Comprehensive Reform Bill Will Improve the Lives of Youth, families in Alaska’s Foster Care System By Adopting National Evidence-Based Reforms
House Bill 151, the “Children Deserve a Loving Home Act”, adopts comprehensive, effective national gold standard provisions which have been promoted by the nation’s most respected children’s advocacy groups. The bill’s national and Alaska-based best practices will vastly improve the lives of Alaska’s 3,000 foster youth, and their families, and improve statistics that see 53% of our foster youth end up homeless after care, 29% in jail before age 21, and 41% on public assistance by age 21.
“Reducing the damage that’s being caused to children who live with some of the greatest life hurdles on any or our citizens, is morally right, and will save us significant jail, public benefits, behavioral health treatment and unemployment costs,” says Rep. Gara.
With some of the highest child sexual abuse and neglect statistics in the nation, and an opioid epidemic that has increased the number of youth in foster care nationwide, it’s time for comprehensive, effective, evidence-based reforms. The New Jersey model HB 151 is based upon has reduced the number of youth in care by 45%; placed more youth with loving families, lowered damaging worker turnover, which in turn has lowered the time youth languish in foster care; and has shortened the time youth ready for adoption are placed in a permanent loving home. And it includes a number of Alaska-specific reforms, including provisions to keeping families together so fewer youth end up on foster care, and can brow up safely with their own families.
The bill has broad support from the Alaska Children’s Trust, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, the Mat-Su Health Foundation, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Board, ROCK Mat-Su, The Alaska Regional Coalition (of tribal non-profits), Access Alaska, Alaska CASA, Facing Foster Care in Alaska, the Alaska Children’s Justice Task Force, the Alaska Pediatric Partnership, the Alaska Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Ab Covenant House and others.
HB 151 has passed the House, and passed the senate Health and Social Services and Finance Committees with growing and broad bi-partisan support.