Fixes Needed This Session Says Gara
January 19, 2007
"I think we have a legislature and Governor willing to take the steps needed to protect Alaska's most at-risk children," said Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage), who's called for the state to adopt recommendations in a 2006 state-commissioned study of Alaska's Office of Children's Services.
Following increasing public concern and a federal audit of the state's agency charged with protecting foster, abused and neglected children, the state commissioned an outside audit to identify staffing reforms needed so the state can adequately investigate child abuse concerns and offer needed help to foster children and families.
That report was completed this
fall. Gara, who grew up in foster care, requested an analysis
from the State to determine the staffing and cost for complying
with the report. That analysis was issued recently by Janet
Clarke, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human
"Protecting at-risk children and giving foster children the chances they deserve in life is a basic state function," Gara said. "We've waited a long time for these report recommendations, and I hope we'll adopt them quickly."
The 2006 report was prepared by national consulting firm Hornby Zeller and Associates. The report, as stated by Clarke's subsequent analysis, was "designed to determine whether front-line staff had sufficient time to meet the basic requirements of their jobs to protect children and serve families." Funding for the staffing recommendations would have to be passed by the Legislature this year to implement the report's recommendations.
"The Governor and many legislators have expressed concern about child protection efforts, and I think this issue will be looked at closely this session," Gara said. He distributed the 2006 report to legislators this fall, and has shared Deputy Commissioner Clark's letter with the Governor and legislators.
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