 27 from committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, CSSB 27(HSS) moved from committee.                                                                          

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