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Rep. Gara, Facing Care Group Ask for Small Donations that Make a Big Difference

May is Foster Care Month

"I never thought of myself as a college graduate, being a product of the system it’s hard to dream big. But with determination, a positive attitude, and some support anything is possible. Now I am proud to call myself a college graduate and I could not have done it alone!" said the 24 year-old Slade Martin, a foster youth who just graduated from Mat-Su College with this Associates Degree last week.

May is Foster care month, and Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) is joining with Facing Foster Care in Alaska to ask Alaskans to take small steps that will make big improvements in the lives of foster youth in Alaska, many of whom, like Martin, have no parent or adult to rely upon for help when they need it. 

"Two things that would make a huge difference in the lives of foster youth are new or gently used laptops so youth can succeed in school, and care packages so that youth in college or job training courses have simple items, like the sheets, pillow cases and blankets one youth didn't have when she arrived at her college dorm," said Facing Foster Care In Alaska Statewide Coordinator Amanda Metivier.  "Providing foster youth with opportunity allows them to break the cycle and better their futures. A laptop might not seem like much to some people, but it can be the difference whether or not a foster youth graduates high school. That's also true for having small things like an alarm clock, food to eat, and bedding. Donating care package items allows them a chance at success," said Metivier.

Both Rep. Gara and Metivier are former foster youth and have been working together on legislative reforms and volunteer efforts for many years. 

The two started a Laptops for Foster youth program that will have matched roughly 375 computers with youth by the end of the month.  Youth use laptop computers to do homework, school research and projects, and to stay in touch with family members and friends.  A computer is often the only way some youth can keep pictures of family members.  Rep. Gara and Metivier ask for laptops because these computers are more portable. 

"Some foster youth bounce between five, ten, or even more than 20 foster homes during their childhood," said Gara. “It’s important they have a computer than can stay with them.”

"Foster youth simply don't have the things, and the support most children from strong families have.  Our goal with foster youth is the same as our goal for all Alaskans—to give them the best chance possible to succeed.  Because foster youth have few resources and often bounce between homes, this takes a special effort from all of us.  We have to face the reality that when these youth leave foster care, they often have minimal funds, or responsible adult in their lives to lean on or call when they need help," said Rep. Gara. 

A University of Washington/UAA study from 2008 showed that roughly 40% of foster youth in Alaska end up homeless as some point in their lives after they leave care. 

"We hope with some of the reforms we've worked to pass with Amanda, former state Senator Bettye Davis, and others in the Legislature, these statistics have improved," said Rep. Gara. 

Rep. Gara, Sen. Davis and Metivier have worked with the Legislature to improve foster youth college and job training opportunity, and to reduce homelessness and foster youth instability in a system where some youth bounce between many homes and schools when their lives are already filled with much dislocation and stress.

To make donations Alaskans are asked to do the following - preferable during Foster Care Month, but also at any time during the year if now isn't possible:

Laptop Computers:  Gara and Metivier are looking for donated late model used or new laptops that work quickly, not slowly, and have Wi-Fi capability and a word processing program.  They can also take tax deductible donations, made to Facing Foster Care In Alaska, which will be used for laptops that will be matched with current or recent foster youth. 

Care Packages:  Facing Foster Care In Alaska will accept tax deductible donations that will be used to help foster youth who are studying in college, or job training programs, who need basic items like clothes, bedding, and other things they don't have money for.

To donate a laptop, or make a monetary donation please call Amanda Metivier at 907-230-8237.

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