State Demands that OCS Change Grievance Process
Alaskans say it is too difficult to resolve child protective issues
ALASKA - An arm of the Alaska Legislature is recommending a complete overhaul of the state’s Office of Children’s Services grievance process after years of complaints from Alaskans who say it’s becoming too difficult to resolve child protective issues.
In a 90-plus-page report released Monday, the Alaska Legislature is mandating that the state's Office of Children's Services change the way it handles complaints.
“We found that the regulations that guided the grievance process were fatally flawed from the base of the regulations,” said Linda Lord-Jenkins, the state’s ombudsman.
The report says the grievance or complaint procedure needs to be changed because it's too difficult and inefficient.
Under the state's current procedure, a person who files a complaint with OCS has two options: He or she can either choose to go before an OCS panel or have a hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings.
State investigators say the process frequently fails and there is no way of tracking the process on an agency-wide basis.
“Mistakes are going to get made, there is no perfect system, but the people who try and carry it out, their responsibility is to protect Alaskan children... [they] need to understand that they have a viable process backing them up,” she said.
Investigators say a new system needs to be put in place.
Travis Erickson, with OCS, says it's a problem he's well aware of.
“Many of us who've been processing grievances over the years know that this is overdue, it’s time to improve the process,” said Erickson.
He says a high turnover rate and heavy caseloads are part of the problem.
“There are usually too many cases and not enough workers, kind of standard for us, so the grievance process is within these layers,” he said.
OCS officials say it plans to begin drafting new regulations beginning in July.