Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

04/14/2009 03:00 PM House HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
Moved CSHB 50(HSS) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 190(HSS) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 71(HSS) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
HB 126-FOSTER CARE/CINA/EDUCATION OF HOMELESS                                                                                 
4:16:53 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON announced that the  final order of business would                                                               
be  HOUSE  BILL NO.  126,  "An  Act  relating to  continuing  the                                                               
secondary  public education  of a  homeless student;  relating to                                                               
the purpose of certain laws  as they relate to children; relating                                                               
to tuition  waivers, loans,  and medical  assistance for  a child                                                               
placed  in out-of-home  care  by the  state;  relating to  foster                                                               
care; relating  to children  in need of  aid; relating  to foster                                                               
care transition  to independent living; and  relating to juvenile                                                               
programs  and  institutions."   [Before  the  committee was  CSHB
4:17:03 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR KELLER moved to adopt  the proposed Committee Substitute                                                               
(CS) for  HB 126, Version  26-LS0309\C, Mischel, 4/09/09,  as the                                                               
working document.                                                                                                               
4:17:25 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON objected.                                                                                                       
4:17:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR KELLER noted  that he had worked on this  bill more than                                                               
any  other.   He said  moving  too fast  with the  bill would  be                                                               
troubling, because the proposed policy  changes are very big.  He                                                               
acknowledged the helpfulness of Representative Gara.                                                                            
4:18:34 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LES  GARA,  Alaska State  Legislature,  as  prime                                                               
sponsor, presented HB 126.  He  noted that many summits have been                                                               
held  over the  past year  to  figure out  how to  fix the  major                                                               
problems in  Alaska's foster  care system  in the  most efficient                                                               
manner possible.  The proposed  legislation would solve two types                                                               
of problems in  the foster care system.  First,  it would address                                                               
problem  foster youths  face in  having to  frequently move  from                                                               
home to  home and  school to  school, the result  of which  is an                                                               
increase  in the  chance those  foster  youths will  not make  it                                                               
through the  school year, graduate  on time, or graduate  at all.                                                               
The McKinney-Vento  Homeless Assistance  Act, a federal  Act, was                                                             
passed  to  keep  homeless  youths  and  youths  awaiting  foster                                                               
placement in the  same school.  Section 1 of  HB 126 would extend                                                               
the same protection  to all foster youths.  Youths  would stay in                                                               
the same school, as long as it  was feasible to do so, and unless                                                               
their guardians  decided a  new school  would be  more beneficial                                                               
for them.   There would  also be help with  transportation costs.                                                               
Under the  federal Act  there is  a liaison,  and HB  126 further                                                               
proposes that that liaison would also help foster youths.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA said  HB 126  reflects  a federal  standard,                                                               
which is  that social  workers should  visit with  foster youths.                                                               
In  30 percent  of  cases,  visits only  occur  once every  eight                                                               
months, and HB 126 proposes that  visits occur each month.  Other                                                               
states, including Minnesota,  have set that standard,  and HB 126                                                               
uses the language in Minnesota's  law.  Representative Gara noted                                                               
that this provision would be  "aspirational" because it cannot be                                                               
mandated.   He said he  thinks the Office of  Children's Services                                                               
(OCS)  is currently  doing  a  good job  in  trying  to meet  the                                                               
monthly  visit goal;  therefore,  he would  consider having  that                                                               
language removed if the committee decides that is what it wants.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  noted that  a  University  of Alaska  study                                                               
shows that in  Alaska, 40 percent of youths coming  out of foster                                                               
care end up homeless at some  point in their lives.  The proposed                                                               
legislation  would have  the State  of Alaska  cover the  cost of                                                               
college  or state  job  training  for youths  coming  out of  the                                                               
foster  system.   Representative Gara  said the  state does  that                                                               
already, but  limits its coverage to  10 youths.  The  state also                                                               
provides employment  training vouchers  (ETVs) through OCS  - but                                                               
only a limited  number of them.  The bill  proposes to fully fund                                                               
what the state  is already doing.  He talked  about the incentive                                                               
of telling  a foster youth  that when he/she graduates  from high                                                               
school, there  will be job  training or an education  through the                                                               
University of Alaska available.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said currently  OCS operates the "Independent                                                               
Living  Program" for  youths  coming out  of  foster care,  which                                                               
provides rental assistance  to those youths who  cannot afford to                                                               
pay rent.   However, that assistance ends after  the third month.                                                               
The proposed  legislation would extend  that to six months.   The                                                               
daily amount would  be up to the amount already  given as a daily                                                               
reimbursement rate  to foster  parents.   The bill  proposes that                                                               
after those six months, if  needed, a youth could receive another                                                               
three   months   assistance,   at   "up  to   half   the   rate."                                                               
Representative Gara noted that Version  C proposes a full year of                                                               
rental help, but he said feedback  from OCS and some of the youth                                                               
advocates has  indicated that they would  be comfortable amending                                                               
to the six months with a possible three-month extension.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA noted  that  there is  another amendment  to                                                               
help nonprofit  organizations, including Change Point  Church, to                                                               
recruit  foster  parents.   There  is  a nationwide  movement  to                                                               
extend foster care  to those who need  it from age 18  to age 21.                                                               
There  are  federal matching  funds  that  became available  this                                                               
year, he noted.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GARA related  that he has worked  closely with the                                                               
Casey  Family  Foundation,  which  is  a  nationwide  group  that                                                               
supports  foster  youths.    The  foundation  has  aided  in  the                                                               
formation  of  Facing Foster  Care  -  a statewide  foster  youth                                                               
advocacy group.                                                                                                                 
4:28:08 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  KELLER offered  his  understanding  that the  McKinney-                                                             
Vento  Homeless   Assistance  Act   was  designed   for  homeless                                                             
families; therefore, the liaison in  the school is working in the                                                               
context that there  is a presumed parent.  He  said he thinks the                                                               
proposed  bill  would  go  significantly  further  than  that  by                                                               
including  the  foster   child  as  "part  of   the  equation  in                                                               
determining what's in the best interest of the child."                                                                          
4:30:05 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA responded  that the  McKinney-Vento Homeless                                                             
Assistance Act essentially leaves  the decision with the guardian                                                             
as to whether  moving to a new school would  be beneficial to the                                                               
4:31:40 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  KELLER noted  that McKinney-Vento  goes beyond  that by                                                               
asking  the school  district  to  be able  to  provide a  written                                                               
explanation of what is in the best interest of the child.                                                                       
4:31:45 PM                                                                                                                    
AMANDA  METIVIER,  Statewide  Coordinator,  Facing  Foster  Care,                                                               
noted that she is an alumnus  of the foster care system in Alaska                                                               
and  is currently  a  foster  care parent  to  a  teenager.   Ms.                                                               
Metivier stated:                                                                                                                
     As Representative  Gara mentioned, our  state currently                                                                    
     offers 10 tuition waivers a  year for youth to age out,                                                                    
     and right  now there are  28 current and  former foster                                                                    
     youths  statewide  who  are within  the  University  of                                                                    
     Alaska system,  utilizing those waivers, and  there are                                                                    
     ten other  youths who are attending  college who aren't                                                                    
     on  the  waiver,  but  do   have  assistance  from  the                                                                    
     education and training voucher.                                                                                            
MS. METIVIER  told the committee  that she  was one of  only five                                                               
recipients of a waiver about five  years ago, and she stated with                                                               
certainty that  she would  not have attended  college if  she had                                                               
not received that waiver the first  time she applied for it.  She                                                               
related  that  she  graduated last  December  with  a  bachelor's                                                               
degree in social work.  She continued:                                                                                          
     When  I came  into  foster  care I  was  a high  school                                                                    
     dropout,  and for  me, higher  education was  a way  to                                                                    
     break the  cycle of  abuse within my  family, as  it is                                                                    
     for most  foster youths  who age out  of custody.   For                                                                    
     young  people  who come  into  foster  care, the  state                                                                    
     becomes  their   parent,  and,  as   someone  mentioned                                                                    
     before,  biological parents  don't  cut their  children                                                                    
     off   when  they   turn   18,   both  financially   and                                                                    
     ... For  most older youths  who come into  foster care,                                                                    
     permanency isn't going to be  an option, so ... for the                                                                    
     most  part  they're  not  going   to  be  placed  in  a                                                                    
     guardianship or  get adopted; ... they're  not going to                                                                    
     get what  is referred  to as a  "forever family."   And                                                                    
     so, having assistance from the  department and from the                                                                    
     state to continue their education  is a way for them to                                                                    
     not end up  homeless and not end up in  jail or relying                                                                    
     on public assistance  for long periods of time.   And I                                                                    
     think  the statistics  show that  we have  young people                                                                    
     that  aren't   doing  well,  and   this  is   really  a                                                                    
     reflection of  gaps within  the system.   That  ... the                                                                    
     ten tuition [waivers] we revere  isn't ... enough.  And                                                                    
     so, for  those of us who  do succeed, I think  it shows                                                                    
     that ...  something's being done right  - these waivers                                                                    
     are a  good thing.   And so, why  not extend it  to all                                                                    
     youths who age out?                                                                                                        
4:34:47 PM                                                                                                                    
CAROL   COMEAU,   Superintendent,  Anchorage   School   District,                                                               
testified in  support of HB 126.   She relayed that  the district                                                               
has been working  on this issue for quite a  few years, beginning                                                               
with  the school  board's  adopting policies  to  conform to  the                                                               
McKinney-Vento Homeless  Assistance Act.   Ms. Comeau  noted that                                                             
the  district has  been working  with Representative  Gara and  a                                                               
number of  foster care  students and alumni  in the  district who                                                               
have aged out of the system.                                                                                                    
MS. COMEAU  noted that  Section 1 would  require the  district to                                                               
provide transportation during summer school.   She noted that the                                                               
district does  not provide transportation to  students for summer                                                               
school,  because the  students come  from all  over.   She stated                                                               
that  the  district could  not  support  Section 1  as  currently                                                               
4:36:58 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLMES   said  there   would  be   a  forthcoming                                                               
amendment to address that issue.                                                                                                
4:37:08 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. COMEAU emphasized  the importance of the  language in Section                                                               
1, on page 2, lines 2-4, which read as follows:                                                                                 
          (b) The requirements in (a) of this section do                                                                        
     not apply  if the  student moves  to a  school district                                                                    
     other than  the school district in  which the student's                                                                    
     school of origin is located.                                                                                               
MS.  COMEAU explained  that  the  district does  not  want to  be                                                               
responsible for  and does not  support transporting  students out                                                               
of district.                                                                                                                    
MS.  COMEAU then  pointed to  language in  Section 1,  subsection                                                               
(d), paragraph (1), which read:                                                                                                 
          (d) A school district is required to comply with                                                                      
     this section only                                                                                                          
               (1) if the legislature appropriates funds                                                                        
     for the purpose; and                                                                                                       
MS. COMEAU asked for clarification as follows:                                                                                  
     In other  words, if the  law is passed, does  that mean                                                                    
     there needs to be a  separate allocation to pay for the                                                                    
     transportation,  or would  it  be assumed  that in  the                                                                    
     base student  allocation funding - this  funding we get                                                                    
     from the state  - that we would have to  take it out of                                                                    
MS.  COMEAU said  the district  supports  the proposed  provision                                                               
that would  allow the student to  be moved to another  school, if                                                               
the guardian makes the request.                                                                                                 
4:38:40 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA,  regarding  legislative funding,  said  the                                                               
intent is  that the  legislature does  not establish  an unfunded                                                               
mandate.  He said he does  not think the language is unclear, but                                                               
offered to take a look at it.                                                                                                   
4:39:58 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  COMEAU  next   pointed  out  the  language   in  Section  1,                                                               
subsection (f), which read:                                                                                                     
          (f) A school district shall designate a liaison                                                                       
     between the  school district  and the  homeless student                                                                    
     and   the  student's   legal  guardian   to  coordinate                                                                    
     compliance with this section.                                                                                              
MS. COMEAU said  her interpretation of that  proposed language is                                                               
based on  the district's  experience.  She  explained that  it is                                                               
the role of the  district's Child in Transition/Homeless Program,                                                               
funded out of  Title I, to work with these  students.  She asked,                                                               
"Are you  saying that we need  to have a liaison  for every child                                                               
in foster care,  or is one district liaison or  maybe another one                                                               
for this adequate?"                                                                                                             
4:40:44 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA indicated  that the  bill would  require the                                                               
same liaison as  is required by the federal Act.   Nothing in the                                                               
language  of the  bill would  require  the district  to hire  any                                                               
additional personnel.                                                                                                           
4:41:53 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA commented  that her  experience has  shown                                                               
that  there  is  currently  so  much  turnover  in  schools  that                                                               
allowing a student to stay in  a school often becomes a "network"                                                               
to that  student.  Foster  youths are lacking peer  networks that                                                               
can help  them into adulthood.   She stated, "We need  to do more                                                               
than this bill allows, but probably this bill sets the stage."                                                                  
4:43:54 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  COMEAU concurred,  but said  the district  strongly believes                                                               
that in some  cases the flexibility to allow a  child to transfer                                                               
is needed.  She opined that  HB 126 sends the message that "these                                                               
young  people deserve  some  extra support  because  of the  very                                                               
great chaos in their lives."                                                                                                    
4:44:23 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR KELLER asked Ms. Comeau  to confirm whether she supports                                                               
the entire bill.                                                                                                                
4:44:51 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  COMEAU responded  that she  supports the  bill conceptually,                                                               
but said  she has not  looked in depth  at the other  sections of                                                               
the bill  that do not apply  to the Anchorage School  District or                                                               
to K-12 education.                                                                                                              
4:45:26 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON noted that  the original bill version would                                                               
require a best  interest finding.  He asked Ms.  Comeau if she is                                                               
comfortable  with the  requirements  in Version  C, for  example,                                                               
that the school  district would be required to  provide a written                                                               
explanation for an appeal procedure.                                                                                            
4:46:08 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. COMEAU answered yes.                                                                                                        
4:46:14 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. COMEAU,  in response to  Co-Chair Keller, clarified  that the                                                               
Anchorage School  District is currently  providing transportation                                                               
to homeless  students, which is  only partially paid  for through                                                               
Title I  funding.  The district  has paid for the  difference for                                                               
the last two years, and has  $380,000 of next year's general fund                                                               
slated  to pay  for that  transportation.   The district  is very                                                               
spread  out, so  the  cost of  buses and  taxicabs  is high,  she                                                               
noted.    In  response  to a  follow-up  question  from  Co-Chair                                                               
Keller, she estimated  that the portion of that  money that comes                                                               
from Title I is $150,000.                                                                                                       
4:47:37 PM                                                                                                                    
BARB DEXTER,  McKinney-Vento Liaison, Anchorage  School District,                                                             
testified  in support  of HB  126, echoing  Ms. Comeau's  caution                                                               
regarding   the   funding   for   transportation.      She   said                                                               
transportation  costs  not  only   cover  the  vendor,  but  also                                                               
staffing.   Ms. Dexter  indicated that she  has been  involved in                                                               
this type  of work for  16 years.   Many homeless youths  she has                                                               
worked with  have been in  and out of  foster care.   She relayed                                                               
that  as a  youth  becomes  an adolescent  it  is sometimes  more                                                               
difficult   to  maintain   placement.      She  emphasized   that                                                               
maintaining school stability  helps maintain placement stability.                                                               
In response  to Co-Chair Keller,  she clarified that her  work as                                                               
liaison is with  homeless children; although she  works with some                                                               
who qualify for foster care under  the federal Act.  She said her                                                               
caseload  currently  includes  1,100  students.    The  Anchorage                                                               
School District has identified more  than 3,000 students who have                                                               
experienced homelessness this  year.  She added that  there are a                                                               
much higher number of homeless  youths than there are children in                                                               
foster care.                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  KELLER   offered  his  understanding  that   there  are                                                               
approximately  2,100  youths  in   foster  care  statewide.    He                                                               
remarked that a 1,100 caseload seems pretty high.                                                                               
MS. DEXTER noted  that there is a staff of  10 people who provide                                                               
that support for 3,000 students.   She said she and the staff are                                                               
the lead  agency in  terms of identifying  children who  meet the                                                               
homeless  qualifications,  but  they   do  not  provide  all  the                                                               
services; "it's a school [district]-wide program and project."                                                                  
4:50:51 PM                                                                                                                    
LAURA  HEYWOOD,  Volunteer,   Court  Appointed  Special  Advocate                                                               
(CASA),  testified  in  support  of   HB  126.    She  said  CASA                                                               
volunteers  are appointed  by the  courts to  represent the  best                                                               
interests  of  children  in  state  custody.    Furthermore,  Ms.                                                               
Heywood  noted she  is the  vice president  of Friends  of Alaska                                                               
CASA.   Ms. Heywood said she  likes HB 126, because  "it promotes                                                               
education to a  level with some other basic rights."   Health and                                                               
safety  are primary  focuses,  sometimes  resulting in  education                                                               
falling  through the  cracks.   The  bill  includes common  sense                                                               
language,  she opined.   For  example, records  should "follow  a                                                               
child" and foster children should be  allowed to stay in the same                                                               
school for the sake of continuity.                                                                                              
MS. HEYWOOD offered her understanding  that children out of "home                                                               
care" would be covered by HB 126,  and she said she has a special                                                               
interest in those children.  She  reported that in her five years                                                               
as a  CASA volunteer, she  has advocated for six  children, three                                                               
of  whom spent  many  years in  "residential  treatment" -  state                                                               
custody.   Children who  are raised  in abusive  households often                                                               
have mental health issues and/or  develop substance abuse issues,                                                               
go to treatment,  turn 18, and come back to  their home community                                                               
with basically no  connection with OCS, a foster  family, and, in                                                               
many  cases, their  own  families.   Ms.  Heywood emphasized  the                                                               
importance of the  provision in HB 126 that would  help with that                                                               
transition by paying rent for a longer period of time.                                                                          
4:54:06 PM                                                                                                                    
MICHELLE  DEWITT, Executive  Director,  Tundra Women's  Coalition                                                               
(TWC),  reported that  in the  month of  January, there  were 214                                                               
children in  state custody in  the Yukon-Kuskokwim  Delta region.                                                               
She  related  that as  a  professional  involved with  a  shelter                                                               
organization,  she appreciates  the  proposed  legislation.   She                                                               
explained  that the  organization  operates a  group for  at-risk                                                               
teenagers who  range in  age from 12  to 17, many  of who  are in                                                               
foster care.   Many of  the older teenagers have  trouble finding                                                               
stability as  they age out of  the system, look for  housing, and                                                               
look for  work, and  a lot  of them end  up in  jail or  in TWC's                                                               
shelter.    Ms. DeWitt  said  she  thinks  HB 126  would  provide                                                               
alternatives  for these  teenagers that  they would  otherwise be                                                               
unable to secure on their own.                                                                                                  
MS. DEWITT noted that for the  past four years, she has served as                                                               
a personal guardian  for a girl who  is about to turn  20 and has                                                               
spent half her life in foster  care.  She said she can appreciate                                                               
the importance of  the state stepping into that  role when others                                                               
cannot.   She opined,  "... I believe  that that  investment will                                                               
create savings  on the  other end of  the spectrum  by preventing                                                               
some of  the homelessness  and incarceration  issues that  we see                                                               
with these young people when they don't receive help."                                                                          
4:56:42 PM                                                                                                                    
CAROLYN  ROESBERY testified  in support  of HB  126.   She opined                                                               
that the  state should  be responsible for  and connected  to its                                                               
youth.   Making  OCS  visits  more frequent  is  a  wise move  in                                                               
demonstrating  to  foster   youths  that  they  are   part  of  a                                                               
responsible and  viable system, so  that they  can grow up  to be                                                               
strong contributors to  their communities and to the  world.  Ms.                                                               
Roesbery  stated that  HB 126  is Alaska's  chance to  change the                                                               
face of society -  to show youth a positive path  to follow.  One                                                               
month of  assisted housing  is not  reasonable, but  the proposed                                                               
change to  up to a  year is, she opined.   The change  that would                                                               
allow the  child to stay  at his/her current school  will provide                                                               
stability  to that  child.   She questioned  how the  state could                                                               
possibly say no to stability.                                                                                                   
4:59:58 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. DEXTER,  in response to  Co-Chair Keller, clarified  that the                                                               
aforementioned 1,100  youth are  in grades seven  through twelve;                                                               
there  are an  additional 1,900  homeless youth  who are  younger                                                               
than  that.   Of the  1,100, about  700 are  unaccompanied youth,                                                               
which means they  are living without a parent  or legal guardian,                                                               
she  said.   In response  to a  follow-up question  from Co-Chair                                                               
Keller, Ms.  Dexter said getting  these youth to school  and back                                                               
takes significant  time and is  undertaken by other staff  in her                                                               
office, while  her focus  is to  help with  "educational decision                                                               
making."   She  offered  examples.   She related  that  she is  a                                                               
certified teacher who  works with other teachers  in the district                                                               
to ensure that they have the best educational plan possible.                                                                    
5:01:57 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. DEXTER, in response to  Co-Chair Keller, said many youth left                                                               
foster care to  become homeless; however, many  youth leave homes                                                               
that are  unsafe.  She  noted that a  number of youths  with whom                                                               
she works have  parents who are only 13-16 years  older than they                                                               
are.  She  reemphasized that she does not carry  this caseload on                                                               
her own, but has help from others.                                                                                              
5:03:12 PM                                                                                                                    
MIKE LESMANN, Program Coordinator,  Office of Children's Services                                                               
(OCS), Department  of Health and  Social Services  (DHSS), stated                                                               
that the  department recognizes the  potential great  benefits of                                                               
the  bill to  youths getting  ready  to transition  out of  state                                                               
custody.   He  relayed that  the department  maintains a  neutral                                                               
position  regarding  HB 126.    He  mentioned  a Child  &  Family                                                               
Services review conducted  by the federal government  on OCS, and                                                               
he  said OCS  concurs  with  its federal  partner  that the  most                                                               
urgent  of issues  for OCS  currently revolve  around safety  and                                                               
family reunification/permanency.   Mr. Lesmann said  OCS needs to                                                               
work on timeliness  of investigations and keep  children in their                                                               
homes safely or,  if not possible, work to  reunify them quickly.                                                               
He emphasized  that home visits are  an important part of  all of                                                               
that work.                                                                                                                      
MR. LESMANN said OCS  would like to do as much as  it can for all                                                               
the children  in the state's custody.   He relayed that  there is                                                               
work to do "in the front end  of the system" that is not "getting                                                               
done to the  best of ... outcomes."  He  stated that OCS believes                                                               
its priority  currently must be on  that front end of  the foster                                                               
5:05:31 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON  remarked that  he thinks there  are many  in the                                                               
legislature who wish  the department would come  to bill hearings                                                               
with a position on the proposed legislation.                                                                                    
5:05:45 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  said she  understands that  the department                                                               
has  faced  federal  reviews, problems  with  its  database,  and                                                               
employee turnover,  but indicated  that her experience  has shown                                                               
that foster  children who  do not receive  help [from  the state]                                                               
may end up in the prison system  or dead.  She emphasized that it                                                               
is  possible to  do something  right now  that will  [positively]                                                               
affect those  youth.  She admitted  she does not know  how "to do                                                               
it all,"  but encouraged legislators  to view those youth  as the                                                               
state's  children.   She  asked Mr.  Lesmann  if he,  personally,                                                               
would like to see the bill passed.                                                                                              
5:08:49 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. LESMANN  said he is father  to three children, but  most days                                                               
feels like a father to 2,100  children.  Addressing the future of                                                               
these youth has to be a  community effort, he opined.  Youth need                                                               
mentors, lifelines, and support.                                                                                                
5:09:29 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON closed public testimony.                                                                                        
CO-CHAIR HERRON  removed his objection  to adopting  the proposed                                                               
committee  substitute  (CS)  to   HB  126,  Version  26-LS0309\C,                                                               
Mischel,  4/9/09,  as  the  working document.    There  being  no                                                               
further objection, Version C was before the committee.                                                                          
5:10:10 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON moved  to  adopt  [Amendment 1],  labeled,                                                               
26G-1, which read [original punctuation provided]:                                                                              
     Page 11, line 5, following "placement.", through line                                                                      
          Delete "Nothing in this paragraph creates a                                                                           
        private right of action against the department's                                                                        
     employees or contractors."                                                                                                 
5:10:32 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA explained  that  he does  not  want to  hold                                                               
social workers  or the department  liable "if  they miss it  by a                                                               
day."   He stated, "There's  no ... tort liability  for violating                                                               
that  section."   He said  there is  a general  provision in  OCS                                                               
statute  that says  OCS is  liable  for negligence,  but not  for                                                               
technical violations  of any particular  provision.   In response                                                               
to Representative Seaton,  he explained that [OCS]  does not want                                                               
the language proposed to be  deleted in [Amendment 1] "said twice                                                               
in the statutes."                                                                                                               
5:11:22 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON removed his objection.  There being no further                                                                  
objection, [Amendment 1] was adopted.                                                                                           
5:11:36 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON moved to adopt Amendment 2, labeled 26-                                                                   
LS0309\C.2, Mischel, 4/11/09, which read as follows [original                                                                   
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
     Page 12, line 26, through page 13, line 1:                                                                                 
          Delete all material and insert:                                                                                       
          "Sec. 47.18.335. Monetary living expense stipend.                                                                   
     (a)  The department  shall provide  a monthly  monetary                                                                    
     living expense stipend for a  period not to exceed nine                                                                    
     months in  an amount described  in (b) of  this section                                                                    
     to an individual who                                                                                                       
               (1)  has left out-of-home care at age 18 or                                                                      
               (2)  is participating in services in the                                                                         
     program; and                                                                                                               
               (3)  has monthly contact with a social                                                                           
     worker involved in the program.                                                                                            
          (b)  A stipend provided under this section shall                                                                      
     be  in   an  amount  necessary  to   meet  an  eligible                                                                    
     individual's  living  expense   as  determined  by  the                                                                    
     department. The amount may not exceed                                                                                      
               (1)  for the first six months of                                                                                 
     eligibility,  the daily  rate  provided  to a  licensed                                                                    
     foster parent; or                                                                                                          
               (2)  for a period not to exceed three                                                                            
     additional months  during the  period that  follows the                                                                    
     first  six months  of eligibility,  half  of the  daily                                                                    
     rate provided to a licensed foster parent.                                                                                 
          (c)  The department shall pay the stipend                                                                             
     provided  under this  section until  the  later of  the                                                                    
     date that the individual                                                                                                   
               (1)  reaches 21 years of age; or                                                                                 
               (2)  has left out-of-home care for six                                                                           
          (d) The department may adopt regulations to                                                                           
     implement this section."                                                                                                   
[CO-CHAIR HERRON objected.]                                                                                                     
5:11:54 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  explained  that  Amendment 2  is  aimed  at                                                               
saving money  while keeping  the usefulness  of the  bill intact.                                                               
The bill's proposal that the  state provide rental systems for up                                                               
to  a year  would  result in  a "phenomenal"  fiscal  note.   The                                                               
effect  of Amendment  2 would  be  a drop  in the  amount of  the                                                               
fiscal note from approximately $1.9 million to $600,000.                                                                        
5:12:23 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON  removed his objection.   There being  no further                                                               
objection, Amendment 2 was adopted.                                                                                             
5:12:36 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON moved  to adopt  Amendment 3,  labeled 26-                                                               
LS0309\C.4,  Mischel, 4/13/09,  which read  as follows  [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
     Page 13, following line 6:                                                                                                 
          Insert a new bill section to read:                                                                                    
      "* Sec. 19. AS 47.32.160 is amended by adding a new                                                                   
     subsection to read:                                                                                                        
          (c)  A nonprofit organization that, and a person                                                                      
     acting on  behalf of the  organization who,  engages in                                                                    
     recruitment  activities for  foster  homes that  become                                                                    
     licensed under this chapter may  not be held liable for                                                                    
     the consequences of the recruitment."                                                                                      
5:12:46 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                         
5:12:54 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  explained that Change Point  Church has been                                                               
working  with  the  state  to attract  adults  to  become  foster                                                               
parents,  because  there  is  a   shortage  of  them  in  Alaska.                                                               
Amendment 3 would  protect Change Point Church  from being liable                                                               
for negligence by a foster parent it helped find.                                                                               
5:13:18 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON  removed his objection.   There being  no further                                                               
objection, Amendment 3 was adopted.                                                                                             
5:13:31 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON moved  to adopt  Amendment 4,  labeled 26-                                                               
LS0309\C.5,  Kurtz/Mischel,   4/14/09,  which  read   as  follows                                                               
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 10, following "shall,":                                                                                       
          Insert "to the extent feasible and"                                                                                   
     Page 1, line 13, through page 2, line 1:                                                                                   
          Delete "or, if the student is attending school                                                                        
       for a summer term, for the remainder of the summer                                                                       
     Page 3, line 19, following "available":                                                                                    
          Insert "subsidized"                                                                                                   
     Page 3, line 23:                                                                                                           
          Delete "commission"                                                                                                   
          Insert "institution"                                                                                                  
5:13:46 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                         
5:13:53 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  explained that  "to the extent  feasible" is                                                               
the same  language as is used  in the federal Act.   The language                                                               
that would be deleted from Page  1, line 13, through page 2, line                                                               
1, is  in response  to the  testimony of Ms.  Comeau.   The loans                                                               
that  would be  provided  are subsidized,  he  explained.   Last,                                                               
Amendment  4   would  distinguish  that  scholarships   would  be                                                               
provided  by an  educational "institution"  - not  by the  Alaska                                                               
Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE).                                                                                   
5:15:06 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA,  in response  to Co-Chair Keller,  said that                                                               
in order to  limit the cost and be efficient,  the intent is that                                                               
the youth apply for all available  grants.  He explained that the                                                               
state  does  not  want  to "cover  $15,000-worth  of  costs  when                                                               
there's $10,000 somewhere else, possibly."                                                                                      
5:15:46 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR KELLER  outlined that the  purpose of the section  is to                                                               
"make up the balance."  The  requirement being proposed is that a                                                               
youth has applied for a loan.                                                                                                   
5:16:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA responded that there  would be no way to know                                                               
in advance  whether or not  the youth  will qualify for  the loan                                                               
for  which he/she  applies, but  the intent  is that  there is  a                                                               
good-faith effort made.                                                                                                         
5:16:18 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON  removed his objection.   There being  no further                                                               
objection, Amendment 4 was adopted.                                                                                             
5:16:35 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  moved to adopt Conceptual  Amendment 5, as                                                               
     Page 2, line 26, following "personnel":                                                                                    
        Insert "or more than one liaison in each school                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  said the amendment addresses  Ms. Comeau's                                                               
previously stated concern.                                                                                                      
5:17:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HERRON  objected for  the purpose  of discussion.   [His                                                               
objection  was treated  as withdrawn.]   There  being no  further                                                               
objection, Conceptual Amendment 5 was adopted.                                                                                  
[HB 126 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Backup.PDF HHSS 4/14/2009 3:00:00 PM
HB 126
Backup - Ca. study.PDF HHSS 4/14/2009 3:00:00 PM
HB 126
Sponsor Statement.PDF HHSS 4/14/2009 3:00:00 PM
HB 126
Sectional.PDF HHSS 4/14/2009 3:00:00 PM
HB 126
CS Version C.PDF HHSS 4/14/2009 3:00:00 PM
HB 126
CS version P.PDF HHSS 4/14/2009 3:00:00 PM
HB 126
Departments Affected.PDF HHSS 4/14/2009 3:00:00 PM
HB 126
Local Educational Agency Requirements.PDF HHSS 4/14/2009 3:00:00 PM
HB 126
Newspaper article.PDF HHSS 4/14/2009 3:00:00 PM
HB 126