Press Release: Rep. Gara Honored in D.C. for Work to Help Alaska’s Foster Youth
National “Adoption Excellence Award” Highlights a Legislative Career of Service for Foster Youth
Anchorage – Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) will be honored Tuesday in Washington D.C. by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a legislative career working on behalf of Alaska’s foster youth. Rep. Gara was nominated for a 2018 Adoption Excellence Award by long-time Alaska foster youth advocate Amanda Metivier, who founded the foster youth advocacy and support organization, Facing Foster Care in Alaska.
“Les Gara’s legislative successes have improved the lives of thousands of foster youth in Alaska. He knows the struggles faced by foster youth because he grew up in foster care. Whether they know it or not, the thousands of foster youth in Alaska, both past and present, owe a debt of gratitude to Les Gara because he always championed their cause,” said Metivier.
In earning the 2018 Adoption Excellence Award, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services singled out the landmark foster care reform bill that Rep. Gara successfully passed earlier this year. House Bill 151 was signed into law in June by outgoing Alaska Governor Bill Walker.
“Representative Les Gara’s heart is as big as his legacy in the Alaska Legislature, and he’s leaving behind a pretty big legacy. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this prestigious national award than my friend Les Gara,” said Governor Walker. “Politics and policy are too often dominated by those with power and money that can make their voice heard. However, with Les Gara around the vulnerable and voiceless were never silent and could always be heard.”
Rep. Gara's successful efforts to improve Alaska’s foster care system includes increasing college scholarships and job training, starting volunteer foster youth mentorship and laptop computer donation programs, and passing legislation to extend foster care to age 21, when a youth needs a home.
“Les Gara’s leadership has been irreplaceable in the fight to improve the lives of foster youth and to keep our children safe. He deserves this national award because of his years of work and his passion for helping others. Quyana (thank you) to Representative Gara,” said former Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner and current Alaska Lieutenant Governor Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson.
The Adoption Excellence Award program was created by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services in 1997 to recognize outstanding accomplishments in achieving permanency for America’s children waiting in foster care. The 12 recipients of the Adoption Excellence Awards will be honored Tuesday during a ceremony at the Hubert H. Humphrey Building in Washington D.C. The ceremony, which will be held at 10:00 a.m. eastern time, will be held in conjunction with an event to highlight the federal government’s National Adoption Recruitment Campaign.
“Children deserve to feel safe, supported, and loved. The foster youth I have worked with and met are some of the bravest and most resilient people I’ve known. But we can’t push the envelope with youth, hoping they will be able to succeed with unimaginable levels of trauma and turmoil in their lives. They deserve better, and my colleagues who have helped in passing needed reforms have been great in joining to do what’s right,” said Rep. Gara.
For more information, please contact Rep. Les Gara at (907) 250-0106 and Amanda Metivier at (907) 230-8237.