[removed]Facing Foster Care in Alaska[/removed], a youth-led advocacy group for foster children, recently won a court order requiring the state to loosen its rules on providing free braces for children on Medicaid with dental problems. The judge granted a preliminary injunction against the rule that a child must have a severe condition such as a cleft palate to be considered for the free braces. According to a report from the Anchorage Daily News, however, braces still must be medically necessary for a child to qualify.

"This is an incredibly important issue," said Amanda Metivier, statewide coordinator of Facing Foster Care. "When you’re in foster care, the state is your parent. As a parent, they have a responsibility to make sure your medical needs are cared for."

According to the Anchorage Daily News, the ruling affects more than the 2,000 or so foster children in the state, who are almost all eligible for Medicaid. It applies to all youths under 21 and on Medicaid in Alaska.

Nikole Nelson, the Alaska Legal Services attorney representing Facing Foster Care, told the Anchorage Daily News that hundreds of youths annually are told by their providers they can’t get braces because Medicaid doesn’t cover them, even though the provider thinks they’re medically necessary. Nelson cited sworn statements from three orthodontia providers who said they see a combined total of about 80 such cases a year that they can’t treat for lack of funding, and she says other orthodontists see additional Medicaid patients.

Superior Court Judge William Morse signed an order that the state must pay for orthodontia according to federal code that says the services offered must include, at minimum, "relief of pain and infections, restoration of teeth and maintenance of dental health."