Two New Laws Help Alaska’s Most Vulnerable Children
Senator Coghill’s bills protect children while improving child abuse investigations
FAIRBANKS-This week, Governor Sean Parnell signed two bills, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader John Coghill (R-North Pole), which protect Alaska’s most vulnerable children while improving child abuse investigations. Senate Bill 187 makes it a Class ‘A’ Misdemeanor for anyone to distribute or publish an audio or video recording of an interview of a child, or other physical evidence such as medical photos, gathered for a child abuse investigation.
“This bill is based on a real life case here in Alaska where a video of a young child and the child’s sibling being interviewed in an abuse investigation was posted online,” said Senator Coghill. “Basically, the attorney gave the video to a party in the case, which was then passed to family members, and finally ended up on YouTube for the whole world to see. No child should ever have to suffer this kind of revictimization.”
SB187 also includes a provision requiring the attorney representing the defendant to physically keep video and audio interviews as well as photographs of medical exams of victims of crimes. The evidence can be shared with the defendant, but the defendant is prohibited from having copies of the materials.
Senate Bill 171 broadens the authority of Multidisciplinary Child Protection Teams (MDTs) when handling child abuse cases. Multidisciplinary Child Protection Teams (MDTs) are made up of a group of professionals that work together to reduce potential trauma by avoiding duplicative interviews with the child and improve services to families.
SB171 broadens current statutes to say a police agency or other investigative agency can put together an MDT, even if the child does not fall into the care of the Office of Children’s Service. The legislation narrows the expertise required to make sure members of an MDT have training and knowledge of child abuse cases. It also adds people who can benefit the victim and their families such as a tribal representative if an Alaska Native is involved and a representative from the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“Instead of passing a child who has been violated from one agency to another agency to another agency, appointing a Multi-Disciplinary Team greatly reduces the impact on the child by consolidating the number of times that child has to relive the horrifying experience while having to his or her story,” said Senator Coghill. “The result has been much better cases going forward. I’d like to thank Governor Parnell and my colleagues for their support for both of these pieces of legislation which will improve child abuse investigations and better protect Alaska’s most valuable asset- our kids.”
Both pieces of legislation were requested by the Alaska Children’s Justice Act Task Force.