NEWS: Bill to Improve Lives of Foster Youth Passes Committee

Bill Would Help Stop Damage Caused By Bouncing Foster Youth Between Homes, Improve Educational Success

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2015

JUNEAU— Thursday, the House Health and Social Services Committee passed House Bill 27 sponsored by Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage).  The bill seeks to improve the lives of foster youth in Alaska by getting them into permanent loving homes, so they don’t keep suffering damage and neglect caused by bouncing between multiple temporary foster homes and schools.  Rep. Gara thanks the members of the Health and Social Services Committee for their work on the bill.

“Foster youth deserve stability, love, and the same chances as all other children,” said Rep. Les Gara, who grew up in foster care.  “Forty percent of our foster youth end up homeless or couch surfing.  24% end up in jail after the damage caused by an unstable upbringing.  We are the legal guardians of these vulnerable youth and we must do a better job of caring for them.”

HB 27 is supported by Facing Foster Care in Alaska, which is the state’s largest foster youth advocacy group.  The bill is also supported by the Alaska Children’s Trust and the First Focus Campaign for Children.

“The bill ensures foster youth have the opportunity to move quickly out of the system, and avoid the damage of repeated foster home moves,” said Facing Foster Care in Alaska Executive Director Amanda Metivier. She is a former foster youth and has been a driving force in Alaska’s foster care reform effort for many years.

HB 27 requires the Office of Children’s Services to demonstrate in court that releasing a child out of care, without a foster family or responsible parent, is in the best interests of the child. The bill also seeks to increase the number of foster and adoptive parents by requiring the Department of Health and Social Services to work with the Governor’s office to recruit new parents.  Currently, 850 youth are awaiting adoptive homes. 

“Through this legislation, I hope the rapidly growing number of foster youth in Alaska will have the same opportunities I had in life,” said Rep. Gara, who was able to make it through college and law school on scholarships, loans and by working.  “I want to thank all of the foster youth and advocates that walked the halls last month meeting with lawmakers.  They helped put a human face on this issue and spark forward momentum for this bill.”

HB 27 now moves to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.  Co-sponsors include Representatives Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage), Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) and Cathy Munoz (R-Juneau).

For more information contact Amanda Metivier at (907) 230-8237.

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