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Alert: Saturday Meeting; Thursday Public Testimony
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 email@example.com) 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.