"An Act relating to child-in-need-of-aid proceedings; amending the construction of statutes pertaining to children in need of aid; relating to guardianships; relating to the confidentiality of investigations, court hearings, court records, and public agency records and information in child-in-need-of-aid matters and certain child protection matters, to immunity regarding disclosure of information in child-in-need-of-aid matters and certain child protection matters, to proceedings regarding voluntary relinquishment and termination of a parent and child relationship, to eligibility for permanent fund dividends for certain children in the custody of the state, and to juvenile delinquency proceedings and placements; reestablishing and relating to a state citizens' review panel; amending the obligation of a public agency to disclose agency information pertaining to a child in need of aid; relating to disclosure of confidential or privileged information about children and families involved with children's services within the Department of Health and Social Services to officials for review or use in official capacities; relating to reports of harm and to adoptions and foster care; relating to consent for the medication of children in state custody; prescribing the rights of family members related to child-in-need-of-aid cases and establishing a familial priority for adoption; modifying adoption and placement procedures in certain child-in-need-of-aid cases; amending Rules 9 and 13, Alaska Adoption Rules, Rules 3, 17.2, 18, and 22, Alaska Child in Need of Aid Rules of Procedure, and Rules 14 and 15, Alaska Rules of Probate Procedure; relating to the admissibility into evidence of the prior recorded statement of a crime victim less than 16 years of age; and amending Rule 801, Alaska Rules of Evidence; and providing for an effective date. "
"This legislation goes a long way in protecting and preserving families in Alaska and making government accountable for its actions when children are in State custody."
- Rep. Coghill
My belief that children belong to their parents and that families should be preserved was why I ran for office the first time in 1998. To protect vulnerable children the government requires parents to raise their children by certain standards, and I believe government should be held to those high standards when they take children into their custody. Dealing with the Office of Children's Services should have good due process and should be transparent so that everyone involved knows what the rules are and what is required of them
HB 53 is an omnibus bill that does many things. It creates a duty and standard of care for social workers who are making decisions for children in state custody. It makes the process transparent by making confidential information currently unavailable accessible to certain people, making court proceedings open to the public, and giving parents the right to a jury trial in proceedings to terminate their parental rights.
This legislation also strengthens the rights of grandparents, especially those who have already been instrumental in raising the child. Many times when parents run awry of OCS, grandparents get placement of the child. If parental rights are terminated, the grandparents should have preference for adoption. Other relatives or family friends should also be considered for placement before a child is placed with complete strangers. Grandparents also gain accessibility to information and hearings in CINA cases through this legislation.
An additional safeguard to transparency and due process is the re-establishment of state and local citizens review panels that will adopt policies and procedures by regulation, compile reports, report to the governor annually, and conduct hearings on complaints filed against OCS.
The bill encourages the use of Child Advocacy Centers (CAC) in areas they are available and requires audio recordings for all other interviews of children believed to have been sexually abused. This creates accountability in interviewing and protects the child from multiple interrogations.
This legislation goes a long way in protecting and preserving families in Alaska and making government accountable for its actions when children are in State custody.