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Note from Rep. Les Gara
Note from Rep. Les Gara  

Small Efforts Can Change A Life:
May Is Foster Care Month.

Note from Rep. Les Gara

May 24, 2013

Voice Your Opinions!

Letters to the editor make a difference. You can send a 175-word letter to the Anchorage Daily News by e-mail (letters@adn.com); or by fax or mail (call them at 257-4300). 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; sean.parnell@alaska.gov; or www.alaska.gov.

Contact us. My office can be reached at: 716 W. 4th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501; by phone: 269-0106; visit my website at http://gara.akdemocrats.org; or email: Rep.Les.Gara@akleg.gov

Dear Neighbors,

         Okay, it’s time I walked the talk. Do politicians ever do that? Are we allowed? Um. Yes.

         This week I gave away my favorite laptop to the Laptops for Foster Youth program we started with Facing Foster Care in Alaska a few years ago. They will work with the State to match that laptop with a foster youth or recent alumni pursuing college or success in the job market. Foster youth will do, well, what kids do with laptops. So far we have matched roughly 375 laptops with youth who used them to do their homework, keep up with the Kardashians, stay in touch with distant family members at a time their life is going through upheaval, and maybe store pictures of their favorite relative.

Rep. Gara with foster youth and UAA student Sarah Redmon
Rep. Gara with foster youth and UAA student Sarah Redmon

         If you have a GOOD, FAST used laptop, a new one, an iPad that works well, or want to donate funds to Facing Foster Care, contact them at the number below. If you have a slow one, well, keep it or give it to someone you don’t like. Seriously, we want to treat foster youth like the first class citizens they are, and they will not use a laptop that requires a bird inside the machine to do typing, and internet molecule sending, with a stone.

         And I’ll pull at your heartstrings one more time. This office has worked hard to expand opportunity for foster youth through legislation. We now have more college scholarships, job training scholarships, and housing help to avoid the plague of foster youth homelessness. Last year a young woman with a UA scholarship didn’t know she needed her own bedding for her dorm bed. She had no sheets, no pillowcase, no pillow, and no blanket. Facing Foster Care is also accepting donations to help pay for care packages for youth who they have identified like this young woman.

         Below is the press release we issued, and Statewide Director of FFCA Amanda Metivier’s phone number. We’ve worked together on a lot of great legislation, and to start the laptop program. She does the hard work now.

         Give her a call and make someone’s day. Shoot, get a tax deduction, as FFCA is a non-profit. If you want your heart tugged a little more, read our press release below.

Thanks!

[signed] Les Gara


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2013

May is Foster Care Month

Rep. Gara, Facing Care Group Ask for Small Donations to Kids that Make a Big Difference

"I never thought of myself as a college graduate, being a product of the system it’s hard to dream big. But with determination, a positive attitude, and some support anything is possible. Now I am proud to call myself a college graduate and I could not have done it alone!" said the 24 year-old Slade Martin, a foster youth who just graduated from Mat-Su College with this Associates Degree last week.

May is National Foster care month, and Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) is joining with Facing Foster Care in Alaska to ask Alaskans to take small steps that will make big improvements in the lives of foster youth in Alaska, many of whom, like Martin, have no parent or adult to rely upon for help when they need it.

"Two things that would make a huge difference in the lives of foster youth are new or gently used laptops so youth can succeed in school, and care packages so that youth in college or job training courses have simple items, like the sheets, pillow cases and blankets one youth didn't have when she arrived at her college dorm," said Facing Foster Care In Alaska Statewide Coordinator Amanda Metivier. "Providing foster youth with opportunity allows them to break the cycle and better their futures. A laptop might not seem like much to some people, but it can be the difference whether or not a foster youth graduates high school. That's also true for having small things like an alarm clock, food to eat, and bedding. Donating care package items allows them a chance at success," said Metivier.

Both Rep. Gara and Metivier are former foster youth and have been working together on legislative reforms and volunteer efforts for many years.

The two started a Laptops for Foster youth program that will have matched roughly 375 computers with youth by the end of the month. Youth use laptop computers to do homework, school research and projects, and to stay in touch with family members and friends. A computer is often the only way some youth can keep pictures of family members. Rep. Gara and Metivier ask for laptops because these computers are more portable.

"Some foster youth bounce between five, ten, or even more than 20 foster homes during their childhood," said Gara. “It’s important they have a computer than can stay with them.”

"Foster youth simply don't have the things, and the support most children from strong families have. Our goal with foster youth is the same as our goal for all Alaskans—to give them the best chance possible to succeed. Because foster youth have few resources and often bounce between homes, this takes a special effort from all of us. We have to face the reality that when these youth leave foster care, they often have minimal funds, or responsible adult in their lives to lean on or call when they need help," said Rep. Gara.

A University of Washington/UAA study from 2008 showed that roughly 40% of foster youth in Alaska end up homeless as some point in their lives after they leave care.

"We hope with some of the reforms we've worked to pass with Amanda, former state Senator Bettye Davis, and others in the Legislature, these statistics have improved," said Rep. Gara.

Rep. Gara, Sen. Davis and Metivier have worked with the Legislature to improve foster youth college and job training opportunity, and to reduce homelessness and foster youth instability in a system where some youth bounce between many homes and schools when their lives are already filled with much dislocation and stress.

To make donations Alaskans are asked to do the following - preferable during Foster Care Month, but also at any time during the year if now isn't possible:

Laptop Computers: Gara and Metivier are looking for donated late model used or new laptops that work quickly, not slowly, and have Wi-Fi capability and a word processing program. They can also take tax deductible donations, made to Facing Foster Care In Alaska, which will be used for laptops that will be matched with current or recent foster youth.

Care Packages: Facing Foster Care In Alaska will accept tax deductible donations that will be used to help foster youth who are studying in college, or job training programs, who need basic items like clothes, bedding, and other things they don't have money for.

To donate a laptop, or make a monetary donation please call Amanda Metivier at 907-230-8237.

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