Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205

02/28/2018 01:30 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation: DHSS Office of Children's Services TELECONFERENCED
Response to Citizen Review Panel
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
<Above Item Removed from Agenda>
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
+= SB 122 OCS CITIZEN REVIEW PANEL TELECONFERENCED
Moved SB 122 Out of Committee
-- Testimony <Invited and Public> --
                 SB 122-OCS CITIZEN REVIEW PANEL                                                                            
                                                                                                                              
[^Includes a motion related to SB 72.]                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:34:38 PM                                                                                                                  
CHAIR  WILSON announced  the  consideration of  SB  122. [SB  122,                                                              
version 30-LS0047\J, was before the committee.]                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
RYNNIEVA  MOSS,   Staff,  Senator   John  Coghill,  Alaska   State                                                              
Legislature,  provided information  on  SB 122  on  behalf of  the                                                              
sponsor. She  said SB  122 moves the  Citizen Review  Panel (CRP),                                                              
which  was created  in statute  in  1990, from  the Department  of                                                              
Health and Social  Services (DHSS) to the Ombudsman's  Office. Its                                                              
purpose was  make sure children did  not languish in  foster care,                                                              
but  it  was  not  funded until  1993.  It  was  a  pilot  project                                                              
specific to Anchorage.  During a year and a half,  it investigated                                                              
over 200 cases.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. MOSS  said because  of the  remoteness of  much of  Alaska and                                                              
the cost  of transportation to  communities across the  state, the                                                              
federal panel  was very  limited in  what it  could do.  While the                                                              
Citizens  Review Panel  has been  enacted several  times in  state                                                              
statute going  back to 1990, the  current panel was  mandated with                                                              
the enactment of  House Bill 53 in 2005.  In  that legislation the                                                              
legislature  not only  recognized  the importance  of a  citizen's                                                              
review panel, but committed to help fund the process adequately.                                                                
It  started getting  an annual  budget,  which is  now $100,000  a                                                              
year. Most  meetings are by teleconference,  so the panel  can use                                                              
the  money  to visit  as  many  areas  as possible  to  meet  with                                                              
parents,  Office of  Child Services  (OCS) case  workers and  ICWA                                                              
[Indian Child Welfare Act] workers.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
She  said  the  CRP  is  required  to  examine  the  policies  and                                                              
procedures  of OCS,  evaluate  the performance  of  OCS, and  make                                                              
annual reports  to the legislature.   The panel is subject  to the                                                              
Open Meetings Act and has produced 15 reports so far.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
She said SB 122  transfers oversight of the Citizens  Review Panel                                                              
to  the   Ombudsman's  Office   in  the   legislative  branch   of                                                              
government.   There  was   discussion  of   locating  it   in  the                                                              
governor's office and  with the court system, but  the missions of                                                              
the Ombudsman's Office and CRP complement each other well.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:38:34 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MOSS  said the Ombudsman's  Office accepts citizen  complaints                                                              
on a  case-by-case basis.  The CRP  has never reviewed  individual                                                              
cases,  although  it  has  the  authority   to  do  that.  It  has                                                              
encouraged the use  of the grievance process and  contact with the                                                              
Ombudsman's  Office. She related  that of  the 250 complaints  the                                                              
Ombudsman's  Office  about OCS  in  2017, the  Ombudsman's  Office                                                              
investigated 136, or  54 percent. The others were declined because                                                              
the person  had not complained to  OCS or the complaint  was being                                                              
litigated or otherwise subject to a judge's decision.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
She  said the  agencies complement  each  other. The  role of  the                                                              
ombudsman is  to help  ensure that  federal, state, and  municipal                                                              
governments  are  serving Alaskans  as  efficiently,  effectively,                                                              
and  equitably as  possible. They  do  this through  case-specific                                                              
investigations.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:40:05 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MOSS said  the role of the  Citizens Review Panel has  been to                                                              
help  ensure that  the Office  of Children's  Services is  serving                                                              
Alaska's  families as  efficiently, effectively  and equitably  as                                                              
possible. They  do this  through outreach  and advocacy.  She said                                                              
SB  122 is  not intended  to criticize  the  Office of  Children's                                                              
Services  or  the  Citizens  Review  Panel.  They  both  can  work                                                              
better. Senator  Coghill introduced the  bill to start  a dialogue                                                              
about  strengthening the  public  acceptance of  a review  process                                                              
for  child protection  services that  should be  a review  process                                                              
that is external to OCS.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  VON  IMHOF noted  that  the  fiscal  note  for FY  19  is                                                              
$143,000  which is $43,000  more  than has been  budgeted for  the                                                              
panel.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MOSS said  the  fiscal  note  assumes a  permanent  full-time                                                              
position. She said the fiscal note will be discussed in Finance.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  WILSON  suggested  Ms.  Burkhart   address  the  additional                                                              
expense.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
KATE BURKHART,  State Ombudsman,  Alaska Office of  the Ombudsman,                                                              
commented  on SB  122. She  said  her office  prepared the  fiscal                                                              
note to reflect  the expanded duties  of the CRP under  SB 122. As                                                              
written,  the  CRP  would  be co-located  in  the  Office  of  the                                                              
Ombudsman  for budgetary  purposes  only.  That creates  a  fiscal                                                              
agent  relationship  and  not  a   supervisory  relationship.  The                                                              
staffing contemplated  in the  fiscal note  is for a  professional                                                              
level staff that  has the experience, expertise,  and authority to                                                              
operate with minimal  supervision from the CRP  chairperson. It is                                                              
a more  expensive way to  staff, but the  bill is written  so that                                                              
the ombudsman  is the holder of  the resources and is  not engaged                                                              
in supervision  of staff.  If there  is a  more supervisory  role,                                                              
then staff could be a paraprofessional.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:43:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON opened public testimony on SB 122.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:44:05 PM                                                                                                                    
THOMAS GARBER,  representing self,  supported SB  122. He  said he                                                              
supports SB  122 but has some  concerns. He paraphrased  from page                                                              
15 of the CRP annual report:                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     Despite  many attempts  by  the CRP  to  be involved  in                                                                   
     conversations and  participate in the federal  Child and                                                                   
     Family  Services Review(  CFSR) process,  the panel  was                                                                   
     only  informed of the  progress being  made within  OCS,                                                                   
     but  was not  invited to  participate. Since  CFSR is  a                                                                   
     significant   review    exercise,   CRP    received   an                                                                   
     invitation   to    attend   a   quarterly    stakeholder                                                                   
     teleconference scheduled  in April (but was not  able to                                                                   
     participate).                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR.  GARBER referred  to the  investigative  report for  Ombudsman                                                              
Complaint  A2016-0923,  in which  she  was requesting  a  worker's                                                              
case be reviewed  because of her neglect that resulted  in a child                                                              
being harmed.  The OCS responded  that the quality  assurance unit                                                              
does  not have  the capacity  to  undertake that  type of  review.                                                              
Furthermore,  given that the  office has  the highest caseload  in                                                              
the state  it is  more likely  than not  that some  cases are  not                                                              
getting  the  attention   they  should.  In  2011   the  ombudsman                                                              
investigated the  OCS grievance process and determined  that upper                                                              
level  management did  not  know how  to  implement the  grievance                                                              
process.  The  CRP annual  report  three  years later  stated  the                                                              
grievance  process was  not  functioning properly.  The  ombudsman                                                              
and CRP pointed  out that normal citizens accused  of abuse cannot                                                              
challenge substantiated findings.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR.  GARBER  said  in  2011 his  son  threatened  to  kill  either                                                              
himself or  his father because his  mother would not let  him play                                                              
video games. His  mother called the police, who came  to the house                                                              
and directed  them to take him to  the hospital. The next  day OCS                                                              
interviewed him,  his wife, and their 13-year-old  and 18-year-old                                                              
sons and then interviewed  a son in Anchorage. He  tried to file a                                                              
grievance but  could not because  there was no grievance  process.                                                              
Tom  Wagoner's office  helped him  get  an administrative  review.                                                              
During  the  review  he  asked for  subpoenas,  but  there  is  no                                                              
subpoena  authority;  therefore,  OCS  cannot  be  challenged.  He                                                              
recommends that more  be done to protect people's  due process and                                                              
civil rights. He  opined that the Office of the  Ombudsman and CRP                                                              
need more help to do so.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative Tammi  Wilson said in her request for  a grand jury                                                              
investigation  that OCS  has become  a protected  empire built  on                                                              
taking children  and separating families. Poor children  are often                                                              
targeted because  parents do  not have the  means to  hire lawyers                                                              
and fight  the system.  Parents are  victimized  by a system  that                                                              
makes a  profit by  holding children  longer and  bonuses for  not                                                              
returning  children. Case  workers  and social  workers are  often                                                              
guilty of  fraud. They  withhold and  fabricate evidence  and seek                                                              
to   terminate  parental   rights.   OCS  can   hide  behind   [a]                                                              
confidentiality  clause in  order to protect  their decisions  and                                                              
keep the  funds flowing.  Social workers are  the glue  that holds                                                              
the  system   together  and  funds   the  courts   and  children's                                                              
attorneys  and multiple  other jobs.  The ombudsman  and CRP  need                                                              
their support;  more needs to be  done to protect due  process and                                                              
civil liberties.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:50:10 PM                                                                                                                    
DIWAKAR  VADAPALLI,  Ph.D.,  Chair, Alaska  Citizen  Review  Panel                                                              
(CRP), Assistant  Professor of Public Policy, Institute  of Social                                                              
and  Economic Research  (ISER),  University  of Alaska  Anchorage,                                                              
commented on SB  122. He said the difference in  missions needs to                                                              
be addressed. CRP  has a clear advocacy and public  outreach role.                                                              
He is hopeful that  all those elements will be  preserved. The CRP                                                              
in Alaska has an  autonomy that other CRPs in the  country do not.                                                              
It  must be  preserved,  enhanced,  and  sustained. The  level  of                                                              
access to  OCS leadership and the  legislature that CRP  has helps                                                              
with accountability,  although there are  still gaps that  need to                                                              
be enhanced.  He said he wanted  to address the comment  about the                                                              
current  budget  not  being  utilized   to  the  full  extent.  He                                                              
explained that  over the  last several years,  the budget  was not                                                              
used because  several times  the panel felt  it was not  receiving                                                              
enough support  from the staff at  the time. Since  the volunteers                                                              
took over  many of the functions  of coordinator,  the coordinator                                                              
could  not  charge  for time.  The  current  coordinator  is  more                                                              
efficient.  This year they  will use  all the  budget and  will be                                                              
struggling  at the  end  to make  sure they  can  perform all  the                                                              
functions they need to.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:53:46 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON closed public testimony on SB 122.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR WILSON asked what OCS's position was on the bill.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
TRACY  SPARTZ-CAMPBELL,  Deputy  Director,  Office  of  Children's                                                              
Services,  Department  of  Health   and  Social  Services  (DHSS),                                                              
answered questions  about SB 122.  She said the administration  is                                                              
neutral on SB 122.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS. MOSS said  she discussed the comments Senator  Giessel made on                                                              
Monday  about the  structure of  the  CRP with  Kate Burkhart  and                                                              
Senator  Giessel's staff.  They decided  to focus  on adding  more                                                              
structure to the panel in Judiciary.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:54:59 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  WILSON  asked if  there  were  amendments. There  being  no                                                              
amendments,  he  entertained  a  motion  to move  SB  122  out  of                                                              
committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:55:10 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR VON  IMHOF moved  to report  SB 122, version  30-LS0047\J,                                                              
from  committee  with  individual   recommendations  and  attached                                                              
fiscal note(s).                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:55:43 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON found  no objection and SB 122 was  reported from the                                                              
Senate  Health and  Social Services  Standing  Committee with  the                                                              
understanding that  Legislative Legal  was authorized to  make any                                                              
necessary technical or performing adjustments.                                                                                  

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 122 Version J.pdf SHSS 2/28/2018 1:30:00 PM
SB 122
SB 122 Sponsor Statement.pdf SHSS 2/28/2018 1:30:00 PM
SB 122
SB 122 Sectional Analysis.pdf SHSS 2/28/2018 1:30:00 PM
SB 122
SB 122 Fiscal Note DHSS OCS.pdf SHSS 2/28/2018 1:30:00 PM
SB 122
SB 122 - CItizens Review Panel Power Point.pptx SHSS 2/28/2018 1:30:00 PM
SB 122
SB122 Fiscal Note-LEG-OMB-02-28-18.pdf SHSS 2/28/2018 1:30:00 PM
SB 122