This time on KTD we're focusing on new state legislation concerning foster care that went into effect on January 1, 2011, asking how it will affect the nearly 2,000 children currently in care. The new legislation increases the age-out age from 18 to 21 and mandates that children be allowed to remain at the same school if their home placement should change. The bill (HB 126) also establishes a mentoring program, provides funds for additional Independent Living Program staff and funds to assist the 40% of aged-out youth who become homeless upon leaving foster care. The legislation increases funds for scholarships and job training and allocates funds for increased public awareness about the need for foster parents, especially those that are Alaska Native, as in the video PSA below.
IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining host Shana Sheehy to talk about the foster care system in Alaska are three guests.
• Representative Les Gara, once a foster child himself, has been an advocate for foster kids currently in Alaska's system by sponsoring legislation. He joined us by phone from Juneau.
• Travis Erickson is the Anchorage regional manager for the Office of Children's Services.
• Amanda Metivier is the Director of Facing Foster Care in Alaska, a foster parent and a former foster child.
FOSTER CARE RESOURCES:
- The Indian Child Welfare Act & foster care - In Alaska, 62% of the kids in state custody are Alaska Native – well above their proportion of the state’s population as a whole. With so many Native children in custody, it’s hard to talk about foster care in Alaska without talking about ICWA. ICWA is the Indian Child Welfare Act; KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran reports. [Full story]
- Growing up foster in Alaska - Two young Alaskans who have spent most of their childhoods in foster care tell of the ups and downs of being a "foster kid." KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales spoke with twenty-one-year-old Kyle who is struggling to find his way on his own after leaving the foster care system, and with seventeen-year-old Tia who shares her candid thoughts about what makes for a loving and supportive foster home.