Senate Bill 82 ensures long success for Alaska's foster children
JUNEAU- Today the Alaska Legislature passed the Alaska Foster Family Protection Act, Senate Bill 82. The bill sponsored by Senator Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage, aims to ensure long term success for Alaska’s roughly 1,700 foster youth.
“As a former social worker, I know how important it is to give these children a shot at a normal life,” said Senator Davis. “This legislation will help keep them together with their brothers and sisters throughout the process and ensure that the state never gives up looking for a permanent home for them.”
Senator Davis and Representative Les Gara worked together over the past two years to craft the bill and push it through the Legislature. Representatives Gara, Thomas, Herron and Gardner were prime sponsors of the companion House Bill, House Bill 33.
“Foster youth deserve the same chances in life as children from strong families. Separating them from their siblings, giving up on finding them a permanent home, and making it hard for rural youth to stay in their home communities causes lasting damage. That’s something we wanted to change and the State agrees with us on,” said Gara, who grew up in foster care. “Senator Davis has been a champion for Alaska’s children, and I applaud her work, and the work of youth advocate Amanda Metivier.” Metivier is coordinator for the peer support and advocacy group, Facing Foster Care in Alaska, and worked on the legislation closely with Senator Davis, Representative Gara and the state’s Office of Children’s Services (OCS).
The legislation improves the lives of foster youth in many ways. It creates a presumption that siblings should not be separated when placed in foster care unless there is a strong reason. Breaking up siblings in foster care placements is damaging to youth who have already been separated from their families. The bill also requires OCS to continue to look for stable homes for foster youth as they get older, when fewer families are willing to take them in – something that’s been a problem, but that OCS has been working to correct in recent years.
It protects rural youth by waiving unrealistic, technical housing code requirements that cannot be met in certain parts of the state – so rural youth can stay in their home towns and villages as long as the homes are safe. The bill also streamlines the foster parent application process, and makes it easier for foster youth who leave foster care, and find that it was a mistake, to re-enter so they can have a caring family and avoid homelessness or other dangers associated when a young child lives without a responsible, caring adult.
“I enjoyed working with Senator Davis and Representative Gara on this bill, which continues the foster care reform efforts we have all worked on together the past four years. We’ll keep working until foster youth have the opportunities to thrive and succeed that everyone else has,” said Metivier.
Senate Bill 82 now heads to Governor Sean Parnell for his signature.
For more information, please contact Senator Davis’ Office at (907) 465-3822 or Representative Gara’s Office at (907) 465-2647.
Source:Office of Senator Davis