|  August 19, 2014  |  
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Dems to Gov: Choose Respect, Support OCS

Upcoming budget should enact State report on preventing child abuse, foster care needs

Today, two Democratic legislators and a former child protection worker called on Governor Parnell to enact recommendations in a child protection report his administration commissioned to identify ways to improve the Office of Children’s Services (OCS).  Representative Les Gara and Representative Geran Tarr wrote to the governor today requesting he include the recommended staffing changes in his upcoming budget he is set to be release later this month.

"I want youth to have the same chance to succeed that I had.  But OCS is an overburdened, hampered agency that is being asked to protect children without the needed staff to do it,” said Gara. “New social workers are so overworked they burn out on an average of every 18 months, and if we want to give more of Alaska’s children a chance to succeed in life, leave fewer abuse cases undetected, and ensure foster parents and children are not discouraged, we need to make sure these case workers have the support and resources they need.”

“It’s been said that a society can be judged by the way it treats its children, and by that standard Alaska can do much better,” said Tarr. “Giving case workers these resources now, can go a long way to protecting Alaska’s children.”

The 2012 report confirms Alaska's foster youth and child protection agency is understaffed to fairly do their work investigating child abuse, helping foster youth, and responding to foster families who need support. It shows hiring 40 lower-cost support staff to help social workers with paperwork will allow existing case workers to spend more time investigating child abuse and working with families in person.

"The administration commissioned a study on how to cost-effectively address this problem, and it recommends hiring lower-cost support staff to help social workers as the best and most cost-effective way to prevent and investigate child abuse and make sure Alaska families and foster families get the support they need,” said Gara.

"When you have inadequate foster care staff, you risk missing child abuse cases, you risk fostering failure rather than success for foster children, and you alienate needed foster parents because there isn't staff to timely review foster parent applications, and help foster parents with a very difficult job," says Jim Parker, a former child protection advocate in Alaska.

While the report has languished, OCS has become even more overburdened.

"The number of foster youth has increased from roughly 1600 three years ago to 2,000 today," said Gara.

Read the report commissioned by the Parnell administration: http://akdemocrats.org/docs/120513_OCS_workload_study.pdf

Read the letter from Reps. Gara and Tarr: http://akdemocrats.org/docs/120513_Letter_to_Governor_re_OCS_Study.pdf

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