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Foster Care Bill Moves Ahead -- 04-07-10

(JUNEAU) – Legislation intended to improve the chances for foster youth to succeed as adults passed the Alaska State Legislature’s Health & Social Services Committee yesterday.  House Bill 126 is sponsored by Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage), himself a former foster youth.


“We should do everything we can to help our youth succeed,” Gara said.  “I’m pleased the committee chose to advance this measure.”


If HB 126 becomes law, Alaska youth would be allowed to remain in foster care until age 21.  National studies show, where appropriate, foster youth that remain in care longer achieve greater success than those who leave care at earlier ages.  

Amanda Metivier, former foster youth and founder of Facing Foster Care in Alaska, praised Rep. Gara’s bill.  "Foster youth need a safety net as they become young adults,” Metivier said, “and HB 126 allows for youth in care to become young adults with a support system in place."


Presently, 30 states allow foster youth to stay in care until 21.  National children’s advocates have made it a priority to establish similar provisions in all states.


HB 126 would also allow youth who leave care to reenter if they determine leaving care was a mistake.  Fifteen other states allow foster care reentry if needed to aid children’s ability to succeed or protect them from harm.  In Alaska, reentry is not allowed for youth who leave care upon emancipation (after turning 16).


Co-sponsors of HB 126 include Reps. Crawford (D-Anchorage), Kerttula (D-Juneau), Munoz (R-Juneau), Harris (R-Valdez), Foster (D-Nome), Lynn (R-Anchorage), Edgmon (D-Dillingham), and Gardner (D-Anchorage).  Previously, the House Education Committee moved the bill forward; HB 126 moves now to House Finance.  


Senator Bettye Davis (D-Anchorage) sponsored similar legislation, Senate Bill 105, in the Alaska State Senate.   SB 105 has passed the Education and Health & Social Service Committees and is pending before the Senate Finance Committee.


For more information, contact Rep. Gara or aide Rose Foley at (907) 465-2647 or at Representative_Les_Gara@legis.state.ak.us .

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