NEWS: Rep. Gara Receives National Award for Helping Foster Youth in Alaska

Casey Family Programs Honors Rep. Gara with a 2017 Casey Excellence for Children Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2016

Anchorage – On January 9th, Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) received a national award from Casey Family Programs for his work to improve the foster care system in Alaska.  The Casey Excellence for Children Awards are given annually to those who help improve outcomes for children and families in the foster care system.  Rep. Gara grew up in foster care and has been a champion for foster youth in the Alaska Legislature. 

“Foster youth face challenges that often make them feel isolated and alone.  They deserve the same opportunities for success that other youth enjoy. Too often those opportunities don’t exist because of factors out of their control,” said Rep. Gara.  “Foster youth I have met inspire me with their strength and dedication to succeed, but they often need a helping hand.  I will keep working for foster youth, and with the help of organizations like the Casey Family Programs we can make their lives better and more rewarding.”

Rep. Gara has successfully advocated for needed reforms to help foster youth, and last year he successfully passed a bill that put in place significant improvements in Alaska.  House Bill 27 included provisions to get foster youth into stable, permanent, loving homes and out of foster care, where they often bounce between several foster homes.  Currently, Alaska has the second highest per capita rate in the nation of foster youth waiting for adoptive homes.

“Representative Gara is a true champion for foster youth,” said past Casey Excellence for Children Award winner Amanda Metivier, who founded the organization Facing Foster Care in Alaska in 2003.  “Les Gara has remained steady in his advocacy to reform Alaska’s child welfare system and help youth find loving homes and opportunities to succeed.  He has given a voice to the most vulnerable children in our state and continues to fight for what is right.”

Casey Family Programs was created in 1966 by Jim Casey, the founder of UPS, to help vulnerable children and their families.  The foundation, which operates in every state, is focused on safely reducing the need for foster care and building Communities of Hope for children and families across America.

“Representative Gara’s personal experience as a former foster youth has been invaluable in creating change in Alaska’s child welfare system,” said Valerie Davidson, the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.  “Les Gara’s advocacy has resulted in more case workers and new laws that strengthen the rights of foster youth.  He’s a tireless champion for children and Alaska is a better place because of him.”

Casey Family Programs annually gives national awards to recognize alumni, birth parents, foster and adoptive parents, and kinship caregivers who work to improve the lives of children and families.  Rep. Gara’s award is for a former foster youth who exhibits leadership to help improve the child welfare system.

“Les Gara has been someone I can look up to.  He shows foster youth that they may have lots of extra hurdles they have to jump through, but that they can succeed if they put their minds to it,” said former foster youth Sarah Redmon.

For more information contact Representative Les Gara at (907) 250-0106 or Amanda Metivier at (907) 230-8237.  Commissioner Davidson can be contacted at (907) 269-7800 and Sarah Redmon is available by calling (907) 748-1845.

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