The Enhanced Healthy Start program ended at June 30, 2015 with the expiration of the contract that had been delivered by Family Support Hawaii for seven years. In its place, the Department of Human Services invited proposals for a program named Home Visiting Services (HVS), and Family Support Hawaii was awarded the contract as the West Hawaii provider. The two programs are very similar, and HVS continues to serve families at no cost to them as far north as Kapa’au and as far south as Pahala.
Home Visiting Services are available to families with children under the age of 3 that are involved with Child Welfare Services (CWS), Voluntary Case Management (VCM) or Family Strengthening Services (FSS). In addition to these families, we can also serve foster parents who are providing care for children in the system. We serve foster parents only until the children are reunified with their biological parents, and then we work with the biological family.
The Home Visiting Services Program is designed to help families close their child protection cases through resolution of risk factors. We provide our services in the family home through a small team of people including a Home Visitor and a Family Counselor. Staff members provide information and build skills, promote attachment, suggest practical resources, and help improve family relationships.
A father of a 1-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son has seen where both good and poor choices lead. This young man, a decorated Army veteran, came back from Afghanistan changed by his experiences, where he had seen more than a fair share of the darkest side of war. To numb the thoughts of war, he began to use meth. After the birth of his son, Child Welfare Services took custody of his two children when the newborn and mother tested positive for meth.
This was a very low point in their lives, the perfect place to begin to build a new and stronger foundation. Father was referred to and enrolled in the West Hawaii Fatherhood Initiative and, with the support of the program, began identifying some better choices that would be necessary for reunification with his children. These choices were going to take a great deal of effort, commitment and hard work not only through our program but also through other agencies and their services to address each of the issues he faced. The same process was needed for the mother of the children, and she also began her hard work.
They are enrolled in many programs and must attend many meetings every week to accomplish their goals. The couple has so far made startling progress, and they are both dedicated to working hard to reunite their family.
This couple is expected to continue to grow and reach their goal of reunification and thereby become a shining example of what dedication, effort, and love can accomplish, given support such as that offered by our program. Perhaps best of all, their achievements will serve as an example and an inspiration to other people in similar situations.
The outdoor environment offers necessary and unique experiences for infants and toddlers. Being outside also offers unique sensory experiences for young children that can stimulate their development in all areas. Expanding exploration and learning experiences to the outdoor environment provides valuable opportunities for young children that can stimulate thinking and problem solving in interesting and creative ways. This summer, the Early Head Start program spent time revitalizing its outdoor play space at our infant and toddler center at Kealakehe High School. The program would like to extend a big MAHALO to Turf Hawaii for their generous donation of sod, dirt, and manpower to help us create a beautiful, park-like setting for our infants and toddlers at the center. We are highly appreciative!! The children are enjoying the new grass as they crawl, run, play, and explore their outside environment!
We continue to serve children with special needs and their families. One example is “Jonh,” who was born last year with a heart condition that requires multiple open heart surgeries. He underwent his first open heart surgery in San Diego at 4 days old; followed by a second surgery at 8 months of age, then an unexpected one seven months later. Additional surgeries are scheduled, all of which will take place in San Diego. He has very supportive and dedicated parents, and has made progress. He is now 17 months of age, and recently took his first steps independently. Between surgeries, Josiah’s progress is sustained and strengthened by EIS. Josiah receives services from our Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists. All services are provided in their home where parents can actively participate with all visits. Both John’s family and our therapists work collaboratively to support his development.
We are very excited about the new program for youth in the Ocean View/Ka’u area. Our goals are to identify “youth-at-risk” and work with them to create their “circle of support” and then guide them to dream and identify what their passions are. Led by the youth, we hope to create opportunities to develop their gifts, whether it is in the arts, music, voice, computers, community leadership or other avenues. Youth in Ocean View don’t participate in after school programs or school-based enrichment activities due to a lack of transportation; so with a small grant from the Office of Youth Services, we are bringing the activities to them.
Our work on the street continues as we see more runaway and homeless youth sleeping on Ali’i Drive and the pier engaging in very risky behaviors. We are working closely with the Community Police Team in Kailua Village and recently hired a part-time street outreach worker, who was once a runaway/homeless youth in Kona and turned her life around. She connects with the youth on the street and they freely talk to her about their situations. She has been busy providing food, hygiene items, clothing, and referrals to services when needed. We are currently seeking funding for a Youth Services Drop-In Center, Hale Maluhia, where youth can come in off the streets from 3:00 – 7:00pm, take a shower, have a hot meal, store their bags, receive medical care, prep for their GED, and just have a place to “hang out.” Eventually we would like to expand to having an overnight shelter for those in crisis and/or those who are ready to get off the street. We hear many stories on the streets and our awareness is growing about sex trafficking and drug use among our homeless youth. Meeting these needs will continue to pose a challenge in the coming years.
Another project is our program at Kahalu’u Housing. We were able to provide a small grant to purchase shelving units for their volunteer reading program and just received another grant from Young Brothers to purchase developmentally appropriate toys and books for their volunteer on-site pre-school. We have also been working with young mothers by training them to run their own business. They recently formed the Marshallese Handicraft Collective and will be making woven products and jewelry to sell at various craft fairs and online. They meet weekly to learn the business part and then another day to make their products. The West Hawaii Community Health Center provided the start-up funding for materials.
Teresa F. Hughes Trust
Family Support Hawai‘i was granted a $20,000 award from the Teresa F. Hughes Trust for their “Persons-in-Need” grants to community based service organizations. We, in turn, distribute these funds in the form of financial assistance to eligible adults (over age 70) and children.
To date, examples of our support to individuals include:
- Paid tuition for preschool for three children of a single mom
- Purchase diapers, wipes, and food for a single mom and her three children after being displaced from their home by violence
- Assistance with funeral costs for a child
- Purchase clothes and food for a 14-year-old runaway
- Paid for ukulele and lessons for a 16-year-old foster child
- Purchased an adaptive chair for a medically fragile 2-year-old
- Purchased a refrigerator for a 93-year-old man
- Helped pay for medical services for a 90-year-old woman
- Purchased a computer for a 17-year-old single mom to continue her education
- Helped pay for a solar freezer for a 71-year-old woman who lives off the grid