Letters to the Editor

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2001

Stories did not present complete picture; DFYS does not act alone

As director of the state Division of Family and Youth Services, I was very sorry to read the three feature articles in your paper on Sept. 2, written by reporter McKibben Jackinsky. There are two sides to every story. In cases of family turmoil, sometimes many more. Nevertheless, an accurate picture of reality from all sides is responsible journalism, and that was not present in your articles.

By law, we are not able to provide confidential information about a family situation to the public, and thus could not respond to your reporter's questions. I note that the mother's side of the story also is not present in the articles.

While I can't respond with specific information about this case, I do want the public to have a clearer picture of how we do our jobs. I also want to stress that DFYS workers do their very best each and every day to act in the best interest of children.

I am not sure everyone realizes that there are many checks and balances in the child protection system. The division cannot act alone. And, there are laws that guide our actions.

For example, there is a window of time -- up to 15 months -- for parents whose children are in state custody to remedy the problems that brought them to our attention in the first place. In that time, they need to prove that their child can be safe in their home. If they can't, then another permanent home is found for the child.

Parents have attorneys who represent them and make sure that all court proceedings and decisions are understood. Guardians-ad-litem represent the best interests of the child and make sure all parties in a child protection case consider the child first. And the court system oversees all of our actions, considers the facts and decides what is going to happen to the child.

In other words, the division does not operate on its own in these matters.

When progress made by the parents is little to non-existent during the 15 months, and we have provided all the assistance we can to the parents, the child comes first. Children need, even at a very young age, to have a stable, loving home they can count on for a lifetime. That's why the Knowles-Ulmer administration and a vast majority of the Legislature agreed to toughen the law three years ago. Now, the priority is to protect the child and find a permanent home as quickly as possible.

I hope this information is helpful. It is not meant to be defensive. In all cases, we want to do the right thing for children.

However, I believe it is important for your readers to know that your articles did not present the full story.

Kenai mayor did right thing by asking for more information

Let's get one thing straight, Proposition No. 1 on the upcoming ballot is about building a large, medium-security, privately run prison just north of the city of Kenai. The issue of jobs is only part of the debate and yet that seems to be the only information dangled in front of our faces.

I was encouraged at the most recent Kenai City Council meeting when, faced with a request from Proposition No. 1 backers for an endorsement, Mayor John Williams said there was a need for more information before making a decision. Thank you, John!

This project will have a large impact, particularly on the city of Kenai. The impact will not all be positive.

I strongly encourage every Kenai City Council member to take a good hard look at all possible impacts and consequences of this project.

To the backers of Proposition No. 1: If you want my vote, give me more than a quote of job and revenue number projections. What will this progress cost? Show me you've given some serious thought and study to the matter.

Mark Schrag,Kenai

Les Palmer's column prompts another take on Board of Fish

Since I was mentioned by name, I have to let you know that nothing makes my day like the inflammatory prose of Les Palmer. Indulge me so I can share a few facts:

1. In 1999, proposal 140 was authored by Kenai River guides to do away with the commercial priority in Cook Inlet.

2. Commercial fishermen penned the 2001 proposals in hopes of saving the commercial industry here.

3. The Penney-Knowles-Coffey Board of Fish has allocated resources to non-residents and restricted commerce; both breaches of the constitution.

4. The Board of Fish voted 7-0 against commercial fishermen on each of the so-called step down plans.

5. Then, vice chair Dan Coffey had all the language already in his laptop and Dr. White, chairman, knew this and created his own halo of fear.

6. Les has accused me of having feelings, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Since Gov. Tony Knowles has appointed this 7-0 Board of Fish, many board members have attended the Kenai River Classic, three are Cook Inlet sport fish advocates, one was Bob Penney's lawyer, another is currently employed by Bob Penney's lawyer, another board member authored the Cook Inlet coho plan and has a saltwater guide business, yet another is a paid sport fish lobbyist.

Board of Fish meetings on Cook Inlet have been held out of cycle with no public testimony. The entire board process has been altered by Dan Coffey without the customary public notice and comment period.

In August 1999, Penney faxed Knowles about the Kenai River coho. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game called the return "mediocre." Knowles wrote the board about coho conservation. Coffey, made chairman, calls for an out-of-cycle meeting in Anchorage. Guess what? No public testimony is allowed, half the tapes are destroyed, and sockeye as well as coho cuts are made to the commercial fishery.

So, Les, any feelings once present were numbed long ago by this oh-so-ethical Knowles 7-0 Board of Fish.

John McCombs, Ninilchik



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