Adds child protection workers, provides funds for unified home studies and post-adoption assistance, adds juvenile probation officers and enhances community-based services for youth offenders, changes child protection confidentiality laws
November 30, 2004
In addition, Gilbertson announced that legislation regarding child protection confidentiality statutes will be proposed to the state Legislature in January. DHSS will be working with interested legislators to complete the draft of the proposed legislation.
"Our kids are the future of Alaska," said Gilbertson. "I am taking the opportunity during National Adoption Awareness Month to discuss proposals that address key areas of opportunity to ensure Alaska's children are safe - to get children the services they need for a healthy and productive future."
Governor Frank H. Murkowski will include these proposals in the FY06 budget on December 15. The $7.5 million package includes $6.0 million for child protection for the Office of Children's Services (OCS) and $1.5 million for the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
The Governor will propose 34 additional positions for the Office of Children's Services to enable frontline workers to focus on increasing child protection, preventing abuse and neglect, and achieving more permanent homes for children.
Sixty positions will have been added since the administration began a children's services overhaul in 2003. In FY05, OCS added 26 positions to help lower caseloads. The increase in the OCS workforce is a result of recommendations from the federal 2002 Child and Family Services Review, and the subsequent implementation of the OCS Program Improvement Plan in September 2003.
The proposed budget package provides for unified home studies of foster and adoptive homes; additional post-adoption services to ensure that adoptive families have the support they need to continue caring for special-needs children they have adopted from OCS; increases funding for social worker training; and provides support for new technology.
"We know the steps for improvement we need to take, and the budget enhancements will allow us to take those steps," said DHSS Office of Children's Services Deputy Commissioner Marci Kennai. "Additional staff will help OCS better manage workloads so that Alaska's children are safe, healthy and in permanent homes."
The Division of Juvenile Justice proposal includes additional positions for juvenile probation to provide timely and essential responses to juvenile crime at the front end of the system, which will help prevent youths from further penetrating into the formal justice system.
The proposed Juvenile Justice increased funding also gives the agency the flexibility to provide a variety of services as needed, determined based on hard data and the direct knowledge of the needs of clients. The proposal will allow the use of less-restrictive and community-based interventions for youth offenders, including support for youth courts, non-secure shelters, and support or skill development for offenders and families.
The package also includes increases for the Nome Youth Facility, which is undergoing an expansion from its rated capacity of six to a full service detention unit of 14 beds.
Confidentiality legislation to be proposed to the state Legislature in January will allow DHSS and the Office of Children's Services to provide more information to the public about department actions surrounding child abuse and neglect cases. Current confidentiality statutes limit disclosure of information to the public, including providing any information about department actions in cases of child abuse and neglect. The proposed legislation will protect the child's privacy while providing for disclosure of some state agency records.
The child protection budget package will be a part of Governor Murkowski's FY06 budget and will be delivered to the Legislature by December 15th.
Office of Children's Services
Thirty-four additional positions for the Office of Children's Services will enable frontline workers to focus on increasing child protection, preventing abuse and neglect, and achieving more permanent homes for children. Added positions will perform home studies of foster and adoptive homes, recruit and retain more foster families, frontline social work, provide support for new technology.
Division of Juvenile Justice
Child Protection Legislative proposal
Governor Murkowski will submit
a proposal to the legislature in January concerning child protection
confidentiality issues. This confidentiality legislation will
allow DHSS and the Office of Children's Services to provide more
information to the public about department actions surrounding
child abuse and neglect cases. Current confidentiality statutes
limit disclosure of information to the public, including providing
any information about department actions in cases of child abuse
and neglect. The proposed legislation will protect the child's
privacy while providing for some disclosure of some state agency
Major long-term goals of child protection package
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