JUNEAU – Today, legislation passed the State Legislature that enshrined the historic and landmark Tribal Child Welfare compact in Alaska Statute. House Bill 184 codifies the Tribal Child Welfare compact, a government-to-government agreement between the State of Alaska and eighteen Tribes and tribal organizations that seeks to address the deep structural inequities in the way Alaskan children are cared for across the state.
The Tribal Child Welfare was signed in 2017 by then Governor Bill Walker and was continued in 2019 under Governor Mike Dunleavy. With Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services (OCS) caseworkers carrying caseloads at more than three times the national average, and Alaska Native children representing over 60% of the children in state custody, the compact was designed to aimed to improve outcomes for Alaska’s families. The agreement transferred specific, negotiated service from OCS to the Tribal co-signers, allowing Tribes to provide higher quality services while keeping children closer to home, at a lower cost to the State.
“The passage of HB 184 through the Senate is an exciting step in the right direction for Tribal partners, the State of Alaska, and the children to which it has an obligation to care for,” said Representative Tiffany Zulkosky (D – Bethel), the bill’s sponsor. “The Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact is an example of innovative policy that can transform struggling systems by empowering local partners. Codifying this important State-Tribal compact protects the future of this work and I am thankful to see HB 184 take one more step toward enactment.”
“Tribes have been fortunate to have the support of Governor Walker and Governor Dunleavy, but without this legislation, the compact would remain an Executive Order,” said Senator Natasha von Imhof (R – Anchorage). “By codifying this compact in law, we can be certain that future generations are able to build off the good work our Tribes have done to take care of Alaska’s children.”
“In an election year, this bill is more important than ever,” said Nicole Borromeo, Compact Facilitator, and Vice President and General Counsel of the Alaska Federation of Natives. “We are on the cutting edge of law and policy. The Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact is the answer to the proverbial question of ‘how do we improve the life outcome of children in State care?’ Representative Zulkosky understands this. She deserves a statewide quyana for introducing this bill and carrying it through two legislative sessions. No matter the outcome of the November election, the Compact is on surer footing thanks to her.”
HB 184 passed the Senate 20-0, and now goes back to the House for concurrence.