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Teens get primer on leaving foster system

The foster care system usually ends its support for youths when they turn 18. In anticipation of this, the state Judiciary partnered last month with HI HOPES Hawaii (Foster Youth Board) to invite foster care teens and young adult graduates to Dream Day, where they can access information and services to help them successfully begin their new lives.

“Imagine growing up without your parents or family and, at 18, being thrust into the world to figure out on your own what to do next,” said Maui District Family Court Judge Adrianne Heely. “We created Dream Day to share resources with the teens and young adults so they know about available opportunities and the many organizations ready to help them. We also wanted to give them a chance to network with others who grew up in similar circumstances so they can learn from one another.”

This year’s event was held at Hoapili Hale (Wailuku Courthouse) and was attended by young people from Maui, Molokai and Lanai. They talked with representatives from the Office of Youth Services, Department of Human Services, Child Welfare Services, and Maui Police Department’s KALO Program (family strengthening).

The University of Hawaii Maui College’s Kuina Program provided information on free career counseling, vocational education and training, housing and transportation assistance. Hui No Ke Ola Pono’s program Kealahoimai engaged with the youths about full scholarship opportunities for part-Hawaiians interested in obtaining certificates in nursing; dental assistance, front office; aquaponics; agriculture; and business.

Also present were Department of Health Maui Family Guidance Center (mental health services); Maui Youth & Family Service (substance abuse and shelter support); Maui Job Corps; Department of Attorney General (legal rights); Department of Prosecuting Attorney; Office of the Public Defender; restorative justice providers; and guardians ad litem and social workers from the Judiciary.

The guest speaker for Maui County’s Dream Day was from the Moku of Molokai, Ipolani Mae-Pescaia. She was the first president of the HI HOPES board and was instrumental in drafting legislation for the Rights of Children in Foster Care.

“I especially want to thank The Friends of the Children’s Justice Center, HI HOPES board and EPIC OHANA for securing the guest speakers and providing small gifts and lucky drawing prizes for the attendees,” said Judge Heely. “Everyone left with a small gift or door prize, along with the information to help them with their future endeavors.”