Rep. Zulkosky: 'The government closest to the people serves the people best'
JUNEAU – The House of Representatives today voted 35-4 to pass a bill cementing an agreement that empowers Tribal governments to manage oversight of child welfare issues in partnership with the State.
House Bill 184 codifies the agreement reached in 2017 between the State of Alaska and Tribes under Gov. Bill Walker and continued in 2019 by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The compact was designed for Tribal organizations to provide local child welfare programs on behalf of the State and offers the ability to leverage expanded Tribal resources to families. If fully implemented, this approach improves the State’s existing services, which are often underresourced in rural areas, leading to a disproportionate number of Alaska Native children in state custody.
“The government closest to the people serves the people best,” said Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel), co-chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee and sponsor of the bill. “The Tribal Child Welfare Compact has empowered Tribes to work with families in our communities to give our children the best possible outcomes.”
“There is a direct link between children in need of aid and those who end up in our corrections system,” added Rep. Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham), who co-sponsored the bill. “Tribal compacts will help provide badly-needed child welfare services at the local level in Alaska.”
“It is critical that we do everything we can to keep families together and protect Alaskan kids,” said Rep. Sara Rasmussen (R-Anchorage), a co-sponsor of the bill. “Getting the compact permanently on the books will ensure that our Tribes and State can focus on improving outcomes for families.”
HB 184 now heads to the Senate for consideration.