Family Support Hawaii (FSH) is a private non-profit organization founded in 1979, with the mission“to support families and communities in providing love and support for our children.”programs are found across West Hawaii and we have offices in Kailua-Kona, Waimea, Kealakekua and Na‘alehu. Over fifty FSH employees, numerous volunteers, and an array of collaborative community groups create the workforce necessary to carry out our mission. FSH is organized into four primary services: Child Welfare/Family Strengthening, Early Childhood Education, Child Development, and Youth Development. Each division has multiple programs that fall within our mission statement and serve to empower children, families and communities.
This past year has been filled with successes and new challenges for Family Support Hawaii. We have managed not only to improve our services to West Hawaii Families, but have done so in a fiscally prudent and responsible way. We have expanded Early Head Start services to include more children and families, especially in Ka‘u. We have greatly expanded program services in Early Intervention to meet community need. And now, we are delivering Fatherhood Initiative groups in three sites. FSH continues to lead the way in creating healthy environments to support families in raising healthy children. However, much more work lies ahead. We are particularly challenged by the impact of drugs on our community and families and are working with community groups to respond to this problem. Above all, we will continue our mission“to support families and communities in providing love and care to our children”
I invite you to continue to partner with us to make sure our children, families and communities continue to get the support they need. We could not do this without your continued support!
Ray Wofford, LSW, MBA
Mike is a dedicated husband and father to three young children. Mike’s parents live nearby and were able to spend time with the children, allowing Mike and his partner time to connect and be alone together from time to time. However, recently Mike’s mother developed a degenerative condition, and she is no longer able to provide the support she did in the past.
As with so many families, that critical component of support had allowed Mike and his partner to stay connected and keep their relationship strong. At first, they were able manage, but as time passed, with their work schedules conflicting, they grew apart. Sometimes days would go by where they barely passed each other on the way to work or to take the kids to school.
With the support of his partner, Mike came to the Fatherhood Initiative group to learn how he could reclaim his relationship and provide the loving home for his children that they deserved. Mike went through a process of resetting his priorities and identifying a healthy balance between his family and his work life. He learned valuable new stress management skills and communication tools to reconnect with his partner and then to work with her to achieve clarity on how they could together achieve a happy family balance. They recently took a vacation together as a family and are planning to move to the mainland where their money will go further and they can dedicate more time to raising their family.
Mike’s participation in the Fatherhood Initiative group provided him the mirror he needed to realize that the life he was leading would lead to burnout, dissatisfaction, disconnection, and possibly divorce. Unless the situation was turned around, there was a real risk of Mike’s being alienated from his children, a devastating prospect for him and them. Now he is not only more focused and productive at work, but also is more available to his family. Providing men like Mike the opportunity and tools to work through these challenges to being an enthusiastic father, partner and employee makes our entire community safer and more productive.
CWS Home Visiting
CWS Home Visiting Services provides services to families, with children under the age of three, involved in the Child Welfare Services (Child Protection) system. We serve biological parents and also foster parents (the term used by Child Welfare Services is Resource Caregivers). We provide support, education, and other services to strengthen a parent or caregiver’s ability to understand a child’s needs and abilities, and to respond to them in a manner that promotes their healthy development. Our contract limits services for any one family to one year, but we have been able to request extensions for biological parents grappling with multiple challenges, and for Resource Caregivers struggling to care for children seriously traumatized by their early childhood environments.
Few of us as children considered ourselves fortunate to have a regular bedtime, with parents who expected us to cooperate with the rules, but we were lucky to know when and where we would sleep, and in whose company we would wake up. The children we serve in the Home Visiting Program often have had no bedtime and no bed to call their own, and the parents we serve often grew up the same way.
One of the young mothers in our program (we’ll call her Emma) was herself placed in foster care long ago, along with her siblings. But they were able to run away to find and reunite with their mother. Emma was proud and happy to report that, though CWS found and returned her siblings to foster care, they were never able to find Emma. She thus grew up homeless on the streets with her mother, who was using drugs and doing what she needed to do to get her next dose. Emma was predictably not very old before she began having children of her own, and despite her best intentions and her deep love for her children, was recreating much of this same lifestyle for them.
CWS intervened and placed the children in foster care, referring the now noncustodial young mother to our program. Partly due to the worker’s dedication, and partly due to Emma’s commitment to do her best for the children she loves, Emma is now in a long-term residential drug treatment program, secure in the knowledge that her children are safe in their foster home, and our program is available to continue to support her when she returns from treatment, ready to resume work to reunify with her children.
Child Development – Early Intervention
Early Intervention Program works with children who have or are at biological risk for developmental delays. Licensed therapists work closely with the family through a coaching model that provides the family with strategies and information to work with their child. All services are delivered in the child’s natural environment – in their home. The Early Intervention teams work collaboratively with other community partners, doctors, nursing services, and programs to ensure that family has all the support they need for their child.
One of our success stories regards a child named Baby Anne, who came to our program when she was two months old after being discharged from the hospital. At birth, she suffered from heart issues and feeding difficulties and had an NG feeding tube, unable to tolerate anything orally. At nine months, she was hospitalized again due to hypovolemic shock which caused her to suffer some brain injury and she regressed in her skills. Doctors did not expect her to walk or gain cognitive and social skills. But with the support of the Program and her family, at 2 1/2 years of age Anne has overcome so much. She conquered the skill of walking, which she loves to do, and has developed her own personality. Anne loves to talk story to people and enjoys anything with Disney princesses.’s such a sweet, spunky little girl with a one-of-a-kind smile!
Early Head Start
Early Head Start program provides home-visiting and center-based services to pregnant women and children from birth to three who live in Kona, Ka‘u, and North Hawaii, offering child development, family development, health, nutrition, and mental wellness services for enrolled families. Activities include home visits, socialization groups, parent-to-parent support, developmental screenings and assessments, health, safety, and nutrition education, as well as therapeutic support for those with special needs. Families are an instrumental part of the program and have multiple opportunities to develop leadership skills by participating in parent trainings, Parent Committees, and Policy Council. Families are supported with referrals and assistance with connecting to needed community resources such as prenatal care, well-child care, public assistance, job training services, family planning services, and child development programs.
One of our enrolled children, nick-named “Potato” or “Teo,” has been enrolled in the Early Head Start Program for two years and just turned three years old on Thanksgiving Day. He is full of energy and yet is one of the most laid back kiddos we have ever met. Prior to a year ago he wasn’t talking much, but once he started talking he hasn’t stopped. He has also made a lot of progress with counting, as his mom works with him daily on it. Teo has always been ahead of the game physically, never stops moving, and is quite the dare devil at times. Some of his favorite things are swimming, Pokémon, cheese, super heroes and doing or wearing anything his big brother does or has. Mom hopes to enroll him in school later next year.
Matteo’s mother, Marbella, has been a huge asset to our program as well. She has served on the EHS Policy Council for three years, and as the Chairperson for two of those years. She has also been an active member of the Family Support Hawaii Board of Directors, has helped out at numerous events, and is always a wonderful advocate for our program. They both will surely be missed as they transition out of the program, but we know that they both will do great things in their next adventures!