An Anchorage lawmaker is being honored by the federal government for years of work to help foster youth and families.

State Rep. Les Gara will receive a 2018 Adoption Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during a Nov. 13 ceremony in Washington, D.C., his office said in a statement.

Gara was nominated for the award by Amanda Metivier, who founded the foster youth advocacy and support group Facing Foster Care in Alaska. Both Gara and Metivier grew up in foster care.

"Les Gara has dedicated his legislative career to improving outcomes for children and families in Alaska's child welfare system. He has always been focused on ensuring foster youth have opportunities for a better life and finding them a loving and permanent home," Metivier said.

Gara has helped pass legislation extending foster care to age 21, as well as reverse a ban that once prevented youth who chose to leave foster care from returning.

In June, Gov. Bill Walker signed House Bill 151, a piece of legislation that reforms Alaska’s foster care system.

The Adoption Excellence Award program was created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1997 to recognize outstanding accomplishments in achieving permanency for America's children waiting in foster care.

"Every child deserves a family, so they can feel safe, supported and loved," Gara said. "We should work to make sure they have the same opportunities and success in life as their peers. That is both a moral imperative and saves state spending on youth who do not succeed, or end up in jail or homeless."

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