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Alaska in need of foster care parents

By KTVA CBS 11 News 4:18 PM May 4, 2012

60 percent of the 1,600 children in state care are Alaska Native

ALASKA – There are currently 1,600 children in out-of-home care in Alaska.

When family members aren’t available, unrelated foster parents are needed.

The primary mission of the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) is to get kids back with their parents, but during this process foster parents are essential.

“We try and work with the family while the child, or children, stay in their home by providing services and sort of wrapping a safety net around them. The last option is to remove them from their family, but in many cases that is what is necessary,” said Christy Lawton, Director for OCS.

Unfortunately 60 percent of the 1,600 children in state care are Alaska Native.

Federal law requires the state of Alaska to go above and beyond to find an appropriate foster family for Alaska Native children.

“If they have to be removed, then they have to be placed with a relative, and if not a relative then an Alaska Native foster home that the tribe approves,” said Lawton.

OCS said 50 percent of the children it serves will ultimately be reunified and returned home. The other 50 percent might be adopted or helped to transition to independent living.

According to OCS, the number of children in foster care has slowly declined over the past five years. New methods of keeping kids with their parents while problems are sorted out have helped to reduce the figure from around 2,000 children at any one time to 1,600.

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