foster care Maui

There are approximately 1,600 children in Hawai’i who are in the Foster Care System, out of that total roughly 230 of the children are in Maui County. Nearly 50% of the children are of Native Hawaiian descent. Hui Ho’omalu is a program of Partners in Development Foundation who recruit, train, and assess all applicants to become Resource Caregivers (foster parents) with a General License in Hawai’i. Most families who consider becoming Resource Caregivers wonder if it is hard and what the process is like. The following is a take on the journey of one local family’s licensing process to become Resource Caregivers through my work as the Hui Ho’omalu Community Liaison for Maui County.

I first met Jacob Darr and Shyma May at Paia Bay Coffee Bar for an Initial Visit (IV). In the process of becoming a Resource Caregiver, the IV is when the Community Liaison meets with the interested general-licensed applicant(s) to go over the paperwork and the process of becoming a Resource Caregiver. Jacob and Shyma are Haiku residents, and both are born and raised on Maui. Jacob likes to go by “Jake” and he is a lifeguard and Shyma is a waitress/bartender. The couple expressed a deep meaning and understanding of why they wanted to become Resource Caregivers. When I asked why they wanted to foster, Jacob shared that as a lifeguard he sees a lot. He stated, “I want to create a safe place for a child.” Similarly, Shyma also shared that she wanted the child to have “a positive outlook on life.” 

The family decided to move forward in the licensing process at our IV (This is not mandatory and the applicant(s) usually have the option of taking the application home or declining to move forward). Jake and Shyma at IV also signed up for the HANAI training (mandatory pre-service training). They scheduled their fingerprints which is a requirement, their physicals, and TB tests. After collecting all documents, and getting their background results, I scheduled a home study (HS). At the HS the family is interviewed in their home and the assessor ensures the family’s home environment is safe. As an assessor, I ask myself, “Would I leave my child in this home, with this family?” And in this case the answer was, “yes.” 

After the Home Study process, if the family meets all licensing requirements, their file is “turned over” to the Department of Human Services (DHS), Child Welfare Unit. DHS reviews the file, completes a final home visit, and decides whether or not to award a General License to the applicant(s). If awarded, the applicant is eligible for foster care placement. All families and their journeys in moving forward with becoming resource caregivers are different. At Hui Ho’omalu we attempt to turn over somewhere in between sixty to ninety days after the application packet is received. In Jacob and Shyma’s situation they turned in their application in November, 2019 and their file was turned over in July, 2020. 

Jacob and Shyma wanted to care for a boy or girl within the ages of four to ten. They preferred a school-aged child because they both work full time and they are also beekeepers and owners of ’Ohana Apiary. Presently the family has been caring for a little girl for the past six months. The couple reported that their current child in foster care is “wonderful” and that they have met the birth mother. The family is now in the reunification process. During this process, children start visiting with their birth families more frequently. Shyma shared that their placement at this time is spending weekdays with her birth mother, but she spends weekends with Jacob and Shyma. Overall, Jacob and Shyma are happy that they became Resource Caregivers and they encourage others to also get involved in helping children in foster care. If you would like to learn more about helping children in Foster Care contact Mary Leyva at 808-291-4063, visit www.pidf.org, or like us on Facebook @HuiHoomalu. 

Image Credit: Mary Leyva

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Mary Leyva is a Community Liaison II with Hui Ho’omalu a program of Partners In Development Foundation (PIDF). She fell in love with nonprofits nineteen years ago after graduating with her BS in Political Science and is now happy spending her days finding the right families for the children of Maui one activity at a time.

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