A state representative from Anchorage who grew up in foster care has won national recognition for years of effort to improve Alaska's child-welfare system.
Rep. Les Gara, a Democrat, this week received a Casey Excellence for Children Award from Casey Family Programs, a foundation that aims to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families.
Gara was singled out as a foster-care alumnus in part for legislation he wrote that passed last year to put new emphasis on keeping siblings together, finding children permanent homes and keeping foster kids in their same school. He also started a program providing laptops for foster youths. He employs former foster children in his office and works with the advocacy and support group Facing Foster Care in Alaska.
Gara went into foster care in New York at age 6 after his father was killed.