Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/22/1996 09:00 AM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
          SB 188 VIDEOTAPE INTERVIEW OF ABUSED MINOR                          
                                                                              
 SENATOR MILLER, co-sponsor of the measure, discussed the thorough             
 review given to the bill by the Senate HES committee, and the                 
 changes made by that committee.  Testimony has been heard on both             
 sides of the issue on investigating suspected child abuse cases.              
 The original bill required mandatory videotaping: the HES committee           
 substitute provides for mandatory audiotaping, and where practical,           
 the use of videotaping, during interviews.  The taped interview               
 will provide a record for the agency to use when pursuing a case,             
 and to determine whether a case has merit.  Currently the success             
 rate for prosecutions of child abuse in court is only 30 to 40                
 percent.                                                                      
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS noted the fiscal note for SB 188 projected a cost of            
 $4 million and asked if a new fiscal note has been prepared for               
 CSSB 188(HES).                                                                
                                                                               
 SENATOR MILLER did not know if the new fiscal notes were completed.           
                                                                               
 Number 205                                                                    
                                                                               
 DIANE WORLEY, Director of the Division of Family and Youth                    
 Services, addressed the changes made in CSSB 188(HES).  DHSS                  
 continues to oppose the bill on the mandatory nature of the                   
 audiotaping, as well as the fact that if an interview cannot be               
 audiotaped, the investigation must cease (page 2, line 24).  That             
 requirement will present serious problems to field workers because            
 if equipment fails or is unavailable and the investigation must               
 stop, the child may be placed in additional danger.  DHSS believes            
 this measure will place an undue burden on those involved in an               
 investigation, since investigations are often coordinated efforts             
 between Alaska State Troopers, social workers, and school staff,              
 and often require travel to remote locations.  DHSS is not opposed            
 to the concept of using audiotapes, and is working toward                     
 increasing the availability of such equipment to staff, as well as            
 transcription.  DHSS also believes videotaping is appropriate in              
 certain cases and will continue to videotape when available and               
 appropriate and does not interfere with an ongoing investigation.             
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS asked Ms. Worley to comment on the changes made in              
 CSSB 188(HES).  MS. WORLEY responded the major change is the                  
 requirement of mandatory audiotaping with the use of videotaping              
 encouraged when possible, rather than mandatory videotaping.                  
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR questioned how the legislature could be assured that           
 if a provision was added to allow the department to proceed with an           
 investigation if no taping was available, the department would                
 audiotape at least 90 percent of all interviews.  He did not                  
 believe the purchase of tape recorders to be a large fiscal                   
 expenditure.                                                                  
                                                                               
 MS. WORLEY admitted the only assurance she could offer is her word,           
 as this is an area she is committed to.  She believed the taping is           
 only one small aspect of problems with child abuse prosecutions.              
 New staff need a longer orientation period with training in good              
 interview techniques.   A poor interview on tape is of no more                
 assistance than a written interview.  Her goal is to set up and               
 implement a comprehensive plan of action to improve the abilities             
 of social workers, the process, and consistency statewide.                    
 Additionally, the tape storage and transcription procedures need to           
 be designed.  DFYS is moving in that direction at this time.                  
                                                                               
 Number 310                                                                    
                                                                               
 FRANK SMITH, testifying from Barrow as a private citizen, believed            
 the original bill would have been a nightmare to implement.  As a             
 field worker in Anchorage, he had 42 cases in one month.  To carry            
 equipment around and put it in people's faces would have entailed             
 considerable logistical problems. He believed audiotaping preserves           
 the rights of the persons involved in the investigation, and                  
 protects the worker who is sometimes subject to outrageous                    
 allegations by the person interviewed when called to account for              
 abuse or neglect of children.  He agreed with Ms. Worley's comments           
 and expressed concern about the fiscal note since the Division's              
 budget is already strained.                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 344                                                                    
                                                                               
 NAOMI HUDSON, representing Guardians of Family Rights, stated there           
 are a lot of problems when interviews are not recorded because of             
 false allegations, interviewers asking leading questions, and                 
 interviewers misinterpreting or fabricating responses.  Videotaping           
 protects the child, parent, and interviewer since no one could deny           
 what was said, and could be used to determine which cases are                 
 legitimate.  Parents need to have control, and social workers need            
 to work with parents.  DFYS has a large caseload; several of the              
 cases are not as serious as DFYS purports, and taping could save              
 money.  The Alaska State Troopers audiotape all interviews.                   
                                                                               
 Number 388                                                                    
                                                                               
 CARMEN LOWRY testified in opposition to CSSB 188(HES) because of              
 the mandatory nature of taping.  The overall goals of DFYS need to            
 be prioritized and should stress the needs of the child who is the            
 alleged abuse victim.  Although audiotaping is a useful tool, it is           
 dangerous to require that all interviews be audiotaped.                       
                                                                               
 CONNIE TRUMBLE, testifying from Bethel, felt the bill has merit but           
 expressed concern about the requirement to tape an interview within           
 72 hours of disclosure in remote areas.  Weather problems and a               
 lack of trained staff sometimes prevent an investigation from                 
 proceeding for three weeks.  Trained workers are not located in               
 each village.                                                                 
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR asked Ms. Trumble for suggestions.                             
                                                                               
 Number 427                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. TRUMBLE suggested training more people in rural Alaska, such as           
 VPSOs and Head Start staff, or other people trained in working with           
 children, to tape the interview.                                              
                                                                               
 MARIAN SHARP, testifying from Bethel, strongly opposed CSSB
 188(HES), because an investigation must stop if DFYS does not                 
 follow-up on a report within 72 hours; an unrealistic goal on the             
 Delta.  The local DFYS office receives over 200 calls per week and            
 will be unable to follow-up on all calls within 72 hours.  That               
 requirement may leave many victims unheard, and many perpetrators             
 will remain free.  The court system is set up to protect the rights           
 of the accused, and very often revictimizes  innocent children.               
 This should not extend to the investigative process as well.                  
 Attention should be turned to better training for investigators,              
 not to revictimizing the children.  CSSB 188(HES) originated from             
 a group of people who are not worried about the rights of the                 
 children.                                                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR clarified the 72 hour requirement is in existing law           
 and should be complied with today.  MS. SHARP asked if the                    
 investigation must stop if the interview is not conducted within 72           
 hours.  SENATOR TAYLOR responded no.  MS. SHARP stated her                    
 understanding is that CSSB 188(HES) would require the investigation           
 to stop.  SENATOR TAYLOR noted existing law requires a written                
 report be provided within 72 hours.  MS. SHARP believed a phone               
 report is more likely to occur in that time frame.                            
                                                                               
 Number 464                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR stated he has not seen the department show any                 
 sincere desire over the last 15 years to use technological                    
 equipment to provide a permanent record that could later be                   
 reviewed. In case after case, interviewers destroy their own notes,           
 after they have typed up what they believe to be the best record of           
 the interview, and relying on their recollections or notations.               
 The typed records are then lost, which requires an investigation to           
 rely on the interviewer's recollection.  He noted, as a co-sponsor            
 of the legislation, he took umbrage at the remark that he is not              
 concerned about the welfare of children or families, or about the             
 slipshod manner in which interviews and investigations are being              
 done.  In most instances, these cases are criminal matters, and               
 investigators do not even begin to follow any of the procedures               
 used by the most crudely trained law enforcement officer.  As a               
 consequence, 60 percent of the cases are dismissed because the                
 interviewing process was sloppy, thereby endangering more children.           
                                                                               
 MS. SHARP responded if the problem is with investigative procedure,           
 the investigators should be held accountable.  There is no reason             
 to believe that by mandating audiotaping of interviews, the tapes             
 will not be lost.  She questioned what systems are used by police             
 officers that make their investigations trustworthy, as those                 
 procedures should be applied to social workers.  The focus should             
 be put on those procedures rather than on something that will                 
 require a lot of technical assistance and places more trauma on the           
 child.                                                                        
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR repeated he did not believe tape recorders were                
 complicated or expensive.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 500                                                                    
                                                                               
 MEGAN SULLIVAN, representing the Tundra Womens' Coalition in                  
 Bethel, testified in opposition to the mandatory nature of the                
 audiotaping.  In traveling to villages to work with teachers and              
 health aides on training for reporting child abuse and neglect, a             
 concern often expressed in those communities is that DFYS does not            
 arrive in the village within 72 hours of when a report has been               
 made, which can further endanger a child.  DFYS employees have been           
 trying to work with local village family service workers, through             
 ICWA and Traditional Councils, so that someone in the village is              
 available to work with the child.  She agreed those workers should            
 be trained to do the audiotaping, since DFYS currently makes                  
 telephone contact within 72 hours.  She expressed concern that                
 according to AS 47.17 the purpose of DFYS is to protect children,             
 but if an interview cannot occur within 72 hours, that purpose will           
 be unfulfilled.                                                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR referred to page 2, line 27, to explain the existing           
 72 hour requirement.  Once DFYS receives a telephone call regarding           
 suspected abuse, staff must file a written report of the                      
 investigation within 72 hours, with the Department of Law for                 
 review.  DFYS is not required to fly to the village within 72                 
 hours, only to file a written report with the Department of Law.              
                                                                               
 MS. SULLIVAN asked if there would be a time requirement for when              
 the interview was audiotaped.  SENATOR TAYLOR answered if CSSB
 188(HES) passes, the interview can only be conducted if it is tape            
 recorded.  It is hoped DFYS will conduct the interview promptly.              
                                                                               
 MS. SULLIVAN pointed out DFYS does not travel to rural villages to            
 investigate every report.  She assumed if CSSB 188(HES) passes, it            
 will be required to which will necessitate additional personnel and           
 finances.                                                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR said that if DFYS is not doing so now, it must be              
 prioritizing cases.  CSSB 188(HES) only requires that when those              
 interviews are conducted, they be audiotaped with a cheap tape                
 recorder and cassette tape.  He repeated the 72 hour requirement              
 applies to the written report filed with the Department of Law for            
 review.                                                                       
                                                                               
 WALTER GAUTHIER, testifying from Homer as a member of Guardians for           
 Family Rights, asserted that a parent accused of child abuse must             
 face court-appointed special advocates, the guardian ad litem,                
 assistant attorney generals, case workers, psychologists and                  
 counselors, DFYS staff, and advocates of womens shelters, therefore           
 the idea that the court system rules favor the accused is a total             
 fallacy.  In 1994, DFYS spent $24 million for foster care, $27                
 million for residential childcare, and another $20+ million for               
 another type of foster care.  This system is fueled by foster care,           
 and once an allegation is made, places the child in foster care no            
 matter what.  Meanwhile the family of the child is bankrupted and             
 emotionally destroyed by the process, while 20 government employees           
 try to prove that someone is abusive.  Over 50 percent of                     
 accusations are found by DFYS to be unsubstantiated, of the                   
 remaining 50 percent, the abuser is accused of vague concepts such            
 as psychological and emotional abuse.  Teenagers use the abuse                
 accusation to get out of a home where rules and standards of                  
 behavior are imposed.  The foster homes merely warehouse children.            
 His organization does not advocate child abuse in any way, shape,             
 or form but only 20 percent of DFYS' cases are for actual physical            
 abuse.  The remainder is caseload generation for the abuse industry           
 to generate government grants.                                                
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-27, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 580                                                                    
                                                                               
 HARRY NIEHAUS, a member of Guardians of Family Rights, believed               
 interviews should be videotaped just in case problems arise.  DFYS'           
 reputation has been questionable, and its policies have not been              
 consistent since 1984.  Notes are not nearly as accurate as a tape,           
 and tapes will lead to more convictions of a guilty party, and save           
 money in the end.  Taping will lead to less false allegations and             
 court time, and will help to protect children from the real                   
 perpetrators.                                                                 
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR responded his purpose in introducing the legislation           
 is to make prosecutions more effective.  He discussed the analogy             
 of the use of technology, such as breathalizer tests and                      
 videotapes, which has resulted in a higher rate of conviction for             
 DWIs, especially the use of videotapes.  CSSB 188(HES) encourages             
 DFYS to use a hammer to obtain good techniques for criminal                   
 investigations.  He believes the bill will enhance the state's                
 ability to convict the bad actors, and will prevent unnecessary               
 interference in other's lives.                                                
                                                                               
 Number 550                                                                    
 JODI DELANEY, testifying from North Pole, stated she originally               
 contributed to the creation of this bill as it is the one step that           
 can be taken to cut back the amount of money spent on false                   
 allegations that are so detrimental to a family.  Such an                     
 allegation has destroyed her family, and she is still awaiting the            
 result of a grievance she filed in September of 1994.  There has              
 been no accountability on the part of those who did the                       
 investigation; many are no longer in the same positions.  Many                
 communities are using videorecording for interviews around the                
 country with success.                                                         
                                                                               
 SCOTT CALDER, stated he filed a child abuse report on his son's               
 behalf to the school counselor and received no support from the               
 school.  The son has been locked in a building for seven months and           
 had drug experiments performed on him and he has been to court 25             
 times.  He agreed with Mr. Gauthier that investigators attack the             
 family in a feeding frenzy style to perpetuate a system driven by             
 foster care.  He estimated the State of Alaska has spent                      
 approximately $1 million dollars systematically abusing his son.              
 In response to Director Worley's comment that DFYS cannot change              
 overnight, Mr. Calder noted DFYS destroys families overnight.  He             
 believes the needs of DFYS are only of concern in how it serves the           
 needs of the people of Alaska.  He felt the 72 hour requirement to            
 be reasonable.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 469                                                                    
                                                                               
 CAM CARLSON testified in strong support of SB 188.  She cautioned             
 that current trends and legislation are interpreted to mean every             
 child with a scratch or bruise needs to be reported by teachers as            
 suspected child abuse victims.  A previous Interior director of               
 DFYS stated, when interviewed, that children should have freedom of           
 movement to go wherever they please after age 8.  Taping interviews           
 will protect children and the family unit.                                    
                                                                               
 DICK NEELEY testified from Fairbanks on his personal experience               
 when Alaska State Troopers interviewed his children as suspected              
 child abuse victims.  The children were interrogated by the Alaska            
 State Troopers until they were brainwashed and the tape recorder              
 was turned off repeatedly.  No charges were ever filed against him.           
                                                                               
 NICK TARGANSKI testified from Kenai in support of SB 188.  He has             
 had problems with DFYS divisions in Kenai and Anchorage losing                
 paperwork.  He does not believe budget constraints are the cause of           
 DFYS' problems.                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 390                                                                    
                                                                               
 LAURIE HUGONIN, Executive Director of the Alaska Network on                   
 Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, discussed the need to monitor           
 interviewers, but the more important need to listen to children and           
 take necessary steps to ensure their safety.  Previous testimony              
 was case specific and focussed on agency accountability for harming           
 adults, rather than the best interests of children.  There are                
 instances where the system fails families, but instances exist                
 where children were failed.  Taping will not solve interviewing               
 problems, particularly if investigations will not be conducted if             
 equipment is not available.  She questioned who will have access to           
 the tapes if the allegations are unfounded, and noted that some               
 children are not verbal.  She suggested intensive training and                
 adequate financial resources be provided to improve overall case              
 management.  Regarding accountability of interviewers, the training           
 requirements and qualifications of investigators need to be                   
 reviewed.  She commented on interviewing problems specific to                 
 children.                                                                     
                                                                               
 ANGELA SALERNO, representing the National Association of Social               
 Workers, testified in opposition of the measure and recommended               
 better training of investigators and that professionals be hired.             
                                                                               
 STEVE GRUENSTEIN, representing Guardians for Family Rights, stated            
 interviewers interrogate and question children to elicit certain              
 responses.  He read excerpts from the Alaskan Senate Family Review            
 Task Force Report (July 1990-1991) to demonstrate that a system of            
 checks and balances needs to be imposed on DFYS.  He supported                
 video and/or audiotaping as it can be especially useful in custody            
 cases.                                                                        
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS informed committee members according to Dean Guaneli,           
 the Department of Law has taken a neutral position on SB 188.  He             
 stated he would object to a motion to pass the bill from committee            
 because the public defenders in his district oppose this bill.                
          SB 188 VIDEOTAPE INTERVIEW OF ABUSED MINOR                          
                                                                               
 SENATOR MILLER moved CSSB 188(HES) from committee with individual            
 recommendations.  SENATOR ADAMS objected.  The motion carried with            
 Senators Taylor, Green, and Miller voting "yea," and Senator Adams            
 voting "nay."                                                                 
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR noted there is still an opportunity in the next                
 committee of referral to provide for some variance to incorporate             
 some extenuating circumstances so that if, in fact, equipment was             
 not available, and reasonable efforts had been made to acquire that           
 equipment, an interview could still go forward, but any subsequent            
 interviews would have to be audiotaped.                                       
                                                                               
 SENATOR MILLER felt making an accommodation for equipment                     
 breakdowns to be a worthwhile goal, and agreed that subsequent                
 interviews would have to be recorded.                                         
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR stated his intent is to continue to work on the                
 legislation in the Finance Committee.                                         

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