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Breaking News

May is National Foster Care month

“The success of our country tomorrow depends on the well-being of our children today. As a nation, we have a duty to empower each child so they have the same sense of promise and possibility as any other young person — no matter who they are, where they come from, or what their circumstances are. Foster youth deserve the security and strong support structures they need to achieve their dreams. During National Foster Care Month, we lift up our Nation’s foster children, celebrate the selfless men and women who embrace children in the foster care system, and we recommit to helping more children find permanency so they can feel stable, grounded, and free to fulfill their limitless potential.” — President Barack Obama’s opening paragraph from his Presidential Proclamation for National Foster Care Month given April 28, 2016.

President Obama knows that the future of our nation and world depend upon adults who are educated, balanced, and have positive relationships with others. This is best learned in family situations, rather than in institutions. In his administration he has been supportive of funding for foster families, and extending the funding for children who used to age out at age 18. What child can survive these days alone, without a family or some help at age 18?

The corner has covered the Y.E.S. (Hawaii Youth Empowerment and Success) and HI HOPES programs that Hale Opio Kauai (HOK) provides for children that have been in foster care, so they can still continue to receive benefits. It’s a voluntary program and includes some supervision and a lot of support.

But there is a great need for younger children to find foster parents as well, especially on Kauai. There are different kinds of needs, and different kinds of programs that HOK and other organizations provide. This article will focus on HOK. I spoke with Tiffany Marrotte, a Professional Parent for HOK. She told me about the programs that she is involved with.

The Transitional Family Housing Program ultimately gets funding from the federal government under the Department of Health. It sponsors the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Department which is served on Kauai by Kauai Family Guidance. They work with Child Welfare Services which used to be called Child Protective Services. Now it does more than just protect and remove children from unsafe situations. It also provides ways to help children feel safe, happy, and get their needs met.

KFG refers students who have some mental health and behavior issues to the Transitional Family Housing Program. HOK has served children from ages 6-20. When children arrive they come with a program, and their families have a treatment plan at home as well. Certain goals need to be accomplished by both sides before the children may be returned to their families.

Once in the program children are individually assessed as to their needs, and what their rewards and consequences will be. What will motivate the child to learn the tasks required? What consequences will best help the child understand the seriousness of learning these tasks? Earning time to play with electronic devices is a big motivator, and losing those privileges is a frequent consequence. She says that each day the kids start out with a clean slate.

Tiffany’s goal is that the children understand, “When you act out, we may raise our voice, but we won’t hurt you, but you still must be responsible.” In the past some of the children were abused, and they must learn to feel safe and trusting again.

HOK also offers Emergency Shelter. They receive referrals of children from the Crisis Mobile Unit under Child and Family Services. If you know a child that you think is in immediate crisis you can call 911 or CMO at 1-800-753-6879.

This would be for attempted or threatened suicides, alcohol poisoning, drug overdosing, active abuse, bulimia, and other harmful situations. CMO will send out a local unit to assess. If they can find a safe family member, and the child is stable, they may go home. If they are physically ill or damaged, they may stay in the hospital. For long term care they would go to Queens on Oahu, or if they need some safe time until things can get worked out, they go to HOK’s emergency shelter. Don’t be afraid to call. Doctors, ministers, school staff, friends and family all call. Better safe than sorry. Let the professionals assess the danger. Call the emergency shelter at 635-0210.

Another program that President Obama would like is HOK’s Independent Living Program from folks from 17-22. These students can do most things on their own, but this helps them add to self-supporting skills and finding their place in life. They open bank accounts, learn about budgeting, and get all their important personal documents together, like insurance and Social Security cards.

Kevin Lowry is the supervisor of all these programs. He has to visit each home and all members once a week and meet with all the foster parents once a week. He is on call 24/7 to support them. He teaches the programs required for becoming foster parents. And he would like more of them.

Our county is having a hard time placing children who need good homes. I asked him the criteria for being a good foster parent and he said, “They have to have a passion for working with children. Kids are forming their personalities, so parents need to be open minded and open hearted. It’s an all-consuming job, but HOK does also offer good financial compensation. The state accepts single and gay parents who have made wonderful parents in the past.”

“First would be for foster parents to contact me at 245-2873. I would do a phone interview, and then there would be a personal interview. I would let them know of the home requirements, but nothing moves forward until they pass a background check. No felonies need apply. Some misdemeanors that happened many years ago could be accepted by the state. If they pass, then there are classes, supervision, and lists of resources offered. Foster parents get 46 cents a mile for gasoline to required meetings and appointments for themselves and their children. We really could use the help, Kauai.”

I just have to add that the rewards in terms of love and watching a child change because of your consistent caring, respect, hope and love are literally priceless. Maybe it’s for you.

•••

Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org For more information about Hale Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org.

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