Contact: Charles Siler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NEW LAW EMPOWERS ALASKA COMMUNITIES TO HELP FAMILIES IN CRISIS
BILL CREATING EARLY INTERVENTION ALTERNATIVE SIGNED INTO LAW
Families experiencing a short-term crisis in Alaska will have a new place to turn for help, their own communities, thanks to a bill just signed by Gov. Bill Walker that enjoyed bi-partisan support in the Legislature. The bill is modeled after a program known as “Safe Families for Children” which has successfully helped tens of thousands of families across the country navigate temporary problems since 2002.
SB 180 creates a safe haven for children in need, providing a stable environment that shields them from neglect while their families resolve issues ranging from unemployment, homelessness, hospitalization, or even brief incarceration. One of the major things that makes this program different from foster care is that the parents retain full rights throughout the process and the state is uninvolved. This enables communities to address issues earlier than the state legally could, and it allows families to solve problems before they get out of control, resulting in faster family reunifications.
“Unfortunately, too many children in Alaska needlessly enter foster care because their families don’t have a supportive community to turn to for help,” said Sen. Cathy Giessel, the sponsor of SB 180 and champion of Alaska’s children.
“The Safe Families program has shown that it is possible to organize the local community to come to the aid of families in crisis before problems get out of control. I’m so proud of SB 180 and am excited about the positive impact it will have in the lives of children and families in our state.”
While foster care is a vital tool in protecting Alaska’s children, many social workers are burdened with huge and unmanageable caseloads, leaving children exposed. This bill will allow families in need to connect with trained and vetted host families to resolve their own problems, which will lighten the load for state social workers who can now focus on more serious cases involving abusive neglect and physical or sexual abuse.
Local child and family advocates also celebrated the bill’s signing. Beacon Hill, an Anchorage child welfare ministry, is the first organization to implement Safe Families in Alaska and was instrumental in the passage of SB 180.
“We are excited about what God is doing in Alaska through Safe Families for Children,” said Charity Carmody, President of Beacon Hill.
“Since we began hosting children just four months ago, 12 children have been placed with Safe Families for Children and did not have to enter foster care. The Safe Families movement is growing quickly in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley, and we look forward to bringing the program to other areas of the state through the process created by SB 180.”
Rep. Wes Keller (R – Dist. 10) and Rep. Charisse Millett (R – Dist. 25) played critical roles in SB 180’s passage, sponsoring the House companion, HB 201, and then co-sponsoring SB 180 when it reached the House where they were instrumental in shepherding the bill through their chamber.
Joining Giessel, Keller, and Millett were co-sponsors Senate President Kevin Meyer (R – Dist. M), Senate Majority Leader John Coghill (R – Dist. B), Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner (D – Dist. I), and Senators Peter Micciche (R – Dist. O), Click Bishop (R – Dist. C), Anna MacKinnon (R – Dist. G), Bert Stedman (R – Dist. R), Lesil McGuire (R – Dist. L), and Mia Costello (R – Dist. K).
In the House they were joined by co-sponsors Representatives Gabrielle LeDoux (R – Dist. 15), Les Gara (D – Dist. 20), and Ivy Spohnholz (D – Dist. 16).