Alaska OCS Crisis; Parents are Pursuing Accountability


OCS Crisis Enabler: In response to constituent concerns, in 2015 Rep. Wilson launched a campaign seeking a Special Grand Jury to investigate behaviors by State Employees harming Alaska families. Wilson then dropped the ball and switched sides in 2019, JOINING the Dunleavy Administration at Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS)–as DSS Program Coordinator for Family and Community Services.
Wilson’s email address: tammie.wilson@alaska.gov

Violation of Alaska families by the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) is nothing new. Some parents and family advocates have long documented abusive and illegal actions by this agency purporting to protect children. Alaska parents now AGAIN seek remedy through the Alaska Court System IF that is possible.

In her case against OCS, Rep. Wilson on September 9, 2016 stated: The Alaska Office of Children’s Services conducts interventions so aggressive they amount to legal kidnapping. [3AN-16-9924CR]

A shrill call for action, but the Grand Jury passed the buck

At an October 13, 2022 hearing before Third District Presiding Judge, William Morse, Parent Thomas Garber offered his renewed plea for a Grand Jury Investigation into practices of OCS. This writer attended this most recent hearing and detected an interest by Judge Morse to find a way to address the on-going OCS crisis. He had previously presided over such a Grand Jury investigation in 2016, when Rep. Wilson first brought voluminous testimony to the court.

Those grand jury recommendations were released by Judge Morse in January 2017. Rep. Wilson’s Grand Jury specifically stated that under Alaska Statute 24.55.010 – .340, the Ombudsman is Statutorily authorized. And, under Alaska Statute 47.14.205, the Citizen Review Panel is Statutorily required to address the concerns. Currently neither the Ombudsman nor CRP have officially announced active investigations of Children’s Services.1

From the Report: The Ombudsman’s role is to objectively review the administrative actions of state agencies to determine whether they are unlawful, unreasonable, unfair, or based on unacceptable grounds. The Ombudsman is not a citizen or consumer advocate. The role of the ombudsman is to help ensure that state government is serving Alaskans as efficiently, effectively, and equitably as possible.

Yadda-Yadda-Yadda. See how effective the Alaska Ombudsman was when charges of licensing agency inaction jeopardized security at the Ft. Greeley Missile Defense System:

How Secure Should Ft. Greely Missile Defense Field Be?

This writer was NOT successful in obtaining information from Wilson for this story.

Alaska State Government in Crisis

DHSS—which includes OCS—is the most expensive and least effective agency in state government. Alaska Department of Education is the second most expensive agency demonstrating breathtaking failure year after year. This is a tradition our elected officials in the legislature and administration enable every legislative session in Juneau with ever more unaccountable funding.

State workers who are members of unions with negotiated pay and benefits approved by people they helped elect, are quick to equate poverty with neglect. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) specifies the treatment of Native people. Yet, those safeguards are not followed, and Native children are treated differently. OCS makes little effort to keep any families together with community-based services. Inconsistent application of policies and procedures by unlicensed and uninsured social workers—often arbitrarily dismissing Grandparent rights and roles in Child in Need of Aid (CINA) proceedings–instead creating alienation with typical OCS Soap Opera crappy case plans and bountiful excuses.

Challenges Of Mental Illness: Tell me who’s crazy… the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services!

Judge Morse denied Garber’s petition with an Order September 4, 2018. It corresponded with David Haeg’s efforts to get a Grand Jury Investigation in Kenai.2

Power of the Grand Jury
Read about Haeg’s 20-year effort to get justice here

Meanwhile OCS takes kids away from their families, sweeping them up like salmon in fish wheels into sometimes marginal foster care and further crisis, creating ever more bureaucracy-induced dependency.

And now the slippery salmon is flying back at Judge Morse.

Thomas Garber

Undeniable OCS Dysfunction

Over 10 years Garber has been pursuing justice and accountability at OCS. And, despite adverse rulings, by OCS against him, Garber has over this time become an advocate for families with the same concerns. Simultaneously, Garber has managed to develop dialog and get an audience with Judge Morse. An episode dealing with one of his own sons caused Garber to realize something is not right with OCS. In fact, he was outraged at the agency intrusion into his own family.

Garber explained: The grievance process within OCS is defunct and non-existent. You go through all these processes, to appeal, and all this other stuff, and there’s no resolution. And so I, along with other folks over the years, have approached Judge Morse in the aftermath of what Rep. Wilson tried to do. We are now asking for another Grand Jury Investigation.

Networking on social media has provided an abundance of evidence, according to Garber: We have a couple of private groups on Facebook, with other parents–I hate to say they are victims–they are a part of this system, and they have come forward, you know, trying to figure out what their rights are. They are saying, “Hey, why is THIS happening?” They don’t know whether it’s right or wrong, but they’re putting their concerns out on social media. We have been gathering these stories, taking names, finding out which places in the department and where–Wasilla, Kenai, Juneau, Barrow, Bethel–wherever the families live that we can document abuse of Alaskans.

We have found what OCS typically does when they take kids from a home and put them in foster care, explained Garber. Often the parents have recognized disabilities. Yet, the legal system will not provide reasonable accommodations. When the state takes the proceedings into the judicial system it becomes more of a mess. OCS inevitably makes criminal allegations in what are civil proceedings.

Here is the difference, according to Garber: In criminal proceedings, you have protections: Right? To an attorney, right to records, right to evidence, exculpatory evidence. But in civil proceedings you don’t have those same safeguards. So OCS, uses civil proceedings to make criminal allegations against the parents, basically using a restraining order, or other order by the court, to take the kids and put them in foster care. Then, after throwing the family into crisis, the system often doesn’t have the means to provide the services that the children need–medical or psychological–because they do not have enough foster care homes, meaning the whole agency is in on-going crisis.

What Must Parents Do when Kids are Taken by OCS?

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Parents are supposed to have case plans, and do certain things that they are required to do, continued Garber. They’ll give the parents referrals; mental health, or drug and alcohol, or whatever. But, when they go to get those referrals–they’re just referrals not prescriptions, where you take it to the pharmacy and get it filled–it’s a REFURRAL: “please go.” A lot of the counselors and people are so overwhelmed with all the case loads, that clients wait six months to get in, while the courts are processing the paperwork to take their children–even denying grandparents custody. Everything’s slow and methodical, yet they expect you to be doing certain things in certain time-frames and everything becomes MORE orchestrated drama.

I want Judge Morse to address the rights of the people to have a meaningful grievance process, said Garber.

One hour with Judge Morse

About 20 people were in the gallery on October 13 in support of Garber as he took his place at the table to ask Judge Morse for a Grand Jury to investigate OCS. Judge Morse was instructional in his introduction, explaining his experience with this case and how he sees the possible role of a new Grand Jury.

Judge Morse: Typically, there’s a prosecutor there, and the grand jury and the prosecutor work out how to get information that the grand jury wants before it. And the prosecutor plays sort of an advisory role: “Here are the rules. Here are statutes. Here’s instructions that you’re supposed to follow.”

Then Judge Morse became more specific about expectations: A federal case has been initiated here recently. I’ve seen the documents. (3:22 – CV – 00129 – JMK) but I haven’t read them. I don’t know anything—It’s in very early stages. There have been other complaints raised about OCS by citizens, but I don’t know any more about what Mr. Garber’s particular concerns are. So what I’m most interested in, Mr. Garber, is for you to tell me what it is you want to do.3

Some of the biggest problems in Alaska, according to the lawsuit: OCS worker caseloads are too high, sometimes three times the national average. Turnover is at a crisis level, topping nearly 60% annually and leading “mission critical tasks to go unmet,” according to a legislative report cited. Children are shuffled between foster homes too much. And Alaska Native children, who make up nearly two-thirds of the youths in foster care, aren’t provided with Alaska Native foster homes or other services, violating the Indian Child Welfare Act and “often inflicting deep wounds of cultural loss in the process.”

Judge Morse continued: For example, if what you want is to indict the head of OCS for criminal negligence, or something like that, we’re done. You can go to the prosecutor’s office and say “please investigate this alleged crime,” and they have the authority to do that or choose not to. IF, on the other hand you want them to investigate some aspect of an agency, then what I am contemplating doing is getting you to educate me about what you want to do.

I don’t think I have the authority to tell the grand jury not to do it, Morse continued. You know, if you want to investigate space, aliens and Mars, I’m not going to waste the grand jury‘s time. If you’ve had some other more reasonable requests that seems to invoke, you know, public welfare and safety, I’m going to say to the grand jury: “Here’s a brief summary of what this gentleman has and wants you to do. And I had this hearing, where he fleshed it out more, if you want to listen to that record. You don’t have to, but you may.” Then the grand jury will decide whether to exercise that authority. I think a majority of the grand jurors must authorize this–it can’t just be one person or two.

Garber responded: Going by your order here, there’s four points: “Number one says be prepared to describe in detail what I seek to have the grand jury do,” which I have prepared a folder for your consideration. Second, “confirm that I do not seek to have the grand jury issue a criminal indictment,” that is not what I intend to do. My wish is to identify deficiencies and certain statutes and policies–investigate patterns of crimes or patterns of behavior within the Office of Children’s Services.

Judge Morse: You want to not indict anybody, but you want to have them investigate what you believe is criminal behavior by OCS?

Not necessarily criminal behavior, said Garber. This grand jury would be asked to specifically come up with the solutions to the problems presented.

Morse clarified: I’m not sure that the grand jury has any authority or capacity to propose solutions. They clearly write recommendations, they clearly have the ability to say: “Here is conduct which we think affects public safety, or action or inaction that affects public safety or public welfare, right? And presumably, children or their families are being affected by what you think is out there. And so the grand jury would probably say, “we think that parents are being affected, or children, and this is a problem. Go forth. Somebody deal with it.” The grand jury is not going to say: “I think you need to hire a PhD.” You want to expose what you think is either a dereliction of duty or is it just failure for them to do what they ought to be doing?

This hearing went on for quite a while longer and as it neared the end of the allotted time Judge Morse asked if Garber would like to have another hour December 14. Garber affirmed he would like to further pursue this matter and given what perimeters have been identified advocates for families being harmed by OCS should be hopeful.

The good news is that the 3rd Judicial District of the Alaska Court System is considering giving parents–as a result of Garber’s persistence–another bite at this Grand Jury apple. The bad news is that the agency will continue to grind parents under the heel of state government if they are found to be negligent or deficient in their management of kids requiring ever greater resources to support and maintain in this economy.

As with state funded government schools, poor outcomes at OCS will likely result in more demand for services of the Alaska Department of Corrections.

References:

[1] Ombudsman Report in Response to Grand Jury Referral of Inquiry into Office of Children’s Services, September 5. 2017.https://ombud.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Ombudsman-Report-to-Grand-Jury-re-OCS-9-5-2017-FINAL.pdf

[2]Judge Morse Denial Order

[3]Anchorage Daily News, Class-action lawsuit calls for major reform in Alaska’s ‘failing, dangerous’ foster care system, May 19, 2022.https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2022/05/19/class-action-lawsuit-calls-for-major-reform-in-alaskas-failing-dangerous-foster-care-system/

Are you glad this story was written? You won’t get this kind of story from Alaska mainstream media.

Could you please contribute to Independent Journalism?

THANK YOU!

  1. Ombudsman Report Conclusion in Response to Grand Jury Referral of Inquiry into Office of Children’s Services, September 5. 2017. https://ombud.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Ombudsman-Report-to-Grand-Jury-re-OCS-9-5-2017-FINAL.pdf []
  2. Judge Morse Denial Order []
  3. Anchorage Daily News, Class-action lawsuit calls for major reform in Alaska’s ‘failing, dangerous’ foster care system, May 19, 2022. https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2022/05/19/class-action-lawsuit-calls-for-major-reform-in-alaskas-failing-dangerous-foster-care-system/ []

9 thoughts on “Alaska OCS Crisis; Parents are Pursuing Accountability”

  1. I’m aisha toews I aged out of the foster care system in August of 2017 when I turned 18 and was in the system from 2015 I think they took custody of me when I was in treatment and they placed me in quite a few different homes and then had none and put me back into residential treatment facilities and then the covinent house in Anchorage as well and my brother and sister ended up getting adopted by my aunt in Washington and recently I came back to Alaska from lower 48 states asvi left November of 2018 and started new life els where and my mom wanted me to come back to Alaska so I did and 2 months of being back here the state came to do welfare check and took my daughter from me and just so happens the same case worker my mom had for me and my siblings is now my worker and it’s hard to be able to do anything in working case plans when the worker and foster placement are consistent in making every effort to ensure that their stories of things “evidence” (the office of children’s services uses it their court docs as their supporting reason for taking the child from the home being found in good reason and nessicary to do so) is all twisted their way and misconstrued into a big circle of lies and blown up accusations on parents like myself….. in order to say their goal is reunification to the home removed from but really rltheir doing “power control” and abusing the authority they have to keep the child until they file to terminate parental rights…. anyways I’ve worked my case plan to beat I can and Karen knight my caseworker and also was my mother’s when I was in care and she has lied misconstrued and abused her power in her position beyond

  2. can’t do anything with the judges, lawyers, law enforcement, ocs, d.a office! They are all curpt! You could be 100% innocent and you will not win no way no how! This place is so broken Its scary! And they are taking our most precious thing in life, our children. And they are getting away with it. These people are ruining every child the goes into the ocs system will be damaged for life mentaly. They keep these kids as long as possible passing them around like human trafficing with our babies and after years of this abuse by the system the children are troubled fighting the system and lost all connection with the parents because of ocs rules of no talking with family out side of ocs is forbidden. And its so forbidden the kids cant confide or say anything without ocs listening and if the kid tries to say something ocs will control the entire conversation. that way these children can not speak of anything that may be wrong or troubleing them. Ocs makes sure our banies dont say anything . MY GRANDSON wanted to tell me something and ocs made him shut up right now and my grandson looked as if he were to cry. Ocs is controling our babies minds and actions of how life should be. Thats why so many children are being abused. ai was at a visitation and bent down to pick up my granddaughter 3 and tell her i loved her in her ear and oce Said loudly HEY! WHAT ARE YOU! then stopped and stared at me. i dont know what you can tell a 3 year old to upset ocs? They have to monitor every word that comes out of those kids mouths. What are they hiding thats so bad? i cant even wisper love you to my 3 year old grandbabie i only get to see 1 hour a month come on Somebody save these Children! OCS IS NOT HELPING ANYONE! BUT THEY ARE DESTROYING CHILDREN AT A RAPID PASE! WE HAVE TO GET OUR BABIES BACK TO THE FAMILY MEMBER THEY BELONG TO! NOT OCS! THEY keep our babies till they grow up and kick them to the curb and these kids have lost all connection with the family they belong to! mentaly destroyed. And nobody can fix a broken mind afyef years of 0⁰

  3. I’m in a OCS fight that now is at a year and I’ve been waitlisted still for there services…I was not given any punitive father rights when removed. didn’t get to see my 6 month old baby for first 6 weeks till judge let us use a write of paternity that we had the night of removal when I was not allowed any say in the removal because was not on birth certificate…with help of two state troopers and two OCS workers they took child from me and if had put up any more of a fight troopers were ready to mace me..in my home..they all said I had no rights and if I tried to leave with my many it would be kidnapping.. baby is now 1.6 years old was taken a year ago..I’m allowed at max 4 hours a month. I have no past history with this stuff. not a felon had a good job till they got me fired.. don’t thi k this is right want me to do zoom visits with my child. she don’t talk yet.

    1. I had my son taken in 2017 just cause I did not find housing fast enough. they gave e me the wrong court time so they could get temporary rights over my son so they could ha e the say so and so I showed up a half an hour to court so they terminated my rights and they made me jump through hoops like ua 4 6months counseling 2 a week, and parenting classes and graduate from. and the end I went to trail and they took all my rights away they didn’t let me say goodbye or nothing. I jumped for them and got nothing. they ruin my life and my son they told me that he will need cousling cause he would just cry for me all the time he was 7 when they took him. he wasn’t a newborn he knew who his family was and they took him away from his whole family cause I didn’t have a home for him to go to and there was a family that wanted him but didn’t want me in the picture so when I was in court my own attorney was telling me to sign my rights away saying you will get one visit a year and if you lose you get nothing. I told her to fuck off cause one visit is not enough and if I lose then I can tell him that you guys took him from me. so you know I lost and they took him from me and I can’t know nothing. it feels like my child died cause I can’t know if he is OK, who has him, if they are good to him nothing. I went to a dark place when they took him cause he was my world and I have a emptiness that will never be filled again. I don’t wish it on any body it’s the worst hurt.

  4. Yes I believe all of you I had them lie and use false documents and such to get what they wanted in 2019. They will say anything to gain a child to get that federal pay. I would love to stand up and help anyone against this OCS cult. They take children when the only thing needed could be as simple as going to a family therapist. Removing children for no proven reason is kidnapping. It’s unnecessary in about 75 percent of the cases. I would love for them to get investigated from an outside source to see how corrupt they are. I will be traumatized for the rest of my life because of this system. It was unnecessary and should have never happened the way that it did.

  5. or they denied you access to records and reports alleging u commmitex a crime and that involves your children but refuse to give those records. I am appealing ocs false claim against me that I just found out about 8 years ago .I was never investigated just got a restraining order put on me and didn’t see my kids for 15 months. and it’s now been 8 years and ocs won’t give me my records. not to mention they placed my kids twice with people that almost beat them to death and when reports was made they called and warned the abuser .

  6. THIS IS THE ORIGINAL STATEMENT/TESTIMONY I PLANNED ON READING IN COURT
    TODAY DEC. 16 Your honor, I am Anna. Paternal Grandmother. Why I have asked for you to
    hear me on the case involving my minor grandchildren is Actually pretty much keeping me up at
    night. If you would please Let me read you my statement, Let me explain my story and why I
    believe OCS Is biased and prejudice against me. I have been a Permanent fixture
    in the children’s lives Since day one. If the court needs, I can get Sworn statements from friends
    and family that I have always been there for my grandbabies.
    I had called OCS many times for a year and 3 quarters time. starting Mid 2018 to sept.
    2020. I called Them as soon as I realized there was more of a problem then I could handle on
    my own in good conceince. I called begging For help- for my Grandkids, and daughter-in-law
    who was Losing herself in a heroin addiction. the kids were being neglected, my grandson was
    missing at least 1 if not 2 days of school per wK. in the 2nd grade. Always late- Dirty clothes- ill
    fitting clothes that he got at the beginning of 1st grade. The baby would be left in her crib all day
    because mommy was sleeping and would not get up with her, so her (Then 3yr old) big sister
    Makayla would give her dry cereal, cheese, Whatever she could find to eat – she would give little
    baby Tomi (Then under 1) through the bars of her crib. The low life addicts that Melissa had
    over at the house partying at all hours_ Day or night – Whether the Kids were home or not. ~ I
    wouldn’t trust these people around my dog let alone my Children. But, Melissa was in a bad
    place and she was not getting any better￾I knew I could count on OCS to step in and help me save my daughter-in-law and
    grandkids. Well, They did nothing. I not only called The Wasilla office, I called Anchorage. I
    called Every agency North to Fairbanks, down to Valdez, and over to Seward. I Called the OCS
    Emergency help Line. I called and talked to Elliots Elementary school counselor and nurse. I
    called the DEA, I Also called and told Roger Smith. my concern over What was going on.
    Roger, I mean – Mr. and Mrs. Smith – Told me to quit picking on Melissa. Nobody did anything,
    except tell me to quit calling.
    I was not the only person that called OCS and reported concern over the drugs and
    neglect going on over at Melissas’ house! Her teenage son and all his buddys there Drinking_
    smoking pot, Just being regular teenage boys.. But she would allow this behavior and even buy
    booze for these kids – but she allowed it in front of the little ones. I pretty much sat in my car￾could not bear to sit in the house with the Low Life Junkies- in the driveway at Melissa’s just
    waiting for my grandkids to get all their stuff together to come to my house. I was the one who
    has been there for the kids. I made sure they ate, I am the one that made sure they had a bath￾Then I notice Melissa was getting quit the pouch to her belly. She continually denied being
    pregnant. finally – She admitted she is pregnant. Well, I see She is not slowing down nor trying
    to stop smoking heroin. But now She is going to the methadone clinic- So, now She is #1-
    smoking heroin, Smoking methamphetamine, Smoking Pot,and going to the methadone clinic. I
    was worried for her- scared She would OD – or just not even wake up if something bad was to
    happen to the Kids. I called OCS again and tell them that She is even worse into the addiction,
    but now She is 6 mos PG, They Would not even Listen to me. I asked them if I was being
    recorded – they lied and said yes- I told them good because I wanted to go on record saying that
    if anything happened to Melissa or my unborn I grandchild because of their dereliction Iof duty. I
    was going to Sue them. I called the nurse again at Elliots school – again,No help from anyone!
    Well, here We are, but it took a dead baby to get their attention..my grand Daughter Makayla is not happy at Roger ‘s house. everytime I see her, I am
    allowed the Last 15 minutes of my Sons’ visit. She asks me if She can come back to our house.
    Roger and his wife have not been a constant in the Childrens Lives. They told me to leave
    Melissa alone when I talked to them about my concerns over Melissas’ drug Use. He told me To
    leave her alone￾I was always wonder – ing how Melissa always knew When oCs had been called – How
    she was able to get the addicts out of the house – Well, She would yell and scream at me
    because Del ( my son’s Dads wife) would tell her that She was reported to OCS for heroin and
    other drug usage. One of Delphines very good friends works at the ocs office – Matter of fact, I
    found it kinda odd that when 0CS showed up at my home the morning after Melissa was taken
    to the hospital for oding (what I was told) Roger was already at my sons house- Telling Matthew
    to trust him. How did he already know that this was happening? Because Julie Hubbard was
    breaking every OCS’s confidentiality rules. Before this happened The last time Roger even
    seen or talked to the Kids., Was in January when he and his wife tried to kidnap the kids –
    Because Malissa gave them a Note that stated if anything was to happen to her She wanted
    them to take the kids . Their Dad was there – Roger drug Elliot away from his dad – He and his
    wife tried their Best to rip the baby out of my arms,and drag Makayla away from me – I refused.,
    Roger threatened to call the cops on me – when I offered to call them myself, He and his wife left
    as fast as they could because they knew They were in the wrong and would be arrested for
    attempted Kidnapping. After that, Roger and his wife did not call or attempt to see nor talk to the
    kids – not one time. Until the baby died and Melissa almost died. The Children are my heart and
    my life- I had them with me all the time – I am their Nana.. Roger never even called his son after
    his wife Lost the baby at 8mos pregnant. I have been there with the kids and for the kids.
    Lyndsy – the OCS case – worker that showed up at my home to talk to the kids that day says
    that the reason I am not allowed to see or Talk to the kids is because there is Domestic Violence
    in my between my husband scott and myself – the First time she said this She said the troopers
    told for this- the 2nd time She Stated This, She said that the kids told her they saw Scott and I
    hit each other.this in untrue- the only time I have ever been struck and abused by my husband
    was When I was married to Roger. The only kids that ever seen this Were My own Children
    When they were young. Melissa said under oath that I was doing herion with her on
    Thanksgiving, 2019… this is an outright lie. I have never, not even thought about it, done heroin
    in my life.
    I started this letter about 3 years ago. I still am not allowed to see my grandchildren. Since
    then alot of things have happened. I have not been allowed to see, talk to or even send a
    birthday card to my grandchildren. still 0CS will not return a phone call. they still won’t tell me
    Why I am not allowed amy contact. There is much, much more to my story. OCS failed to help.
    failed to do any work of any Kind to help my grandkids. THEY LET AN INNOCENT, UNBORN
    BABY DIE. THEY ARE WHAT NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF. THEY Are THE MONSTERS
    UNDER THE BEDS. THEY LIE, THEY VIOLATE YOUR RIGHTS, AND THEY ONLY CARE
    ABOUT THE KIDS THEY CAN MAKE MONEY ON. THEY ARE KIDNAPPERS WHO SELL THE
    CHILDREN TO THE HIGHEST BIDDERS. They Don’t care about family. They only care about
    money.
    A.Smith
    I still have not seen, nor been able to contact my grnd kids

  7. All of ocs workers are corrupt as it gets they lie and fabricate Ann holmes who should be in jail along with all the ocs’s workers they do nothing but give kids to the most dangerous people I sat and listened to a ocs say it was ok if a child gets sexually abused Daniel butler to be exact. She should be in jail permanently.

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