Rep. Les Gara

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2017

Juneau – Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and Amanda Metivier, the co-founder of Alaska’s main foster youth advocacy and peer support non-profit, have a new thing in common besides being former foster youth.  As of January, they have now each been recognized with awards for their work advocating for foster youth by Casey Family Programs, the nation’s leading  foster youth advocacy foundation.

Today, Rep. Gara is filing legislation, developed in conjunction with Metivier, to comprehensively fix Alaska’s foster care system with the goal of ensuring Alaska’s 3,000 neglected and abused youth placed in foster care, and their families, can enjoy greater success and happiness. 

“Getting youth out of foster care and into permanent loving homes as quickly as possible, without the damage that occurs as fragile youth bounce between foster homes is the right and moral thing to do.  It’s also cheaper than keeping youth in foster care for years,” said Rep. Gara.  “Alaska needs to join Casey Family Programs in the goal to reduce the number of youth in foster care by 50 percent by 2020.  By giving social workers the tools they need we can get youth out of foster care safely and quicker.”

The Children Deserve a Loving Home Act is the product of months of research and consultation with national experts.

“We can’t keep assuming an overstressed system where youth often bounce between 6 to 10 foster homes will just repair itself,” said Metivier.  “Alaska’s caseworkers have two and sometimes three times the recommended amount of cases to handle, which all too often alienates the best foster parents and damages children.”

“It’s always nice to follow Amanda’s lead,” quipped Rep. Gara, who was recently awarded a 2017 Casey Excellence for Children Award from Casey Family Programs.  Amanda Metivier had previously earned the same honor.  “Amanda is an amazing resource for foster youth because every day her passion allows her to make lives better.”

Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and Amanda Metivier

The Children Deserve a Loving Home Act would fix the most glaring problems in Alaska’s foster care system.  The bill establishes caseload limits for caseworkers.  Currently, the national standard of 12 cases per worker is exceeded in six of the Office of Children’s Services offices across the state, with caseload averages of 30 to 43 cases per worker.  The bill seeks to fix the staggering 50 percent burnout rate for new workers by increasing training and limiting cases for new workers to 6 cases during their first 3 months and 12 during their first six months.  Estimates show it costs the state $50,000 each time a new worker leaves in their first year on the job.  The bill also seeks to decrease the number of activities foster parents need to get prior approval for, including taking foster youth on a vacation.  The Children Deserve a Loving Home Act also requires faster approval for the placement of foster youth with family members.  Family placements are often preferable because family members are familiar to youth and such placements frequently lead to formal adoption proceedings.  In addition, family placements are less disruptive to a child’s life.  The bill also adopts several established best practices including making it easier for siblings to maintain relationships with each other when they are separated, allowing youth more input into their case plans, and maintaining contacts between foster youth and former foster parents, who can often serves as youth mentors.

For more information, please contact Rep. Les Gara at (907) 250-0106.

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