Alaska News

Foster care, adoption measures clear Legislature, go to Walker

Legislation aimed at bringing stability to the lives of Alaska foster children and older foster care youth unanimously cleared both the state House and Senate Tuesday in the special session.

A separate adoption bill, which streamlines legal proceedings, also passed on the Senate Tuesday. It earlier had passed the House.

House Bill 27, filed last year, aims to reform Alaska's foster care system by putting new emphasis on families and friends as foster parents. It puts new pressure on state workers to keep looking for permanent homes, even after youths turn 18, if they are still in state custody. It also allows the state to place older foster kids in college dorms or other transitional living arrangements.

It cleared the House April 1 and then was holed up in the Senate for two months. A section related to school placement was tweaked in the Senate, so it returned to the House Tuesday.

Both measures now go to Gov. Bill Walker.

The adoption bill was supported by the Alaska Federation of Natives, which said the measure will make it easier for Alaska Native families to adopt Native children and put in place a "one judge, one family" model by combining four proceedings under one judge.

The advocacy group Facing Foster Care in Alaska pushed for the reform bill.

Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, who grew up in foster care in New York, was HB 27's main sponsor. It attracted 17 co-sponsors, including Republicans.

Lisa Demer

Lisa Demer was a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Dispatch News. Among her many assignments, she spent three years based in Bethel as the newspaper's western Alaska correspondent. She left the ADN in 2018.