Letters to the Editor

Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Legislature needs to rewrite laws regarding anonymous complaints

Recently my 8-year-old daughter and I were traumatized by the Division of Family and Youth Services for the second time in one year. A DFYS social worker and Kenai Police Department detective came to our home to interview me about a complaint which was filed against me for allegedly sexually abusing my daughter. The social worker claims a person(s) had filed a complaint with DFYS regarding my sexually abusing my daughter. Of course, the name of the person(s) who filed the complaint against me is strictly confidential and cannot be revealed, according to the social worker.

Sexually molesting a minor child is a serious crime (felony charge) and, if found guilty, a person should be sentenced accordingly for the crime. However, a person who files a false complaint against someone for sexually abusing their children also should be held accountable and punished for their malicious acts for have putting a parent and child through an unwarranted investigation, especially for a second time.

People who file a complaint, especially a felony complaint against a parent with DFYS or a local law enforcement agency, should be made by law to sign an affidavit stating the truth and their knowledge and the facts of the complaint in question.

The state of Alaska passed into law a statute protecting anonymous people who at will can call in a complaint, false or otherwise, to DFYS or the local law enforcement agencies and cannot be held accountable if the complaint proves to be false or without merit.

This law and statute (AS 47.17.050, Immunity) has to be changed and rewritten by the Legislature to protect innocent people and children. You can bet your last dollar, if this same situation would happen to a few of our elected officials, then they would hold a special session immediately and change these anonymous and immunity laws, especially those allowing anonymous people to call DFYS or our local law enforcement agencies and file false complaints against parents.

This is the second time in one year that DFYS has investigated this matter with me and my daughter. The complaints called in against me were found to be false. People don't know what a little child has to go through with this type of investigation. First thing DFYS does is order you, the parent, to take your child to a specialist to undergo a three-hour investigation, where the child is interrogated, videotaped, questioned about his/her parent(s) improperly touching the child on his/her private parts, and the child's body is scoped for sexual abuse, etc.

This is not a pleasant ordeal for any child or parent to have to go through.

I have no personal hard feeling toward the police detective for his part in this investigation; he seemed to be a nice person and had enough knowledge and common sense after talking to me about this complaint that I felt he knew something was wrong here. I also felt that he was more honest to me as a person than the social worker, whom I overheard state to the detective that this is a high priority case. Upon leaving our house, the social worker stated to me that it was not a good idea for me to rinse the shampoo out of my daughter's hair while she was taking a bath.

Am I missing something here, folks? My little 8-year-old daughter gets shampoo in her eyes while taking her bath and starts crying and calling for her dad to help her rinse the shampoo out of her hair and eyes. And this is wrong?

I believe the social worker needs to get a life and quit trying to tell parents ways to parent their children.

One other Alaska statute which needs to be overhauled is AS 47.17.027 (3), about the duties of school officials. Paragraph 3 states the interview at school is in the best interest of the child, and school officials "shall" permit the child to be interviewed at school by the department or a law enforcement agency before notification of, or receiving permission from, the child's parents, guardian or custodian. A school official shall be present during an interview at school "unless" the child objects or the department or law enforcement agency determines that the presence of the school official will interfere with the investigation.

My question to this statute is: What child would ever object to a school official being present while in a room being interrogated by one or two big burly detectives or several DFYS social workers tape recording their conversation?

This statute could be a dangerous one. First of all, without a school official being present with the child as a witness for the child during the investigation the child could be threatened and frightened to the point where the investigator(s) could get the child to make false statements on record. Don't tell me it hasn't happened before, for it has. Then, there goes your child into state custody and into a foster home. Scary, huh?

The state of Alaska has given the Department of Health and Social Services and its Division of Family and Youth Services too much power over our children, and this situation has to stop.

People have no rights by law when it comes to raising or disciplining our children, yet we sit back and let a state agency like DFYS and its social workers tell us how to and when to do it, for some people just can't stand to see a single father and parent like myself raise and take care of a little girl.

I truly hope this letter gets into the hands of a few of our state elected officials who will take a long hard look at my story, and that they have the guts to stand up for the rights of good parents like myself and do something about it, because I am again looking forward to more retaliation from the DFYS higher-ups and its social workers after they read this story.

James Bounds, Kenai



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