Supporting local families

The mission of Parents and Children Together (PACT) is to provide a safe haven for children, allowing children to visit with their non-custodial parents or to transition from one parent to the other.

Promoting a healthy connection between children and their parents is a necessity and can go a long way in terms of a child’s ability to grow and develop interpersonal and problem solving skills, said Marie Vorsino, Vice President of Intervention Programs at PACT Kauai.

“Our family visitation center provides an opportunity for court-ordered, non-custodial parents to have a safe and family-like home setting to visit with their children,” Vorsino said. “They can play games, they can have a meal, it’s completely monitored and completely supervised. It’s a really nice opportunity for parents and children to build that relationship in a safe and neutral environment.”

PACT is a family service agency that assists over 18,000 people a year. These programs are available to struggling families to allow parents to work through their problems together, rather than continue to argue and break away from one another.

The organization started in 1968 as a single program in Kalihi, and has grown into an organization that helps many families across the state every year. It now offers services on Maui, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island, as well as Oahu and Kauai.

PACT offers facilities such as family centers, domestic violence shelters and transitional housing to residents statewide.

Vorsino said that more and more families are taking part in the program given its success over the years.

“It’s definitely common (on Kauai). We’re seeing more families in our visitation center. You can have two parents who may not be getting along who can come in and do voluntary family visitation but we’ve seen an uptick in our family visitations,” she said. “These families might have had issues between the parents in terms of domestic violence or restraining orders.”

There are two programs on Kauai: a family visitation center and Intensive Support Services Program.

The Intensive Support Services Program assists families whose children have serious emotional, social and behavioral challenges. Services are designed to increase parental participation and include Multisystemic Therapy (MST), an intervention model for children with willful misconduct disorder. MST helps the family to supervise and support their child’s adjustment in the community. Functional Family Therapy (FFT) is an evidence-based family treatment system for youth experiencing one of a wide range of externalizing behavior disorders along with family problems.

Proceeds from sales of today’s special TGI Keiki Day edition benefit PACT services to continue the work that they do on Kauai and throughout the state.

The special-edition papers are also sold across the state and copies will be made available to students in classrooms statewide as gifts from sponsors and donors.

Other programs that PACT offers to families in Hawaii include early childhood education, mental health support, youth development and community building. As a private nonprofit organization, PACT gets funding from federal and state contracts — and donations from private gifts and grants.

Keiki Day is PACT’s largest fundraising event of the year and funding can be used wherever it is needed most. This is critical to fill in the gaps and cover key programs that may not otherwise have funding. Keiki Day has raised approximately $60,000 for PACT in each of the last few years.

One aspect of Keiki Day that shouldn’t be overlooked is getting the children involved too with essay and poster contests. This year, the essay contest winners were Anna Hawks, Lilly Olpin and Katelyn Lopes. The poster contest winners were Nohea Balai and Katie Lambden.

At the end of the day, PACT’s mission isn’t to make money: it’s about keeping families together.

“We have families that stay with us quite a long time and we see improvements in how the non-custodial parent interacts with their child,” Vorsino said.

Youth and families needing service from the MST therapist are screened and referred to PACT through family guidance centers located around the state. Once contact is made, therapists work wherever necessary to accomplish their goal.

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