HB 184 gives tribes voice in child welfare

Legislation approved by the House and now before the Senate would empower tribal governments to manage oversight of child welfare issues in partnership with the state.

House Bill 184, sponsored by Rep. Tiffany Zilkosky, D-Bethel, co-chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee, codifies an agreement reached in 2017 between the state and tribes under Gov. Bill Walker and continued in 2019 by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

The compact was designed to allow tribal entities to provide local child welfare on behalf of the state and offer the ability to leverage expanded tribal resources to families. If fully implemented, this approach would improve the state’s existing services, which are often lacking adequate resources in rural areas. This has led to a disproportionate number of Alaska Native children in state custody.

“The Tribal Child Welfare Compact has empowered tribes to work with families in our communities to give our children the best possible outcomes,” Zulkosky said.

“Tribal compacts will help provide badly needed child welfare services at the local level in Alaska,” added Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, who co-sponsored the bill.