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Laptops one way to help kids in foster care

Posted: December 20, 2011 - 8:44am

This month we are launching our second annual "Laptops for Foster Youth Drive." Since last year we have matched roughly 70 youth with good, late model used and new laptops. Youth have used these laptops for school, to transport pictures of their families and friends, and to lead a life that more closely resembles those of their peers outside of foster care. We are looking for laptops in good working order, that connect to the internet, and that have a word processing program. If you have one, please call us at 907-269-0106.

In a world where roughly 40% of our foster youth end up homeless at some point after leaving care, and don't perform as well as their peers on average in school, we, as a community, can step in to make a difference. We should especially have compassion for youth whom -- through no fault of their own -- don't have parents responsible enough to raise them and put them on the path to success.

Also, you'll see below that if you don't have a laptop to donate, but have time, you can make a huge difference in a foster youth's life as well.

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, I grew up in foster care. I was able to succeed, had responsible adults to look over me and help, and know it takes others to help Alaska's foster youth succeed. That means us.

While many of us are spending time with our families, celebrating traditions, and enjoying the festivities, foster youth are faced with the bitter reminder that they are separated from their families during the holidays. Help for Alaska's 1,700 foster youth is very welcome.

Laptops for Foster Youth: If you have a quality used, or new laptop you'd like to donate, please let us know, and we'll help you make someone's life better! If you want to donate funds to purchase one or more laptops, we can help arrange that too.

Collaboration between our office and the non-profit Facing Foster Care in Alaska has yielded success over the past year. We work with the Office of Children's Services to locate current and recently released foster youth who can benefit from a laptop.

"Youth who have been matched with a laptop are performing better in their education and have a link to their family and friends as they make multiple transitions," said Amanda Metivier, Statewide Coordinator of Facing Foster Care in Alaska. Metivier is also a foster care alumnus, and has successfully worked with the state, and our office, to help improve Alaska's foster care system.

Time but no Laptop to Donate? We Still Need You: If you want to mentor a youth leaving foster care, call Facing Foster Care in Alaska Statewide Coordinator Amanda Metivier at 907-230-8237 to learn more. Older foster youth, as they prepare to go out on their own, need a responsible adult in their lives. Someone to talk to them about succeeding, work, continuing their education, or just someone to talk to over lunch or dinner or go on a hike with.

And the big Enchilada. Alaska has a dire shortage of foster parents. That results in current youth being placed in overcrowded homes, bouncing between short term homes, or being sent to shelters. Maybe you are at a time in your life that would let you be a foster parent. If so, call the Alaska Center for Resource Families at 800-478-7307 to find out how to become one.

And, please call us if you have any questions at all. The saying that it takes a village is true. This is a generous community, and we can improve the lives of Alaska's foster youth together. We'll work to match it with a youth in your community.

Rep. Les Gara is an Anchorage Democrat. He can be contacted at 907-269-0106; or you can contact him at rep.les.gara@legis.state.ak.us.

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