Want to change a life for the better? Want it to be easy? Have we got a deal for you! May is National Foster Care Month, and in conjunction with that we have launched our second annual summer "Laptops for Foster Youth Drive." And, don't worry. No laptop? There are other ways to help, ranging from easy to not so easy.
Option 1: Donate a new or quality used laptop
Collaboration over the past two years between our office, the non-profit Facing Foster Care in Alaska, and the Office of Children's Services has matched about 125 youth with good, late model used and new laptops. Youth have used these laptops for school, to keep pictures of their families and friends, to stay in touch with friends, and to lead a life that more closely resembles those of their peers outside of foster care. What, you have cash but no laptop? Call Amanda Metivier at Facing Foster Care in Alaska at 230-8237 and make a tax deductible donation and they'll buy the laptop through a discount laptop program we work with.
Why would you do this? It's important for youth in foster care to have their own laptops because it puts them on a level playing field with other youth and gives them a sense of normalcy, which helps give them an equal chance in life. Some foster children move between homes frequently while in care.
We would like to do whatever we can to support these youth -- whom the state has legal custody over. Donating a laptop is a great way to make a difference in a life, in academic achievement, and in a child's often harmed social life.
I know some of this from personal experience. My father was killed when I was six, by someone who broke into his Harlem doctor's office. As a result, my brother and I grew up in foster care. I was able to succeed, and know it takes others to help Alaska's foster youth succeed too. Even if separated from loved ones, a laptop can keep those connections with friends, family, and adult mentors alive.
If you have a quality late model or new laptop you'd like to donate that:
1) is of high quality;
2) has a word processing program;
3) has wireless Internet capability; and,
4) works fast enough that it doesn't frustrate you, then...
Please call our office at (907) 269-0106 and we'll help you make someone's life better.
There are also other ways to help if you have time but no computer to donate.
Option 2: Be a mentor
If you want to mentor a youth leaving foster care, call Big Brothers Big Sisters at 433-4600. Older youth leaving care often have no responsible adult in their lives. You can be that person, and have fun while helping a youth succeed.
Option 3: Foster parent or adopt
Want to be a foster parent? There's a dire shortage: call the Office of Children's Services at (800) 478-7307 to find out how to become one. With a shortage of foster and adoptive parents, youth bounce between homes and don't get the chance to grow up with the guidance, stability and love they need.
Life doesn't bring guarantees. But it should bring equal opportunity for all.
Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, has served in the state House of Representatives since 2003.