ANCHORAGE – On Friday, August 5, HB 184, a bill codifying the Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact, automatically became State law without the Governor’s signature. The Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact began in 2017, under Governor Bill Walker and HSS Commissioner Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson, who signed the landmark State-Tribal Compact with 18 Tribal Co-Signers, representing 161 federally-recognized Tribes. The Compact was created to address and improve deep structural inequities in Alaska’s child welfare system, and has continued under the current Administration.
“The Tribal Child Welfare Compact is an excellent example of the State capitalizing on the excellent work of Alaska Tribes and working together to improve the way we are meeting the needs of Alaska families,” said Representative Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel), who served as prime sponsor of HB 184. “Healthy communities begin with healthy families. When our children succeed, so does Alaska.”
“Tribal compacting is the way out of Alaska’s child welfare crisis,” said Alaska Federation of Natives Executive Vice President and General Counsel Nicole Borromeo, who serves as the Compact Facilitator. “Lieutenant Governor Valerie Davidson knew this when she negotiated the Compact as the state’s Health Commissioner – with Governor Walker’s full support, and Representative Tiffany Zulkosky was able to codify the course during her tenure in the Legislature. What an incredible legacy for two Alaska Native women from the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. Quyana to them for doing the work. Generations of Alaskans will benefit from their foresight.”
“Good things happen when State and Tribal leaders come together and work to improve the lives of Alaskans. One of the greatest honors of my time as governor was advancing the Tribal Child Welfare Compact alongside Commissioner Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson,” said former Governor Bill Walker. “I thank everyone who had a hand in making it so that this policy will be permanent and stand the test of time, especially sponsors Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky and AFN’s Nicole Borromeo, both of whom have put enormous energy into getting this monumental legislation passed.”
“Children are the most vulnerable members of our communities; protecting them and helping them to thrive is the most important work we can do,” said AVCP CEO Vivian Korthuis. “We all have the responsibility to take care of all our children. Tribes have the same goal as the State – better outcomes for Alaskan children, and as partners we can transform child welfare together. The Tribal Child Welfare Compact is an example of this partnership and HB 184 shows the commitment to this partnership. This is significant legislation that we all can celebrate. Thank you – I’m excited to see the work we’re doing together continue.”
Since its inception, the historic Compact has gained national recognition as a model for other states and has empowered signatories to provide quality children and family services as close to home as possible. Tribes and Tribal organizations are able to leverage wrap-around preventative resources, while incorporating cultural and traditional values into services, ensuring a stronger and more relevant child welfare system in Alaska.
The new law provides more stability and certainty to continued work under the Compact, allowing the State and Tribes to continue providing excellent services to Alaska families across the state when executive administrations change.