PUBLISHED: 10:36 AM on Wednesday, July 6, 2005
Governor signs Family Rights Act
FAIRBANKS - Governor Frank H. Murkowski today signed into law HB 53, legislation that strengthens the rights of family members for placement or adoption of children, opens court proceedings and allows the Department of Health and Social Services Office of Children's Services to disclose information to the public about department actions surrounding certain child abuse and neglect cases.

Representative John Coghill (R-North Pole) sponsored the legislation, which was developed from the combined efforts of Governor Murkowski, Rep. Norman Rokeberg and several legislators during the committee process. The Alaska State Legislature passed House Bill 53 unanimously.

"Thanks to the efforts of Representative Coghill, this legislation will improve our efforts to protect and preserve families," said Murkowski. "The Family Rights Act included a key element of this administration's reform of Alaska's child protection system _ to enable state officials to discuss certain elements of child protection cases with the public."

The Family Rights Acts is an omnibus child protection bill. The bill strengthens the rights of adult family members for placement preference for children removed from parental care and provides an adoption preference for those who have already been instrumental in raising the child.

This legislation improves transparency in the child protection system by allowing DHSS and the Office of Children's Services to share information with the public about department actions in certain child abuse and neglect cases. The law will also make court proceedings open to the public.

"Protecting Alaska's abused and neglected children is one of the most important responsibilities of this department," said Tammy Sandoval, DHSS OCS Deputy Commissioner. "This legislation will help focus public attention on Alaska's child protection system and will make the entire system better."