Legislature(1997 - 1998)
05/04/1998 03:35 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE May 4,1998 3:35 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Robin Taylor, Chairman Senator Mike Miller Senator Sean Parnell Senator Johnny Ellis MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Drue Pearce, Vice-Chair COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE BILL NO. 272 "An Act relating to children in need of aid matters and proceedings; relating to murder of children, criminally negligent homicide, kidnaping, criminal nonsupport, the crime of indecent exposure, and the crime of endangering the welfare of a child; relating to registration of certain sex offenders; relating to sentencing for certain crimes involving child victims; relating to the state medical examiner and reviews of child fatalities; relating to teacher certification and convictions of crimes involving child victims; relating to access, confidentiality, and release of certain information concerning the care of children, child abuse and neglect, and child fatalities; authorizing the Department of Health and Social Services to enter into an interstate compact concerning adoption and medical assistance for certain children with special needs; authorizing the establishment of a multidisciplinary child protection team to review reports of child abuse or neglect; relating to immunity from liability for certain state actions concerning matters involving child protection and fatality reviews and children in need of aid; relating to persons required to report suspected child abuse or neglect; relating to foster care placement and to payment for children in foster and other care and the waiver of certain foster care requirements; relating to the access to certain criminal justice information and licensure of certain child care facilities; amending Rule 218, Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure; amending Rules 1, 3, 15, 18, and 19, Alaska Child in Need of Aid Rules; and providing for an effective date." - HEARD AND HELD HB 406 - SUBSISTENCE USES OF FISH AND GAME - SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD SB 237 - COUNCIL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & SEXUAL ASSAULT - SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD HB 375 - CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN/FOSTER CARE - SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SB 272 - See HESS minutes dated 4/8/98. HB 406 - See Judiciary minutes dated 4/25/98 and 5/1/98. SB 237 - See HESS minutes dated 3/4/98, 4/3/98 & 4/6/98. HB 375 - No previous Senate committee action. WITNESS REGISTER Jayne Andreen Executive Director Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Department of Public Safety PO Box 111200 Juneau, AK 99811 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 272 Brant McGee Office of the Public Defender Department of Administration 900 W 5th Anchorage, AK 99501 POSITION STATEMENT: Presented and supports SB 272 Lisa B Nelson Assistant Attorney General Department of Law 1031 W 4h Anchorage, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 272 Representative Fred Dyson Alaska State Capitol Juneau, AK 99811 POSITION STATEMENT: Explained portions of SB 272 Marci Schmidt Parents United for Custodial Justice 2040 Wasilla Fishhook Rd Wasilla, AK 99654 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 272 Diana Buffington Children's Rights Council 217 Maple Kodiak, AK 99615 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed to SB 272 Walter Gauthier Guardians of Family Rights PO Box 2246 Homer, AK 99603 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 272 Chief Shirley Warner Soldotna Police Department 44510 Sterling Highway Soldotna, AK 99669 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 272 Shelle Leman PO Box 929 Kasilof, AK 99610 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 272 Barbara Malchick Office of Public Advocacy Department of Administration 900 W 5th Anchorage, AK 99501 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 272 Carol Palmer PO Box 2402 Palmer, AK 99645 POSITION STATEMENT: Only supports provisions of SB 272 required by federal law. Kathy Marquette 1620 Washington Apt. 55 Fairbanks, AK 99709 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 272 Martha Hodson Guardian of Family Rights PO Box 3687 Kenai, AK 99611 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 272 Gloria Stuart PO Box 770 Homer, AK 99603 POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed her experience with DFYS as a foster parent Lieutenant Bill Gifford Anchorage Police Department 4501 S Bragaw Anchorage, AK 99507 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 272 Scott Calder PO Box 75011 Fairbanks, AK 99707 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed to SB 272 Barbara Hollenback Anchorage Police Department 4501 S Bragaw Anchorage, AK 99507 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 272 Lieutenance Simon Brown Anchorage Police Department 4500 W 50th Ave Anchorage, AK 99502 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 272 Anne Carpeneti Department of Law PO Box 110300 Juneau, AK 99811-0300 POSITION STATEMENT: Suggested a technical correction to SB 272 Suzette Graham PO Box 383 Nikiski, AK 99635 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 272 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 98-49, SIDE A Number 001 SB 272 - CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN/FOSTER CARE CHAIRMAN ROBIN TAYLOR called the Judiciary Committee meeting to order at 3:35 p.m. The first order of business before the committee was SB 272. Chairman Taylor informed committee members he did not schedule this legislation earlier because he hoped to schedule it simultaneously with HB 375. He noted two sections of the House legislation have already passed; those sections have already been deleted from SB 272. Number 043 BRANT MCGEE, Office of Public Advocacy (OPA), discussed the history of SB 272. OPA filed some legal motions last fall that told the stories of five abused children. The inescapable conclusion from those stories was that those children were failed miserably by Alaska's child protection system. As a result, the Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS), public defenders, assistant attorneys general, assistant public advocates, judges, and others, including Representative Fred Dyson, joined forces and made many decisions about policies, procedures, resources, and changes to the law regarding child protective services. SB 272 represents the best thinking of dozens of people who have worked in the system. SB 272 contains two themes: time and accountability. SB 272 imposes new time lines; time lines based more on a child's sense of time. SB 272 requires the agencies involved to take quicker action to return the child to its home or to place the child with a relative or in another adoptive services. SB 272 also requires DFYS to provide timely services to promote reunification of the family. If those services are unsuccessful, timely efforts must be made to find a permanent home for the child. SB 272 provides all of the legal safeguards provided to parents in the past, however now parents have only one year to get treatment and make the changes necessary to safely parent their children. Parents can no longer wait until the eve of a termination trial to begin treatment. SB 272 requires the courts to conduct adjudication hearings within 120 days. Permanency hearings must be conducted within one year, and decisions at the trial level and appellate court level must be made in a timely manner. That provision is particularly important to people who work within the system. Federal requirements mandate that the state take action if the child has been out of the home for 15 out of the last 22 months. SB 272 mandates that within six months after initiating the action, a trial must be held. The judge then has 90 days to issue a decision, and the Supreme Court must issue its decision within 90 days after that. SB 272 puts the system on very strict guidelines, creating a child protection system rather than a bureaucracy protection system. MR. MCGEE explained SB 272 emphasizes that the children's needs are paramount. Children will no longer have to spend years in foster care while their parents are given many chances to make changes. The state will do its very best to find a safe, permanent home for those children. Number 125 LISA NELSON, Chief of the Human Services Section, Department of Law(DOL), explained her section handles all of the child protection cases and juvenile delinquency prosecution. She stressed the importance of passing SB 272 and made the following comments. Each of the seven attorneys in her section has a caseload of about 100 cases. She became part of the child protection review team after the August incidents were published in the newspapers, alleging that DOL had not stepped in on several child protection cases in a timely manner. DOL had been adhering to a philosophy to preserve the family at all costs. In the case that caused all of the parties to come together to review problems in the child protection arena, 18 reports of abuse had been filed. SENATOR PARNELL questioned whether DOL responded to the 18 reports of abuse. MS. NELSON replied DOL investigated each report but approached each report by trying to "fix" the family by doing things like removing the abusive person from the home with the goal of keeping the children in the home. She said although that philosophy is admirable, there is a point where parents cannot be given any more chances. DOL is now taking quicker action and allowing court intervention earlier which means that a judge, guardian ad litem, and attorneys get involved. Court intervention provides for an extra hammer: it does not mean immediate removal from the home. Aside from the Anchorage crisis, MS. NELSON explained Supreme Court decisions had been issued that recommended the Legislature clarify the child protection statutes. Additionally, a change in federal law provided for more protection for children. A legislative audit also recommended the statutes be changed. MS. NELSON discussed the changes SB 272 will make to civil law. It allows for earlier court intervention in cases of abuse and neglect and quicker placement of children into safe homes. She admitted termination petitions sat in her office because she did not have the time to get them done. Once the child was in a foster home and relatively safe, the petitions became a lower priority, however the new federal law requires faster placement into safe homes. She noted Alaska is in a catch-up mode in comparison to other states regarding changing its focus to making the safety of the child the top priority. SB 272 still requires the state to make reasonable efforts to reunify the family, however the federal law specifies certain kinds of offenders that require no reasonable efforts. SB 272 contains deadlines that will require action by a date certain, so that determinations can no longer sit. It also establishes procedures for criminal record checks of adoptive or foster parents before placement can take place and it allows foster parents and other caregivers to take part in child welfare hearings. Number 308 SENATOR PARNELL asked Ms. Nelson to explain the provisions that begin on page 36 that pertain to the termination of parental rights. MS. NELSON explained that once probable cause to believe that a child should be considered a Child in Need of Aid (CINA) on a temporary basis has been established, an adjudication must occur within 120 days. A disposition then occurs, and termination of parental rights is one option. That usually occurs if the parents have taken no action to correct the situation. A petition to terminate parental rights is then filed stating a detailed history of the case, and a trial takes place. The state is required to prove, with clear and convincing evidence, that the child has been subjected to conditions or conduct described in AS 47.10.011, during any time period. Number 354 SENATOR PARNELL asked if one of the 12 types of conduct described in AS 47.10.011 must be proved. MS. NELSON said DOL is usually required to prove three or four, because if only one conduct is proven, the case could easily be over if appealed. DOL must also prove that the parent has not remedied the conduct or conditions in the home that placed the child in harm. Often, when a termination petition date approaches, parents finally enter treatment. SENATOR PARNELL asked what would happen under SB 272 in such a situation. MS. NELSON said if a parent does nothing for two years and goes into treatment two weeks before the trial starts, she would try to convince the court that the person has not remedied the conduct. She suggested including the phrase, "within a reasonable time" in the bill to clarify the intent. She noted the possibility of relapse is high for people who attempt treatment for the first time. SENATOR PARNELL asked if, the parents' counsel files a motion to continue parental rights and the parents go into treatment, the court can terminate the continuance so that parents cannot keep requesting a little more time. MS. NELSON replied the federal law mandates DOL to file a petition if a child has been in foster care for at least 15 of the most recent 22 months. She thought a judge would look at the federal intent and deny continuance on that basis. SENATOR PARNELL asked how many notices of court hearings a person would get before they would be denied. Number 405 MS. NELSON answered at a minimum, five. She repeated DOL would have to prove, with a preponderance of evidence, that the state has made reasonable efforts to work with the parents to correct the problems at home. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked whether SB 272 contains a provision requiring accountability for mismanagement. MS. NELSON replied if a child dies due to mismanagement, one could turn to the criminal justice system. She noted many social workers use their best judgment but sometimes misread a situation. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR referred to the case in which 18 reports of abuse were filed, and said it appears the case worker was turning his/her back to the facts, which resulted in a tragedy. He stated the problem is not entirely due to a philosophical bend to reunify the family. Number 444 MS. NELSON indicated that currently, out of 100 of percent of the cases that are classified as priority 3's, only 10 percent go to court, and only a small percentage of those cases result in removal of the child from the home. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR expressed concern that Alaska's statistics on foster care placement are much higher than ever before, and much higher than other states. That increase is caused by a management decision and philosophy. He questioned why the extra 30 or 40 social worker positions funded last year were not filled, and instead the Legislature is being told the problem is with the laws. He disagreed that the entire problem is caused by current statutes and emphasized that resolution of the problem will take an effort on both sides. Number 470 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON noted the State of Kansas has been doing some exceptional work in this area. Month to month agency accountability is required. He has asked DFYS to report by month the number of children in state custody, the number of placements, and the aging of the number of children in the system. DFYS has agreed to provide that information, and to post it on a web page. He thought the Senate's attempt to require accountability in connection with the budget process is ingenious. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR stated he was one of the original sponsors of a law that created citizen review panels. They have never been funded, and DFYS has fought them every inch of the way. The intent was to have non-state employed people review the placements. Number 505 DIANA BUFFINGTON, representing the Children's Rights Council, testified via teleconference. She represents over 6500 families who have been involved with DFYS, the GLA, and DOL. SB 272 is a bad bill and it has been misrepresented by DOL and Representative Dyson. Only about six pages of SB 272 are required by the adoption of the federal Safe Families Act. She did not believe only eight to ten children died from natural deaths rather than homicides. The state fatality team meets and investigates in secret. Its reporters are not compelled to testify, and information and evidence is not required to be entered into court. The multidisciplinary team, established by SB 272, would also meet in secret. The majority of its members are appointed by the court who are not compelled to testify and no information is required to be entered into evidence. She urged legislators to limit the provisions of the bill to the amount of time a child can remain in custody and to facilitate termination of parental rights. Agencies should be required to abide by a standard of duty similar to that being imposed on parents. Number 562 MARCI SCHMIDT, representing Parents United for Custodial Justice and Hear My Voice, a national child's advocacy organization that advocated for the federal law, gave the following testimony. The intent of the Adoption and Safe Families Act is: to curtail the power struggles that occur in agencies like DFYS; to set a time limit to complete reunification or terminate parental rights so that a child can have a safe home; and to define "reasonable efforts" and allow foster parents to have a voice about the children they care for. The Adoption and Safe Families Act was not invented to create more task forces, immunity or confidentiality. DFYS has such a bad reputation because it hides behind confidentiality, especially when it benefits DFYS. TAPE 98-49 Side B MS. SCHMIDT asked committee members to pass only the portions of SB 272 that are required by the Adoption and Safe Families Act. Number 570 WALTER GAUTHIER, representing Guardians of Family Rights in Homer, gave the following testimony via teleconference. Alaska does not have the highest child abuse rate in the nation: the latest federal statistics rank Alaska at number 14. The legislative audit of DFYS reports that job applicants, despite scoring well, were not considered desirable candidates by hiring managers, that 21 positions were left vacant for FY 97, and as a result, DFYS has sufficient funding to cover retirement incentive program costs for DFYS and other agencies within DHSS. This crisis in child abuse was purposefully manufactured to achieve legislative and budgetary goals. MR. GAUTHIER stated that Ms. Wibker inaccurately testified before the HESS committee that 30 pages of SB 272 are required by federal law. Federal requirements only require five pages of SB 272, the remaining pages cover time lines for termination and adoption that no one is arguing with. Guardians of Family Rights' disagrees with the increased powers and immunity, and budgets for participating agencies provided for in SB 272. Representative Dyson's assertion that the state will lose $10 million in federal funds this year if SB 272 does not pass is inaccurate. No state has ever been denied Title IV funds. Those funds would only be lost if the state refused to comply with the actual requirements of the Adoption and Safe Family Act. He asked the Legislature to wait until a second audit being conducted by Legislative Budget and Audit, that focuses on compliance with policy and procedure, is completed, before it takes any action on legislation. He pointed out SB 272 has no accompanying fiscal note. Number 480 CHIEF SHIRLEY WARNER, Soldotna Police Department and former detective for the Anchorage Police Department, discussed her experience with child abuse cases. SB 272 will provide protection to more children. Children have never been afforded the same rights as adults under the Alaska Constitution. Finally, with Governor Knowles' child protection bill, children will be protected and valued as young members of our communities. She is particularly pleased with the clarity of the abandonment laws. Mental and emotional abuse is every bit as harmful as physical abuse, and it is not long before children act out. She supports SB 272 wholeheartedly. She urged committee members to keep the bill intact, and stated she is pleased that state agencies will be mandated to work together. Number 432 SCOTT CALDER, testified on his own behalf via teleconference from Fairbanks. He submitted that SB 272 is a blueprint for a bureaucracy protection system. He noted a previous speaker stated the bill limits chances given to parents, and he suggested doing the same for DFYS. DFYS has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to terrorize families and injure children and no honest discussion about that fact has taken place. SB 272 sets performance standards for DFYS, however standards have existed for 20 years. The philosophy of the best interest of the child has been on the books for years, therefore it is untrue that the philosophy is now changing. The fiscal note he has seen for this bill states the fiscal impact is indeterminate. He stated his opposition to SB 272 and repeated the need to have a truthful discussion about DFYS. Number 368 BARBARA MALCHICK, with the Office of Public Advocacy, stated her support for SB 272. Since 1985 she has been a guardian ad litem, and for the past eight years, she has supervised all guardians ad litem. Her office originally went to court to get the order to ease the confidentiality restrictions in CINA cases. She discussed the issue of whether to include exposure to domestic violence as grounds for state intervention in the family. Recent literature confirms that children who grow up in violent homes are at high risk for being physically abused or neglected, for developing serious physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems, and for committing violent acts against others. Under existing law, the state cannot intervene until a child has actually been abused or is at substantial risk. She read a letter from an Anchorage school teacher regarding suspected abuse of one of his students, and DFYS's inability to take action because the student had no broken bones or bruises. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR noted that the House was hearing companion legislation, HB 375, concurrently. Number 317 JAYNE ANDREEN, Executive Director of the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, stated domestic violence affects children in many direct and indirect ways. While children are not necessarily targeted for direct abuse, they often are injured as a result. They are traumatized by fear for their parent's safety and blame themselves for not being able to stop it. She gave statistics on the amount of abuse cases in households where domestic violence occurs. Symptoms of witnessing domestic violence in the home include anxiety, fear, sleep disruption, and school problems. By the age of 5-6, children begin to identify with the batterer, not the victim. She pointed out SB 272 establishes a rebuttable presumption in cases of child custody. Existing statute requires that the parent who fears that custody by the other parent could result in harm to the child must show to the court why that custody is not in the best interest of the child. Often, that parent must endure threats to his/her life. SENATOR PARNELL asked where, in SB 272, the provision about rebuttable presumption is located. MS. ANDREEN answered on page 12, Section 12 of the work draft dated 4/28/98. Number 230 SENATOR PARNELL stated this issue was discussed thoroughly during debate on the domestic violence bill because domestic violence statutes are used as both a shield and a sword, particularly in divorce proceedings. He questioned whether a rebuttable presumption will occur without a conviction. MS. ANDREEN explained the court would have to make a finding by a preponderance of evidence, although no conviction would have to take place. SENATOR PARNELL questioned how the court would view an ex parte hearing that took place three years earlier. MS. ANDREEN thought the court would have to revisit that kind of situation. She added this recommendation came out of the domestic violence summit. SB 272 will take the focus off of the victim to prove why the other parent should not have custody when domestic violence has occurred, and places the emphasis on the batterer to prove why it is in the child's best interest. Number 188 SENATOR PARNELL thought such a claim would come out in a divorce proceeding and become a part of the determination anyway and place an automatic rebuttable presumption in the case. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR stated in early December of 1997 the Senate Judiciary Committee met in Anchorage to review how the domestic violence bill was working. Agencies reported that all was fine, however the private sector presented a series of horror cases involving the use of domestic violence reports for the sole purpose of gaining advantage in custody cases. Number 118 SENATOR PARNELL noted many of those problems existed prior to the enactment of that law and were not cause by it. He recounted the rebuttable presumption provision went too far so it was removed from that bill. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked Ms. Andreen to respond to his statement since he has heard the same concern from directors of domestic violence shelters. Number 103 MS. ANDREEN stated she is hearing some of the same concerns as well, yet at the same time, she has heard that in the vast majority of cases, it appears the ex partes are being used in an appropriate fashion. She believes it is important to provide more education for parties who work on these kinds of issues on a professional level, such as court personnel. Also, she felt Alaska has been somewhat lax on including the family law and defense bars into the discussions about the best systemic response to domestic violence. She stated people can request a modification to an ex parte hearing so that a hearing takes place three days later. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asserted that usually someone from an agency hand- carries the person in to make sure the first order gets taken care of. If the accused asks for a hearing, he/she is disadvantaged from the start, and has to get an attorney and take time off of work. The system is not balanced, and it can be easily and quickly manipulated. SENATOR PARNELL asked Ms. Andreen what other areas of SB 272 she is concerned about. Number 033 MS. ANDREEN responded the definition of "mental injury," in terms of the jurisdiction for CINA clients, concerns her. She noted an amendment has been prepared that includes domestic violence as part of the mental injury. She added the amendment appears to be the same one that was discussed in the House Finance Committee on Saturday. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON clarified that the bill originally included the term "emotional harm" which many felt was too subjective, so the term was changed to "mental injury" which is already defined in statute. TAPE 98-50 Side A SENATOR PARNELL asked if Representative Dyson was referring to the phrase, "according to a statement of a psychologist or physician is evidenced by an observable and substantial impairment." REPRESENTATIVE DYSON said that was correct. SENATOR ELLIS asked if Chairman Taylor intended to mark up SB 272, or a different version. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR stated he intended to wait for the House version to arrive, as many of the desired changes will already have been made. He stated his main concern is to do what is most time effective. Number 029 SENATOR MILLER noted the House intends to have HB 375 to the Senate within the next few days. SENATOR PARNELL suggested scheduling the bill again on Wednesday or Thursday in case HB 375 does not arrive. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON commented he and others spent all of their free time during the past two and one half months working on this bill, and literally hundreds of changes have been made to the package that came out of the Governor's Task Force. The CSED provisions were removed, as well as some of the provisions dealing with domestic violence. SB 272 also does not contain the provisions contained in Senators Halford's and Pearce's bills and he added the provisions allowing foster parents to participate in treatment plans and changes in placement and court hearings. He stated he has personally had problems with DFYS not providing adequate information to foster parents about children. He asked committee members not to confuse changes to the law with the real and imagined incompetence at DFYS. DFYS needs to be empowered and held accountable for its shortfalls while changes are also made to the law. He emphasized the need to educate judges on family law and stated he suspects that the initial court hearing that takes place within 48 hours after a child is taken into state custody are "rubber-stamped" procedures. Parents do not know what their rights are so they cannot get on an equal footing in that system. Number 111 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON stated one of the issues that arose during the task force meetings was that the people who should be making the decisions did not have all of the information because of confidentiality laws and differing agency modes of operation. Ten years ago the people investigating reports of child abuse also knew previous domestic violence reports had been filed. The multidisciplinary team approach will improve communication and it will prevent children from having to testify three or four times. He added in the recent past, state custody has taken place with families that have significant and multiple problems. Foster parents need more support and education to deal with the effects of severe trauma and fetal alcohol syndrome. Number 211 CAROL PALMER, testifying via teleconference from Palmer on her own behalf and for Parents United for Custodial Justice (PUCJ), made the following comments. PUCJ would like the committee to pass only those portions of SB 272 that incorporate the federal law (PL 105- 89). Many innocent parents who were contacted by DFYS and then victimized. Once these parents have been victimized, the damage cannot be undone. She agreed with Senator Taylor's comment that parents learn to manipulate the child protection laws to gain custody of children. Innocent children and parents have been devastated by DFYS and that activity needs to be stopped. Many of DFYS's hearings are closed-door, and the accused parent has no way to clear his or her name. KATHY MARQUETTE made the following comments via teleconference on her own behalf. Her granddaughter was sexually abused by her father as far as psychologists are concerned, however the police and DFYS do not consider the activity to be criminal because no sexual penetration took place. The father is still able to spend time with the child, including overnight visitations, because of the loophole in the law. The psychologist and psychiatrist both believe the child is in a grooming phase by the abusive parent, who leads the child to believe that sexual activity equates to parental love. Number 295 MARTHA HODSON testified via teleconference from Kenai. MS. Hodson pointed out that services are not always available to work with families. The families are often put on six month waiting lists for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. In addition, DFYS providers who try to help parents do not always honor confidentiality releases. She expressed concern for young mothers who are getting adequate help from domestic violence shelters and whose children unnecessarily become CINA cases. GLORIA STUART, a foster parent from Homer, made the following comments. As a foster parent to three fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) children since 1985, she has had a good opportunity to observe DFYS's activities. The first child she received was removed from his home a few weeks after birth and was placed in 11 different homes, including his original home, until he came to live with her at 2+ years. Two months later, his sibling was born with FAS and two years later, another sibling was born with FAS. She has all three siblings. FAS is an organic disorder with no cure. FAS children are prime candidates for battering because they are difficult to raise, therefore keeping them in a home with alcoholic parents is a dangerous thing to do. She asked that children not be returned to parents who are not making the effort to get rehabilitation. In addition, she asked legislators to take into account that to a child one month is a long time, and to not allow them to hang in limbo for years in hope that the parents will recover. Children need to be placed in safe and permanent homes as quickly as possible. Number 410 LIEUTENANT BILL GIFFORD, Anchorage Police Department, commented on his 26 years of experience in law enforcement. Physical injuries can be seen, long term emotional injuries cannot. SB 272 allows those who protect children to act in a quicker manner to stop the violence and put the child on the road to recovery faster, demonstrate to children that adults can be trusted, and allow case workers to get on to the next case. SB 272 allows more open sharing of investigative information, and the ability to work more closely as a team. Combining investigative resources is more efficient in time and money, reduces duplication of effort, and allows all agencies to better understand the needs of each other. SB 272 will have a positive effect on crime reduction in that today's child abuse victim far too often becomes tomorrow's criminal. SB 272 is a comprehensive package that includes more reasonable sentencing for child murderers, requires sex offenders to register, and other changes to allow agencies to work together for the betterment of children. BARBARA HOLLENBACK, a detective for the Anchorage Police Department, stated her support for the child protection legislation as an important crime prevention tool. She has investigated more than 1,000 child abuse and neglect cases, and it is obvious that victims of abuse grow up to be the juveniles and criminals of tomorrow. In 1996 she investigated a case of a mother who had burned, stabbed, and seriously injured her three children. The District Attorney prosecuted the case as a felony assault on a child. The mother had a prior felony conviction for burning her daughter. The mother served four years and upon release from prison, her daughter was returned to her by DFYS. The mother then had two more children. If HB 375 passes, the child would not have to go back to the mother. Number 517 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR thanked Ms. Hollenback, and noted he spent six years as a Master's Authority for two communities. He expressed his frustration at the practice of returning children to abusive homes. He hoped these bills will provide additional security and authority for the workers to make common sense decisions. Number 532 ANNE CARPENETI, Department of Law, commented that on page 5, line 22, a typographical error needs to be corrected. The language should read, "... impaired by an intoxicant, whether or not prescribed for the person." The words "a controlled substance" should be deleted. SUZETTE GRAHAM, a foster parent of two children, described her frustration with the court's interpretation of reasonable efforts for reform made by parents in custody hearings. If a parent decides at the 11th hour to get treatment, the children remain with that parent for another year. She urged committee members to pass HB 375. She asked that the bill contain a provision to allow foster parents to attend the entire court hearing. Number 577 SHELLE LEMAN made the following comments via teleconference from Kasilof. SB 272 is not specific enough. Neither she, nor her niece who is a counselor, were considered as custodial parents for her grandson who now lives with the parents of his abusive father. She supports parts of SB 272 but is concerned that people be listened to and not automatically treated like criminals. TAPE 98-50 SIDE B CHRIS HUTCHISON, representing a group of parents on the Kenai Peninsula, said although parts of the bill must be passed to ensure federal funding, both SB 272 and HB 375 give DFYS too much authority without requiring enough oversight and accountability. Problems with DFYS have been ongoing for 20 years, therefore a quick fix is not the answer; however it would be a grave disservice to children to not pass some child protection legislation this session. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR indicated, according to Representative Dyson, a DFYS still does not provide inadequate information to foster parents about the backgrounds of foster children because of the confidentiality laws. MS. HUTCHISON answered DFYS has done quite a bit in the past month to correct that problem and make more information available to foster parents. Number 527 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR recounted some cases in his district of foster parents not being told that their foster children had burned down other residences. He repeated that he was unsure how much of the problem was caused by ineffective statutes and how much was caused by poor judgment on the part of DFYS. He asked Ms. Hutchison whether she believes foster parents should have complete access to a child's file. MS. HUTCHISON said she did not think confidentiality in regard to withholding information from foster parents was the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that confidentiality provides DFYS carte blanche protection regarding secrecy of its activities. SB 272 needs to be fine tuned to give DFYS direction. She agreed a commission would be helpful, however SB 272 is an 11th hour band- aid. Number 501 LIEUTENANT BROWN stated it is important to remember that DFYS employees are human and they do make mistakes in judgment calls. He noted the multidisciplinary team was not designed to cover up for DFYS, it is made up of other professionals involved in child protection services and was conceptualized after talking to hundreds of civilians. The team concept will allow for several perspectives, and it will assist DFYS in investigating cases. DFYS does not have the manpower to respond to all reports filed around the state. VPSO's, state troopers, and others will be able to assist. Also, DFYS might have one side of the story on a case; other professionals can add more information to give a complete picture. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR stated he, Judge Schultz and Judge Krask (ph) put together community councils to do the same thing. The problem they councils encountered was the fear of breaking confidentiality, and consequently, children continued to fall through the cracks. The other side of the coin is that parents are going to be very frightened about a group of state agency people discussing confidential information about their family. Privacy must be protected to some degree but early intervention is critical. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR thanked everyone for their participation and announced the bill would be held in committee until HB 375 arrives. He adjourned the meeting at 6:15 p.m.