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Wanted: People to make a difference in the lives of Alaska youth

Posted: December 3, 2012 - 5:09pm

At the end of a political season, people still focus too much on their differences — which get exaggerated during the hype of campaign season. Well, let’s step back together for a moment — in the spirit of the Holiday season, in the spirit we all share as Alaskans, and in the spirit of extending a hand to children who, for no fault of their own, need our help.

Let me put this bluntly. In Alaska we have a vast shortage of foster parents. And, if you don’t have the time to be a foster parent, we could use more people to be mentors to older foster youth, who often leave foster care with no responsible adult to talk to, eat dinner with, see a movie with, and get advice from. The latter is a foster care version of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. We need your help in both.

Why be a foster parent? First, there is a shortage of good foster homes, which means that youth bounce around like damaged goods in the back of a pick-up truck, from one temporary family to another — sometimes to 20 homes or more. That is damaging. Crippling for some youth. It sends the message that no one cares, and causes youth to distrust the adults who are supposed to be there to help them. Could you imagine if that were replaced with a system where youth entered the homes of a loving, responsible, caring foster family whenever they needed? As opposed to a family that volunteers to take in too many children for a short period of time — a circumstance created by the shortage in foster families in Alaska?

In Alaska we have over 1,500 foster youth. There is a constant debate in the Legislature and with the Governor about whether we provide the support and opportunity needed for these youth to succeed, though we’ve made great strides in recent years. But that aside, a good foster family can make the biggest difference of all in a foster youth’s life. You can instill work ethic. You can share the love and responsibility most foster youth don’t get unconditionally from their own parents. You can help a child or youth who never had a fighting chance with their own parents, whether it was because of drug abuse, criminal activity, violence, or the kind of parenting that ensures failure for their child.

A good foster home is the best way to make sure foster youth have a chance to succeed in this world — and share the American dream. And the Alaska dream. Dreams of success. As a legislator I have worked hard to expand the availability of job training and college aid, and housing assistance for youth coming out of care. But without a family to help prepare a youth to take advantage of these opportunities, that aid can’t achieve its full potential.

OK, so what if you don’t have the time to be a foster parent? Well, recognizing money doesn’t grow on trees, we have started a foster youth mentorship program, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters has won the contract. It’s cheap. You volunteer your time. And every week or two you stay in contact with an older youth coming out of care so they know they have someone to turn to when they are on their own. You can help shape a youth, during hikes, breakfasts or dinners, movie nights, fishing, or whatever way it takes for the two of you to bond and gain mutual trust. And by doing that you can steer your youth towards the job and college aid and other success transition programs we have to help older youth.

So — I don’t care if you voted for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, or the Governor’s version of oil tax reform. I care that we put our differences aside, and extend a hand. If you’d like to be a foster parent, please call 800-478-7307. If you’d like to be a mentor, please call Amy at 907-433-4600. Or you can call me at 269-0106. And, thank you!

Rep. Les Gara is an Anchorage Democratic Legislator, and is a former foster youth. You can contact him at

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Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 12/04/12 - 08:33 pm
What to say

I really could get in alot of trouble if i responded to all these claims made in this letter as to why we have this problem, as well as just who should be qualified as a good example to youth who are abandoned or are a product of Govts. have it your way for adults & youth alike and are really not abandoned but pushed out because of selfishness by one or the other.
So i'll just stop there and move on and simply advise those that are foster parents to be very careful and not get stung by evil people, children and adults that will do anything they can to have it their way and could care less who they hurt in doing so, parents or foster parents, or youth alike.
Then there are the adult abusers that want it their way, that prey on the kids that want it their way and the troubles that arise from these connections pushed by govt.
Kids need good adult support, but who determines who is good or bad and what are the qualifications that determine those qualified or not?
I have seen families ruined by foster kids taken in that want it their way, after they ruined their own families and are now out on their own as a fault of their own they also ruin others that only wanted to help.
I'm not saying don't help, just be very careful and aware that there are many that only seek to destroy others and will do anything to get-r-done and the govt. laws are aiding and abetting them every day so be careful.
In the spirit of the holiday season i will say this. When we BS our kids about the Supposed Wonderful reason for the season and a make believe person like santa and they grow up and realize that they have been lied to all those many yrs and wonder what other kind of BS lies they have been told and finally have enough and decide that they can do just as well on their own and move out. Why would they listen to anyone that does this and believe that they had anything good to offer that will be a life changer or promote any form of good?

Sorry i wanted to remain quite about the spirit of the season or other supposed good spirits, when in fact they are worthless spirits of deception and good for nothing other than to decieve and cause our youth to ask questions of who is right and who can i believe in with all this continual lies?
Most of us have absolutely nothing to offer these kids because we are just like them, in a state of hopelessness and on a ship without a rudder being tossed here and there hoping to land on safe ground, ground thats ever sinking from sight in our world of lies and corruption. Those that do have a hope for these kids and others are restricted from telling them the truth, even by others that supposedly have the only hope and are supposedly good people, people that really don't even know the truth themselves and actually push and support claims of the good spirit of the season and the lie they support while doing so.
Many are always searching for the truth, but never finding it due to a lack of trust in everything and everyone, what a shame.

Suss 12/05/12 - 08:23 am

Every time Jerry aka WOW goes on an on about his beliefs, I would like to offer up an alternative view and religion for your review and enlightenment during this joyous religious season.
The church of the flying spaghetti monster, formally known as the Pastafarians.

Sam Von Pufendorf
Sam Von Pufendorf 12/05/12 - 09:35 am
fishing or flaming?

Suss, Yup WoW has his way of posting. For a man of few words ... he sure has a bunch of words. However, that is neither here nor there. Since you made no reference to anything of substance concerning this article, I must award points for WoW (see thumbs up) and deduct points for you (see thumbs down) on the assumption you were simply trying to enflame poor Jerry.
Jerry's best response would be NONE, but he won't be able to resist. He will try to remain passive, but slowly wain and throw in some fooling remark about suss thus earning him a thumbs down.
These blogs maybe a good place to start screening foster parents and pairing up foster children with foster parents.
You see who are actual adults and who are adults that just can't help themselves ... they must insight conflict ... which is really not needed in a foster home setting.
Rep Gara, I commend you for finding yourself after traveling what sounds like a long and possibly rough road.
WoW... DON'T DO IT ! ! ! Don't respond to Suss. There is no need and it would serve no purpose. You have your faith and he has his noodle! BE HAPPY!
Suss ... DO IT ! ! ! Go ahead, you can do this thing! Click on the little hyperlink that says "ignore user." If WoW's point of view makes you want to make fun of him for his faith or point of view ... DON'T READ HIS POSTS. Or, if like me, you find some value in what Jerry writes at times read it and make logical and respectful responses. Aren't these some of the traits we would demonstrate in Foster care? Tolerance, understanding, respect?
Like I said, this would be a good place to start a search for new foster parents.

Suss 12/05/12 - 10:25 am

The Pastafarian reference may have been too subtle for some, but they, the Pastafarians would seem to be more of a positive role model for children than an intolerant religious zealot. I thank you for your role as hall monitor and point awarder, I do tolerate intolerance to a point, and that point is to explore and search for a religion that teaches tolerance, understanding, and respect for all and not just the one and only faith that has to be repeatedly forced upon others. Please continue with your self-appointed duties and parenting advice. No flame intended, just religious tolerance at work. The noodles are sacred.

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 12/05/12 - 11:13 am
So who is really the blame?

My point is that yes we do have many kids out on their own and this article says that it's due to no fault of their own. Really? Who has determined this to be the actual case and all these kids are a product of bad parents, which obsolves the kids of any blame?
It's a major problem in Alaska and world wide due to people wanting things their way and laws saying that they all have that right, which leads to absolutely no responcibiulity for ones actions no matter who it is. This is where the many past religious motovated govts have been given free reign to kill every one that they deem differant which can wind up being all of us before it's completed.
The thing is that there are many people out there that would abuse these kids causing more troubles, even worse than they are in now. The second thing is that i have seen kids like these that have gone into families and caused major legal troubles due to their hate against families that show love to others which is something these kids don't have and hate those that do.
It's a gr8 idea to help people when we can, the thing is that who determines who is right for the job? Is that Suss, SVP or WOW? From what i have seen from the state DYFS is this is the most INCOMPITANT USELESS of ALL social services and does absolutely no good other than promote the troubles and cost us major monies for doing nothing. These people promote the case of abuse or mental health issues when there is nothing what so ever to warrant the cases, they create their own jobs and we pay for this BS none stop.
Lets hear what your plans are smart ones since my ideas are of no effect or valid due to my religious beliefs in spite of the common sence truth of whats wrong.
Mankind, nor our wannabe leaders with their continual promises of better things ahead have ever had any lasting effects for the Good of others and how can they as most of them are in the very same hate filled have it your way boat thats sinking us all as a society. Help others when you can, but be very wise, because many of these people are as unreasoning animals, pigs & will turn and rend you for you desire to help them or others causing you both to be worse off than before. As i have said it's every where these results of peoples lives being ruined and i have friends that have had it happen to, all caused by the laws which promote these actions and create jobs for blood suckers which never help anyone other than selves.

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 12/05/12 - 12:10 pm
One more thing

When the Govt. makes it a better deal for girls to have babies out of wedlock and receive free stuff from the govt. while promoting single parents and the further distruction of the family unit which allows moms and dads to escape their responcibilities for their offsprings, then we also have a problem.
When govt. passes laws making it illegal to discipline kids and gives kids the rights to make their own rules to live by which restricts parents influance or ability to raise their kids and they finally give up and either force the kids out or the kids leave on their own, then we also have a problem.
When govt. has services that actually promote mental health or abuse of parents and kids alike so that govt. can take the place of parents who want to raise their kids responcibly but are restricted from doing so due to laws and govt. agencies, then we also have a problem.
Basically what i'm saying is when the govt. wants to destroy the family unit and gain control of parents and children for evil purposes and continuosly passes laws and restrictions against parenting and the family unit of mom and dads raising kids together with respect and obediance to parents and kids alike, then we also have a problem.
We have a problem and it's getting worse due to laws pushing us off the cliff to destroy the family unit and peoples lives for the distruction of Society as a whole and Globally as well.

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