Rays shine bright in Hanama‘ulu

HANAMA‘ULU n Rays of hope in a shadowed world were honored Tuesday at the 2006 Foster Family Recognition Luncheon coordinated by the Kaua‘i foster Care Training Committee.

“You provide a ray of hope in a world otherwise shadowed by issues to the physical and mental health of our children and youth,” Mary Lou Barela, executive director of Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i told the group of about 75 foster families at the Hanama‘ulu Cafe.

“Physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, drug problems, alcohol problems and sexual abuse are just some of the reasons (for) a child being removed from his or her home, and understandably, the child is often afraid, angry, confused and heartbroken from the events that led to their removal,” she said. “But, it is always the case that every child needs a loving home where he or she can be safe and on the road to a better life.”

“I know what you folks are going through,” said Augie T, special guest entertainer for the event.

“I was a foster parent for three years and eventually, the foster child I had became my own,” he said, to rousing applause.

In 2003, 2,886 children were in the foster care system in Hawai‘i, according to a data sheet from the National Foster Parent Association. Most of these children are placed temporarily in foster care due to parental abuse or neglect.

“Our community will continue to profit from your valuable contribution made by our foster parents long after we’re gone,” Barela said. “Once you touch a person’s heart, you leave a lasting imprint that no one can erase.”

“Foster families do a fantastic job of filling the void in children’s lives,” Judge Calvin Murashige said. “We want more people to become involved in foster care.”

Murashige admitted that prior to 1999, he knew little about foster families.

“It’s not an easy job,” he said. “It doesn’t pay well, but you do it for the good of the children.”

Hawai‘i has a total of 1,806 licensed kinship and non-relative foster homes in 2002. The NFPA data sheet states that the average length of stay for children in foster care was 18 months in 2003, and 62 percent of the young people leaving the system were reunited with their birth parents or primary caregivers.

Reflecting on his career in education, Kaua‘i Area Complex Superintendant Daniel Hamada took his turn to thank the foster parents on Kaua‘i.

“I know what you do is for the kids,” he said. “This is a great example of the community coming together to help children, and on behalf of the children in school, I thank you.”

One Kaua‘i couple, Thomas and Laura Lindsey, have been foster parents for at least 15 years. Of their 13 children, four are foster children.

When they agreed to provide foster care for an infant, Kayla, the court asked if they would take her siblings as well, Thomas Lindsey said.

“At that time, Laura had cancer and was told she could not have any more children, so we agreed,” he said.

Kayla’s mom was also a foster child under the Lindseys’ care, said Janice Bond, another foster parent.

“Some one showed us love when we were young. We just want to be able to give back,” Thomas said.

In chatting with Barela, Baptiste said, “There’s a lot of good people here.”

Foster families received appreciation gifts from Aloha Beach Resorts, Banana Patch, Big Save, Brick Oven Pizza, Captain Andy’s Sailing, Child & Family Service, Island Ace & Hardware, Island Soap & Candle Works, Kauai Community Federal Credit Union, Kilauea Bakery, Kilohana Lighting, Kmart, Kong Lung, Lappert’s, Lighthouse Bistro, Long’s Drugstores, Magic Dragon, Nani Kauai Gallery, Safeway, Savage Pearls, Silver Falls Ranch, Skintique, Subway Sandwiches, Wal-Mart, Cynthia Weiss and Island Rentals & Real Estate.

Members of the Kaua‘i Foster Care Training Committee include Al Alamodin, Violet Bucao, Pam Chock, Tom French, Ray Ho, Kirstie Kashima, Phillip Luttrell, Clara Mackler, Cathy Morris, Marcia Ota, Anela Patterson, Mary Santos and Ailene Schwartzlow.

For more information on becoming involved in foster care, contact the DHS office at 274-3303, or visit the National Foster Parent Association website at www.nfpainc.org.

• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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