Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

03/17/2009 03:00 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES


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03:05:08 PM Start
03:05:28 PM HB141
03:27:49 PM PRESENTATION:OMBUDSMAN'SREPORTONOCS
04:45:12 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation by Linda Lord-Jenkins: TELECONFERENCED
Ombudsman's Report on OCS
*+ HB 141 COMPACT FOR JUVENILES;INTERSTATE COUNCIL TELECONFERENCED
Moved Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 141-COMPACT FOR JUVENILES; INTERSTATE COUNCIL                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
3:05:28 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HERRON announced that the  first order of business would                                                               
be  HOUSE  BILL NO.  141,  "An  Act  relating to  the  Interstate                                                               
Compact  for  Juveniles;  relating   to  the  State  Council  for                                                               
Interstate  Adult  and  Juvenile Offender  Supervision;  amending                                                               
Rules  4  and  24(b),  Alaska   Rules  of  Civil  Procedure;  and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
3:06:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN COGHILL,  Alaska State Legislature, explained                                                               
that compacts were  a legal and technical means for  states to do                                                               
things  without intervention  from  the federal  government.   He                                                               
pointed out that state laws  were dynamic and required agreements                                                               
between states,  in this  case for  the interstate  management of                                                               
juveniles.  He noted that  this original compact dated from 1955,                                                               
and that an update was necessary.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
3:07:07 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
AMANDA MORTENSEN,  Staff to  Representative John  Coghill, Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  said that  HB 141 was  a replacement  for the                                                               
1955  compact  and  would  ensure  the  supervision  of  juvenile                                                               
offenders and the  return of runaways.  She reported  that HB 141                                                               
provided  the  procedural  means  to  regulate  court  supervised                                                               
juveniles across  state lines.   She estimated that  this compact                                                               
would be used in 20,000 cases  annually.  She pointed out that HB
141 would ensure that all  states had identical statute language,                                                               
and it would  provide enforcement procedures.   She affirmed that                                                               
it would  allow for  the collection  and sharing  of standardized                                                               
information.  She shared that  this would allow states to operate                                                               
without federal  intervention.  She  observed that 35  states had                                                               
passed this  compact, with  6 other states  considering it.   She                                                               
identified that  Alaska would need to  deal with each state  on a                                                               
case  by case  basis,  if this  compact was  not  approved.   She                                                               
concluded  that  the  compact  provided for  the  safety  of  the                                                               
juvenile  offender and  the  state, and  that  it ensured  public                                                               
safety and security.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
3:09:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
TONY  NEWMAN,  Social  Services   Program  Officer,  Division  of                                                               
Juvenile Justice (DJJ), Department  of Health and Social Services                                                               
(DHSS), explained  that his  [division] was  the overseer  of the                                                               
current  compact, and  that DJJ  supported HB  141.   He reported                                                               
that DJJ  supervised the  interstate travel  for about  160 court                                                               
supervised  juveniles.   He agreed  that this  was necessary  for                                                               
public safety  and he said  that it  was necessary to  update the                                                               
compact.  He offered to give a brief overview of HB 141.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
3:10:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEWMAN  reported that HB 141  had 6 major points.   He shared                                                               
that  the  new  compact  would support  the  establishment  of  a                                                               
national  compact  authority   to  independently  administer  the                                                               
rules,  and  that  the  compact   authority  would  have  Alaskan                                                               
representatives  who   were  appointed  by  the   governor.    He                                                               
explained that Alaska  would be subject to  sanctions for failure                                                               
to meet  the expectations of the  compact.  He noted  that Alaska                                                               
would  collect  data and  provide  information  requested by  the                                                               
national  authority.   He allowed  that there  would be  a higher                                                               
dues structure.  He said  that the compact required establishment                                                               
of a  state council to  deal with state juvenile  compact issues.                                                               
He  noted that  the  existing Alaskan  adult supervision  council                                                               
would  now become  an  oversight council  for  both juvenile  and                                                               
adult offenders.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
3:12:34 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  NEWMAN, in  response  to  Representative Coghill,  explained                                                               
that  the  responsibility  for the  appointment  of  the  compact                                                               
administrator  had   been  delegated  by  the   governor  to  the                                                               
commissioner.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
3:13:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked about the sanctions.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
3:13:34 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEWMAN  responded that  the sanction  rules were  still being                                                               
developed.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:13:49 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN  asked  if  Alaska  would  sign  on  without                                                               
knowing the sanctions.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
3:14:03 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEWMAN said that this was the same for all the states.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:14:29 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL allowed that he  had the same concern.  He                                                               
explained that  the compact  commissioner would  represent Alaska                                                               
in the development of these rules.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
3:14:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  asked what  was  defined  by the  uniform                                                               
rules.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
3:15:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEWMAN explained that the rules  were for all of the juvenile                                                               
justice, state to state, youth transfers across the country.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
3:15:41 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HERRON  asked  about   the  number  of  youth  annually                                                               
transferred in Alaska.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
3:15:51 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEWMAN replied  that each year about 160 youth  came into and                                                               
left Alaska.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HERRON  asked if the  youth were under  the jurisdiction                                                               
of other states.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
3:16:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEWMAN replied that some were.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
3:16:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
BARBARA  MURRAY,   Deputy  Compact  Administrator,   Division  of                                                               
Juvenile Justice (DJJ), Department  of Health and Social Services                                                               
(DHSS), explained that  there were youth, in  need of supervision                                                               
and under  probation jurisdiction,  travelling from Alaska  to be                                                               
with family.   She reported that about 37 Alaskan  youth left the                                                               
state, and  about 40 youth  came to Alaska  to be with  family or                                                               
guardians and to finish their probation.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
3:17:50 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  asked how  often states were  in conflict                                                               
regarding   management    of   youth    crossing   jurisdictional                                                               
boundaries.   He also asked  how this conflict was  resolved, and                                                               
how Alaska could defend itself, within the compact.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
3:18:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. MURRAY, in response to  Representative Coghill, said that the                                                               
current   compact  was   an  association   of  juvenile   compact                                                               
administrators.  She explained that  any issues of youth movement                                                               
between states were  brought to the association,  even though the                                                               
group had no jurisdiction.   She conceded that the sanctions were                                                               
very weak.  She noted that  Alaska had not been involved with any                                                               
issues for many years.  She  explained that the new compact could                                                               
have  financial sanctions.   She  said that  a state's  dismissal                                                               
from   the   compact  would   then   require   a  memorandum   of                                                               
understanding  (MOU) for  every  youth  who required  supervision                                                               
when entering or leaving the state.   She allowed that this would                                                               
be a "resource  drain" for any state.  She  reported that the new                                                               
compact allowed for mediation prior to any financial sanctions.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
3:20:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL   established  that   this  was   not  an                                                               
arbitrary  authority, but  an  interlocking  system for  juvenile                                                               
transfers.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:21:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CAROL   BRENCKLE,  Chair,   Alaska   Juvenile  Justice   Advisory                                                               
Committee (AJJAC),  explained that AJJAC was  an Alaskan advisory                                                               
board, appointed  by the governor,  to oversee  implementation of                                                               
the  federal  Juvenile  Justice and  Delinquency  Prevention  Act                                                               
within  Alaska.   She said  that  AJJAC had  been following  this                                                               
national  compact legislation  for  many years,  and was  excited                                                               
that  Alaska  would be  adopting  the  interstate compact.    She                                                               
acknowledged the  "resource drain" to individually  negotiate all                                                               
the issues  instead of having a  compact, and that a  compact was                                                               
necessary  to  ensure public  and  child  safety and  welfare  in                                                               
Alaska.    She  referenced  the  letter  sent  from  AJJAC  which                                                               
endorsed HB 141.  [Included in members' packets.]                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
3:26:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HERRON asked about an adult compact.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEWMAN  replied that  the legislature  had adopted  a similar                                                               
compact in  2003, which  was now  in place  at the  Department of                                                               
Corrections.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL said  that  there  were several  compacts                                                               
that dealt with adults.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HERRON closed public testimony.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
3:27:31 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  KELLER moved  to report  HB 141  out of  committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations  and  the accompanying  fiscal  note.                                                               
There  being no  objection, HB  141 was  reported from  the House                                                               
Health and Social Services Standing Committee.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
^#Presentation: Ombudsman's Report on OCS                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
3:27:49 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HERRON announced that the  final order of business would                                                               
be a Presentation on the Ombudsman's Report on OCS.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
3:28:03 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
LINDA LORD-JENKINS,  Ombudsman, Office  of the  Ombudsman, Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature, explained  that the  Office of  the Ombudsman                                                               
was created  to investigate citizen complaints  against the State                                                               
of Alaska administrative agencies.   She listed the complaints to                                                               
include  actions  that  were contrary  to  law,  unreasonable  or                                                               
unfair, mistake of fact, arbitrary,  or on improper grounds.  She                                                               
explained  that the  investigations were  to find  an appropriate                                                               
remedy,  and for  recommendations to  correct the  problem.   She                                                               
mentioned  some issues  that were  exempted  from an  Ombudsman's                                                               
investigation  to include:  issues  that had  been  decided by  a                                                               
court, a  complaint that challenged  the substantive  decision of                                                               
an  administrative hearing  or appeal,  or issues  that could  be                                                               
resolved  by  administrative  appeal.   She  mentioned  that  the                                                               
jurisdiction  was  limited to  State  of  Alaska agencies.    She                                                               
reported the  Ombudsman's powers to include:  making inquiries to                                                               
obtain  information, entering  without notice  as long  as agency                                                               
staff was  present, holding public hearings,  and accessing state                                                               
agency  records.    She  noted that  the  Ombudsman  must  retain                                                               
confidentiality.   She  said  that the  office  could compel,  by                                                               
subpoena,  the  witness'  appearance, sworn  testimony,  and  the                                                               
production of  records.  She  affirmed that it had  the authority                                                               
to go to court to compel testimony.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
3:32:31 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. LORD-JENKINS announced  in her annual report  that the number                                                               
of complaints  against Department  of Health and  Social Services                                                               
(DHSS)  and   the  Office  of   Children's  Services   (OCS)  had                                                               
"skyrocketed"  in  2008.    She  reported  that  DHSS  complaints                                                               
comprised 25 percent  of the total caseload, an  increase of more                                                               
than 7  percent.   She mentioned that  the total  complaints also                                                               
increased in 2008.   She said that complaints  against OCS almost                                                               
doubled in 2008, from 73  complaints to 140 complaints, which was                                                               
15 percent of the caseload.   She disclosed that she did not know                                                               
the reason for the increase.   She said that OCS and the Citizens                                                               
Review Panel  had always  included the  Ombudsman's office  as an                                                               
option to aggrieved  parents.  She shared  that most legislator's                                                               
newsletters included  a brief  about the  Ombudsman.   She opined                                                               
that  the   governor's  office  might  also   be  referring  more                                                               
complaints.  She  reported that the most complaints  in 2008, and                                                               
again in  2009, were for  issues involving  "relative placement,"                                                               
"notice of  proceedings," and "reports  of harm."   She disclosed                                                               
that  most  complaints  had  more   than  one  allegation.    She                                                               
confirmed  that   the  geographic  distribution   for  complaints                                                               
remained about  the same, Southcentral,  Southeast, and  then the                                                               
Northern areas.   She pointed out that few  rural complaints were                                                               
received.   She said that  her office was complaint  driven; they                                                               
took specific issues and looked  at the broader issues that these                                                               
highlighted.  She reiterated that  the Ombudsman's mandate was to                                                               
prevent  recurrence  of the  problem.    She explained  that  the                                                               
Ombudsman  did  not  advocate  for  individuals,  but  for  their                                                               
rights.   There were other issues  for her office to  review, she                                                               
said,  including   relative  placement,   visitation,  inadequate                                                               
notice, reports of  harm, and foster parents.   She explained the                                                               
different  paths for  complaint  review, which  included a  quick                                                               
assist or decline,  advise to file a grievance, or  the rights to                                                               
appeal.   She said  that the agency  helped direct  people within                                                               
the process,  and that  the Ombudsman's  office wanted  people to                                                               
work with the  agency.  She described the initiation  of a formal                                                               
investigation.  She relayed that,  sometimes, once the interviews                                                               
and research  began, agencies would  admit to a  wrongfulness and                                                               
move to  fix the  problem.   She noted  that the  Ombudsman would                                                               
discontinue its involvement at that point.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:39:48 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  LORD-JENKINS explained  that  the  formal investigation  was                                                               
driven  by statute  and was  very time  consuming.   She detailed                                                               
that  it included  interviews, sworn  statements, and  subpoenas.                                                               
She said that  the review included an assessment  of the policies                                                               
and  procedures to  determine if  these were  followed, and  were                                                               
legal, reasonable, and  fair.  She explained that  the report was                                                               
submitted  to  the  agency, with  recommendations  to  prevent  a                                                               
recurrence.    She  indicated  that  the  agency's  response  was                                                               
incorporated into  a final report.   She called attention  to the                                                               
example of a report that was included in the members' packets.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
3:41:48 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  LORD-JENKINS  explained  that  the  Ombudsman's  office  was                                                               
bundling  cases  of  comparable issues,  categorizing  them,  and                                                               
combining  them  into  a  single  report.    She  said  that  the                                                               
department  was   conducting  investigative  surveys   of  agency                                                               
practices and she supplied some examples.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
3:44:40 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  LORD-JENKINS  offered her  thoughts  on  ways to  make  this                                                               
report  more  useful to  the  House  Health and  Social  Services                                                               
Standing Committee.  She shared  that her office had a cumulative                                                               
100  years of  experience, and  that she  had asked  each of  her                                                               
staff to  share two things  about OCS  that the House  Health and                                                               
Social Services  Standing Committee should  know.  She  read from                                                               
this catalog of comments, and  noted reasons for each: visitation                                                               
for  a   prisoner  could  be   more  often  than  for   a  child;                                                               
difficulties  for an  agency worker  to maintain  regular contact                                                               
with  parent and  children; non-responsiveness  of case  workers;                                                               
disregard  for   relatives  of  a  child   in  custody;  relative                                                               
placement;   notice  of   court  proceedings;   and  inconsistent                                                               
treatment  to the  grandparents of  the  child in  custody.   She                                                               
shared that a mission of OCS was to keep the family together.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
3:51:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  LORD-JENKINS  shared  that   another  problem  was  for  the                                                               
knowledge of  and adherence to policy,  procedures, statutes, and                                                               
regulations.   She gave  examples from  the case  study mentioned                                                               
earlier.   [Included in the  members' packets.]   She highlighted                                                               
that a major  problem was the lack of staff  awareness for policy                                                               
and  procedures,  and  she  offered examples  from  OCS  and  the                                                               
Department of  Health and Social  Services.  She pointed  out the                                                               
problem with  the "intelligibility  of policies  and procedures,"                                                               
and she shared that three  of the Ombudsman's investigators, each                                                               
an attorney, had agreed that these were difficult to understand.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
3:56:05 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  LORD-JENKINS  continued with  the  catalog  of comments  and                                                               
reasons: the  difficulties faced  when not  being able  to retain                                                               
caseworkers.  She  summarized with a comment  from an experienced                                                               
investigator:                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     The work they  try to do is some of  the toughest, most                                                                    
     consequential work  done by any state  employee because                                                                    
     they  work with  the most  dysfunctional people  in the                                                                    
     state trying  to protect the most  vulnerable people in                                                                    
     the state.   The  staff they  have to  do this  work is                                                                    
     often under qualified,  undertrained, under supervised,                                                                    
     underpaid, and  undermined by  constant turnover.   The                                                                    
     result of  adding one  and two is  the series  of small                                                                    
     tragedies unfolding  in the lives of  scores of Alaskan                                                                    
     families every day of the week.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
3:57:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA,  referring to the  "dysfunctional people,"                                                               
shared that  it was generational  and that it continued  to grow.                                                               
She opined  that it  was no longer  possible to  get preventative                                                               
attention,  identified  this  as  a  "cultural  car  wreck,"  and                                                               
assessed   that  this   growing   cost   "would  jeopardize   the                                                               
functionality  of state  government."   She asked  what role  the                                                               
committee could assume for improvement.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL explained  the history  of the  ombudsman                                                               
office, and  offered his belief  that the increase  of complaints                                                               
was in  recognition for the  credibility of  its work.   He noted                                                               
that the citizen review panel was  now very active.  He commented                                                               
that each of the points  which Ms. Lord-Jenkins had raised needed                                                               
to be reviewed.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
4:04:16 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL referred  to the  staff turnover  and the                                                               
entry  level qualifications,  and asked  whether the  newly hired                                                               
staff were prepared for the work, but not the caseload.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
4:04:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  LORD-JENKINS said  that  no specific  research  was done  on                                                               
that.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
4:05:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  suggested that college level  social work                                                               
prepared  good social  workers, but  not good  legal technicians.                                                               
He opined  that the expectation  was to  be a social  worker, but                                                               
that the job  demanded them to also be a  legal technician and an                                                               
"enforcer."                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
4:06:59 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. LORD-JENKINS, in  response to Co-Chair Keller,  said that she                                                               
was  hired for  a five  year appointment,  through a  bi-partisan                                                               
committee from both the House and  the Senate.  She said that the                                                               
statute allowed the  Ombudsman to serve a maximum  of three five-                                                               
year terms.   She responded that the Ombudsman could  be fired by                                                               
the legislature.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
4:09:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  LORD-JENKINS,  in response  to  Co-Chair  Keller, said  that                                                               
there were only five  "general jurisdiction state-wide ombudsman"                                                               
in the  U.S.   She said  that the  majority were  departmental or                                                               
"executive"   ombudsmen,  who   were   dedicated  to   children's                                                               
services.   She offered her  belief that the independence  of the                                                               
Alaskan ombudsman  model made it  the strongest, and  allowed for                                                               
the best  quality of  work.  She  observed that  most "executive"                                                               
ombudsman reported to the person they were overseeing.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
4:10:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  acknowledged that  some of the  changes to                                                               
legislative interaction  with constituents  had put more  load on                                                               
the Ombudsman's  office.  He  asked if a  limit to the  number of                                                               
caseloads for an  OCS social worker would alleviate a  lot of the                                                               
problems.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
4:12:24 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. LORD-JENKINS replied that the  pay for caseworkers in OCS was                                                               
very low, and that  the work load was very large.   She said that                                                               
the   work  was   time   consuming,   grueling,  and   frequently                                                               
unrewarding.   She  offered her  belief that  more workers  would                                                               
allow a better opportunity for better work.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
4:13:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HERRON  asked  to  verify that  10-15  percent  of  the                                                               
Ombudsman's office  workload was OCS  related, and what  were the                                                               
other high workload categories.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
4:14:02 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. LORD-JENKINS  agreed about the  OCS workload.   She responded                                                               
that the  highest workloads were, in  numerical order, Department                                                               
of  Health and  Social  Services (DHSS),  and  the Department  of                                                               
Corrections (DOC),  although DOC  did not  require as  much time.                                                               
She shared  that the other high  work loads were from  the Office                                                               
of Children's Services, Department  of Public Safety, Division of                                                               
Motor  Vehicles, Public  Defender  Agency, and  Office of  Public                                                               
Advocacy.   She  said that  Department of  Natural Resources  and                                                               
Permanent  Fund  Dividend  Division   cases  had  also  increased                                                               
slightly.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
4:15:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HERRON concurred  with the earlier remarks,  and he said                                                               
that the  legislative office should  be able to direct  people to                                                               
the appropriate agency.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
4:16:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
TAMMY SANDOVAL,  Director, Central  Office, Office  of Children's                                                               
Services  (OCS),  said  that  she appreciated  the  work  of  the                                                               
Ombudsman's office.   She agreed  that the numbers  of complaints                                                               
had  increased, although  there were  fewer direct  complaints to                                                               
her  office.   She noted  that she  appreciated the  work of  the                                                               
Ombudsman's  office,  but  that  she wanted  the  opportunity  to                                                               
resolve the issues within her division.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
4:19:39 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. SANDOVAL  said that she  appreciated the completeness  of the                                                               
investigative report from the Ombudsman's  office.  She said that                                                               
more than 30 percent of the  staff was turning over.  She offered                                                               
her belief that the more  robust training curriculum, due to more                                                               
training  money, would  increase the  retention rate.   She  said                                                               
that it  was hard to  ensure that  a worker knew  everything, but                                                               
that staff retention, which  included an institutional knowledge,                                                               
would be a big help in attaining that.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
4:21:56 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. SANDOVAL requested  that the legislature hire  more staff for                                                               
the Ombudsman's office to ensure a more timely response.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
4:23:19 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SANDOVAL  referred to  visitation  and  confirmed that  more                                                               
frequent  contact  was  necessary   to  reunify  families.    She                                                               
explained a new  program that redefined the  different levels for                                                               
supervised  visits and  could allow  for more  visitations.   She                                                               
explained  that by  providing guidance  and training  to all  the                                                               
staff  who  worked with  the  children's  court, there  would  be                                                               
agreement on the protocols for  visitations.  She said that would                                                               
allow  other   partner  agency   staff  to   be  there   for  the                                                               
visitations,  not   just  OCS  staff,   and  would   now  include                                                               
unsupervised visits.  She also  explained that the grant language                                                               
for  private  agencies  regarding visitation  support  would  now                                                               
better explain the service expectations.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
4:26:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SANDOVAL  mentioned  that  OCS had  begun  to  research  the                                                               
policies and  procedures of  other states,  and would  revise the                                                               
Alaska  manual.    She  said that  this  would  include  practice                                                               
guidelines for the staff.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
4:28:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA asked  what could be done  for the problems                                                               
with job  classifications which  resulted in  lower pay  for more                                                               
qualified people.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
4:31:19 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. SANDOVAL responded that the  Department of Administration was                                                               
conducting a salary study.  She  opined that this would result in                                                               
changes to compensation.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
4:33:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SANDOVAL, in  response to  Representative Cissna,  said that                                                               
agency culture  affected a lot  of things.   She referred  to the                                                               
"helping  professional," someone  who got  into the  work because                                                               
they wanted  to help,  which was the  nature of  Child Protective                                                               
Services.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
4:37:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SANDOVAL, in  response to  Representative Seaton,  said that                                                               
the allocation for five positions  would bring the OCS case loads                                                               
to a reasonable level, but  that turnover and vacancies continued                                                               
to make the work load very difficult.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
4:38:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL asked  if the  Bachelor of  Social Worker                                                               
(BSW)  or  Master   of  Social  Worker  (MSW)   programs  at  the                                                               
University of  Alaska should  include a  full semester  of family                                                               
law.   He applauded  the salary  study, and  he suggested  that a                                                               
higher pay range with fewer PCNs might change the turnover rate.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
4:40:10 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. SANDOVAL replied that the number  of cases for each PCN would                                                               
still be  significant to do  the job  correctly.  She  shared her                                                               
surprise at the pay scale  comparison with other departments, and                                                               
she noted  that a pay  scale adjustment would  also be a  help in                                                               
staff  retention.   She  agreed that  supervision  was also  very                                                               
important to bring training and coaching to new staff.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
4:41:31 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  explained that social workers  used their                                                               
own car,  and their own  resources, and  he asked if  the workers                                                               
received the respect that they deserved.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
4:41:54 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. SANDOVAL  replied that  things were okay  but that  there was                                                               
always room for improvement.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
4:42:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  asked if  the electronic  reporting system                                                               
was working.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SANDOVAL said  that  the reporting  system  was not  working                                                               
well.  She relayed that the  Online Resources for the Children of                                                               
Alaska (ORCA)  system was working  great, but that  bandwidth and                                                               
connectivity were still  an issue.  She said that  the new report                                                               
and the creation  of the new case within ORCA  were the most time                                                               
consuming.  She  discussed the creation of  four regional in-take                                                               
hubs in  areas with the better  bandwidth.  She offered  that the                                                               
remote sites would  send information to these hubs,  and then the                                                               
cases would  be assigned back out  to the regional offices.   She                                                               
said  that  this  would  especially help  the  very  small  rural                                                               
offices which did  not have the personnel to enter  all the data,                                                               
as well as handle the case loads.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
4:45:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Health  and  Social  Services   Standing  Committee  meeting  was                                                               
adjourned at 4:45 p.m.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
A2008-0581 Public Report Final.doc HHSS 3/17/2009 3:00:00 PM
HSS-M17.PDF HHSS 3/17/2009 3:00:00 PM