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Note from Rep. Les Gara
Note from Rep. Les Gara  
Alert: Saturday Meeting; Thursday Public Testimony
Note from Rep. Les Gara

March 22, 2017

Voice Your Opinions!

Letters to the editor make a difference. You can send a letter of up to 200 words (shorter letters are more likely to be accepted) to the Alaska Dispatch News by email (letters@alaskadispatch.com); or by fax or mail (call them at 257-4308). Send letters to the Anchorage Press via e-mail editor@anchoragepress.com or by mail to 540 E. Fifth Ave, Anchorage, 99501. Feel free to call us if you need factual information to help you write a letter.

Contact the Governor. The Governor can be reached at 269-7450; or www.alaska.gov.

Contact us. My office can be reached at: 1500 W Benson Blvd, Rm 216, Anchorage, AK 99503; by phone: 269-0106; visit my website at http://replesgara.com; or email: Rep.Les.Gara@akleg.gov

Want to Volunteer To Help A Child?

You can be a Volunteer Mentor to help a child, through a program we worked with foster care advocates to start, at Big Brothers, Big Sisters.  Just call433-4691. Have the time to do more?  Alaska has a major shortage of foster and adoptive parents, and you can help change a life by doing that.  To ask about foster parenting or adopting a child out of foster care call 1-800-478-7307.  And, of course, we are always asking people to donate tax deductible new or used (good condition only) laptops for current and recent foster youth.  You can contact us if you'd like to do that.

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Dear Neighbors:

I wanted to let you know about three things. One is obvious. There is an inverse relationship between the number of nights and weekends we are working, and the number of newsletters I can write! I’ll try to do better. Now the two important matters…

1. Last week we sent you an invitation from Senator Tom Begich and myself to our annual constituent pizza talk. We get to give you an update on the legislative session and more importantly, we get to listen to your thoughts. We’ll be meeting from 11:30am to 1:30pm on Saturday at the Fairview Recreation Center, 1121 E 10th Ave. And we don’t advertise for companies but I’ll just say we’ll have way better than average pizza if you’d like to bring your kids.

2. I also have an important bill being heard this week, the “Children Deserve a Loving Home Act,” HB 151. If you can, and are interested, we’d like you to testify!Here is a summary of the bill if you’d like to talk about it.

The goal of this bill is to get more children into permanent loving homes, and out of expensive foster care, faster. Worker turnover at OCS is high (38% in FY16, according to OCS), from overworked caseworkers with very high caseloads. Children and families go through multiple caseworkers, which slows down their progress, and often means children go through higher numbers of foster care placements. Turnover means less time for quality assessments, less focus on in-home safety plans, and increased likelihood that placements will be disrupted or that children will reenter foster care. (High turnover costs money too – an estimated $54,000 for every worker that leaves an agency.) It means caseworkers often don’t know the youth and families they are supposed to help. We want to reunite families where we can, find permanent adoptive homes where we can, and shorten a child’s stay in foster care.

Research from around the country shows that reducing turnover, and reducing caseloads for workers, helps lead to more positive outcomes for children and families. Lower caseloads give workers more time to focus on children and their families, and makes it more likely that qualified, experienced caseworkers will stay on the job. This bill also works to help children and their families while they’re in care, by encouraging sibling contact, empowering youth ages 14 and older to participate in their case plan, and giving foster families more flexibility in day-to-day decisions on things like sports and trips.

We’ll be hearing public testimony on the bill tomorrow, Thursday March 23rd, between 3 and 5pm (most likely closer to 4pm, though we can’t guarantee the time), in the House Health & Social Services Committee. If you’d like to testify, you can go to the Anchorage LIO at 1500 W. Benson Blvd (or the LIO in your community) and they will connect you to our meeting in Juneau. If you are unable to go to an LIO, you can call the Juneau LIO at 465-4648, and ask to be connected to the meeting. And finally, if you’re not able to call in, you can send written comments to me directly (at rep.les.gara@akleg.gov) and we’ll compile them. (And stay tuned for more opportunities to testify.) And as always, call our office with any questions at 465-2647.

Let’s work together. We can act “locally” to change lives for the better!

I hope to see you Saturday.

My Best,

[signed] Les Gara


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