REPRESENTATIVE LES GARA

(907) 465-2647 | State Capitol Building, Room 400 | WEBSITE
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Sponsor    Statement

House Bill 151: Children Deserve a Loving Home Act

Foster youth in Alaska are not getting the chances they deserve. The Children Deserve a Loving Home Act aims to increase the likelihood that foster youth will have the same opportunities in life, and same health and well-being, as their peers. When roughly 40% of our foster youth end up homeless at some point in their lives after leaving care, and roughly 20% end up in jail, itís a call for reform. The nationís leading foster care non-profit, Casey Family Programs, has the correct goal to reduce the number of youth languishing in foster care by 50% by 2020. Alaska should join that effort. We should achieve it not by leaving youth in neglect and abuse to keep our foster care numbers down, but by getting neglected and abused youth out of the foster care system, into a permanent, loving home, much more quickly than we do now.

Many Alaskans recognize that our child welfare system has room to improve; this bill seeks to make real positive changes that support youth and families, as well as the caseworkers who serve them. Itís been well documented by many sources that when case workers are overworked, outcomes for children and families suffer. The Office of Childrenís Services (OCS) recommends standards of approximately 12 cases or families per worker Ė but today, most caseworkers are carrying caseloads that vastly exceed that amount (as high as 43 families in Wasilla, 36 in Homer, and 30 or more in six of the stateís main OCS offices). Conditions in rural Alaska, especially the challenges of remote travel, make even a 12 family caseload overwhelming for workers in such regions. Beyond the risk of poorer outcomes, high caseloads contribute to high worker turnover, a costly problem that slows timelines to permanency.

This bill seeks to improve both caseload levels and worker retention by implementing significant new training and workforce standards. New workers would receive a minimum of six weeks of training and would carry no more than six cases/families in the first three months, and 12 families in the first six months. The bill also provides for the employment of mentors to help caseworkers become more effective and make the transition from training to a full caseload. These standards are recognized to improve outcomes, enable faster timelines to permanency, and allow case workers to perform their duties as intended.

In addition, this bill 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. The bill extends subsidies for adoptions and guardianships to age 21, to incentivize permanency and the closing of cases, and promotes contact with siblings and with previous out-of-home caregivers to promote the well-being of children and maintain a network of support for them. Another important tenet of this bill is enacting timelines for waivers to licensing requirements for relatives who may want to care for a child, but are not licensed foster parents.

The bill also makes it easier for youth and foster parents to engage in normal day to day activities, such as going on vacation without prior caseworker approval, with fewer requirements. In addition, youth at age 14 are empowered to participate in their case plan with a larger role. This bill also strengthens the requirement to search for relatives before placing a child with foster parents, recognizing that placements with family are often the best and most loving option for youth.

Providing support, and a voice, for youth and families who need our help is perhaps one of our most important duties in public service. This bill seeks to give caseworkers the tools they need to carry out their duties to the best of their abilities, and it seeks to support youth and families with provisions that support well-being, make it easier for children to move out of the system and into a permanent home more quickly, and provide the necessary resources for a system that can function well. This bill is intended to create an environment where loving homes are the priority for all youth.


 
[signed]
REPRESENTATIVE LES GARA

SPONSOR STATEMENTS from Alaska House Majority Coalition

House Bill 1: Election Registration and Voting

From the office of Representative Tuck


House Bill 2: Employment Preference for Veterans

From the office of Representative Tuck


House Bill 3: National Guard Leave/Reemployment Rights

From the office of Representative Tuck


House Bill 7: Ballot Selfies

From the office of Representative Kreiss-Tomkins


House Bill 8: Protection Orders from Other Jurisdictions

From the office of Representative Edgmon


House Bill 11: RIP for Public Employees/Teachers

From the office of Representative Kawasaki


House Bill 13: No State/Municipal Funds: Federal Immigration Registry

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 14: Legislative Approval for Bristol Bay Sulfide Mine

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 20: Solemnize Marriage: Elected Officials

From the office of Representative Claman


House Bill 23: Survivorsí Medical Benefits Ė Background

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 26: Nursing Mothers in Workplace

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Bill 29: Ban Sale of Genetically Modified Fish

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Bill 30: Paid Sick Leave

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Bill 31: Sexual Assault Examination Kits

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Bill 32: GMO Labeling

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Bill 37: PERS Credit for Injured Peace Officers and Firefighters

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 38: Benefits for Workplace Death and Permanent Impairment

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 40: Trapping Near Public Trails

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 43: The Right to Try: New Drugs for the Terminally Ill

From the office of Representative Grenn


House Bill 44: Legislative Ethics: Voting & Conflicts

From the office of Representative Grenn


House Bill 47: PERS Contributions By Municipalities

From the office of Representative Foster


House Bill 49: Extend Board of Direct-Entry Midwives

From the office of Representative Kito III


House Bill 52: Alaska Voluntary Pre-Elementary Education Act

From the office of Representative Kawasaki


House Bill 54: Voluntary Termination of Life

From the office of Representative Drummond


House Bill 78: Indigenous Peoples Day

From the office of Representative Westlake


House Bill 80: Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing

From the office of Representative Wool


House Bill 81: More Energy Efficient Buildings Act

From the office of Representative Kreiss-Tomkins


House Bill 82: Off-Highway Driver's Licenses

From the office of Representative Kreiss-Tomkins


House Bill 84: Municipal Property Tax Exemption

From the office of Representative Kreiss-Tomkins


House Bill 85: Petersburg Lands Bill

From the office of Representative Kreiss-Tomkins


House Bill 87: Conflict of Interest: Board of Fisheries/Game

From the office of Representative Stutes


House Bill 88: Board of Fisheries Membership

From the office of Representative Stutes


House Bill 89: Licensing Radiologic Technicians

From the office of Representative Tuck


House Bill 99: Oil & Gas Tax Credit Disclosures

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 102: Limited Teacher Certificates

From the office of Representative Kreiss-Tomkins


House Bill 103: Optometry & Optometrists

From the office of Representative Spohnholz


House Bill 105: Gordon Haber Denali Wolf Special Management Area

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 108: Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets

From the office of Representative Claman


House Bill 111: Oil and Gas Production Tax; Payments; Credits

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Bill 115: State Revenue Restructure Act

From the office of Representative Seaton


House Bill 123: Disclosure of Health Care Costs

From the office of Representative Spohnholz


House Bill 126: Organized Militia: Workers Compensation

From the office of Representative Tuck


House Bill 127: Criminal Conviction Overturned: Receive Past PFD

From the office of Representative Kawasaki


House Bill 128: Shellfish Enhancement Projects; Hatcheries

From the office of Representative Ortiz


House Bill 131: Relocation Assistance for Federal Projects/Programs

From the office of Representative Wool


House Bill 132: Transportation Network Companies

From the office of Representative Wool


House Bill 133: Fair Share for Alaska Oil Act

From the office of Representative Gara


House Bill 134: Board of Game Composition

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 141: AK Workforce Investment Board; Funds

From the office of Representative Fansler


House Bill 151: Children Deserve a Loving Home Act

From the office of Representative Gara


House Bill 166: Museum Construction Grant Program

From the office of Representative Parish


House Bill 167: Repeal of Performance Reviews

From the office of Representative LeDoux


House Bill 172: Cultivation of Industrial Hemp

From the office of Representative Drummond


House Bill 173: Climate Change Response Commission

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 177: Aquatic Invasive Species

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Bill 181: Legislature Per Diem and Travel Allowance

From the office of Representative Kreiss-Tomkins


House Bill 184: Prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 188: Regional Fisheries Trusts

From the office of Representative Kreiss-Tomkins


House Bill 199: Fish / Wildife Habitat Protection; Permits

From the office of Representative Stutes


House Bill 200: Top Two Non-Partisan Primary Election

From the office of Representative LeDoux


House Bill 201: Municipal Regulation of Trapping

From the office of Representative Josephson


House Bill 203: Remote Recreational Cabin Site Staking Sales

From the office of Representative Kawasaki


House Bill 204: Overtaking / Passing DOT Vehicles

From the office of Representative Kawasaki


House Bill 213: Public School Trust Fund

From the office of Representative Parish


House Bill 217: Raw Milk Sales; Food Exempt From Regulations

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Bill 218: State Veterinarian; Animals; Products

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Bill 234: Extend Alaska Health Care Commission

From the office of Representative Guttenberg


House Bill 236: Extend Senior Benefits Payment Program

From the office of Representative Kawasaki


House Concurrent Resolution 1: Legislative Ethics: Voting & Conflicts

From the office of Representative Grenn


House Concurrent Resolution 2: Respond to Adverse Childhood Experiences

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Concurrent Resolution 3: APRIL 2017: Child Abuse Prevention Month

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Joint Resolution 5: Endorsing ANWR Leasing; Related Issues

From the office of Representative Westlake


House Joint Resolution 12: Opposing Genetically Engineered Salmon

From the office of Representative Tarr


House Joint Resolution 21: Feds Respect State Reg of Marijuana

From the office of Representative Guttenberg