NEWS: Legislation to Improve Foster Care System and Implement Caseload Standards Passes the Alaska House of Representatives
House Bill 151 Makes Long Needed Improvements to Alaska’s Foster Care System
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2017
Juneau – Today, the Alaska House of Representatives passed comprehensive legislation sponsored by Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) to improve Alaska’s foster care system. House Bill 151 establishes new training and workload standards for case workers in the Office of Children’s Services. Lower caseload levels are widely recognized to lead to better outcomes for children and families. HB 151 has broad support from children’s advocacy groups and adopts national best practice standards.
“Foster youth face immense challenges but with help and support they can be happy and successful. Far too often the support network for foster youth and foster parents is overwhelmed due to the growing number of foster youth in Alaska,” said Rep. Gara. “By passing this bill today, the Alaska House of Representatives recognized that by implementing smart policy changes and investing some resources we can make significant and long-lasting positive change in the lives of youth that often feel as if they are alone and unwanted. I appreciate the level of compassion the House has shown by passing this bill and hope it can garner approval from the Senate.”
HB 151, The Children Deserve a Loving Home Act, would fix many of the most glaring problems with Alaska’s foster care system. The bill mandates six weeks of training for new case workers and puts caseload limits on new caseworkers. In addition, the bill establishes a statewide average caseload of no more than 13 families per worker. The bill also provides for a number of other changes to support the well-being of youth in care and to promote quicker timelines for children returning to, or finding new, permanent homes. These include enabling youth age 14 and older to participate in their case plan, requiring certification that relative searches have been carried out, and encouraging the sharing of contact information so siblings can contact one another. HB 151 represents a major step forward in supporting children and families in need, as well as the caseworkers who serve them.
“Alaska is blessed with caring men and women who make themselves available as foster parent to care for youth in need. However, our foster care system is overloaded and underfunded,” said Rep. Justin Parish (D-Juneau). “Rep. Gara has taken a pragmatic approach with his bill to do what can be done to help foster youth and parents. I appreciate his passionate advocacy for people who don’t have lobbyists walking the halls.”
House Bill 151 passed the Alaska House of Representatives today by a vote of 23-17. The bill will now be sent to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.
For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.