Many of our clients have walked a hard road before reaching our program doors. Here they share their personal stories about the lives they were living, the programs that helped them, and how they want to give back to the world.
Maui Youth & Family Services
“I spent my childhood in Oregon, in a very abusive home. People reported it to CPS, but no one would ever do anything. My mom brought us to Hawaii when she moved here for a guy she was dating. I was 12 at that time. After a couple of years, things got really bad with my mom, I got in contact with my dad, who I hadn’t had contact with for 14 years. He was in Atlanta, and I begged him to let me and my brother come live with him because things were so bad with mom. After two weeks of talking to him we moved there. We really didn’t know him, but we were desperate to get out of there. A few months after we arrived, he sexually assaulted me. When I told my step mother the next day, she didn’t believe me. She told me that it’s not true, I must have been hallucinating, because that would never happen. She said I must be crazy for thinking that. So I kept my mouth shut, and I kept my distance from him too. For over a year after that I was in and out of institutions, because I had tried to kill myself. After a year and a half in Atlanta I moved to live with my sister in Oregon. At this point, I was supposed to live with my dad, as my mom had given up her rights to custody for us to him. But he was going to try to put me in foster care to shut me up about what he did to me.
“My mom was still living on Maui with her drug dealer boyfriend, and my little sisters. I went back to Maui to stay with her. We got in a big fight, and I tried to commit suicide again. I was sent to Oahu for treatment, then put in foster care on Maui. I stayed with several different families. With those families I had to deal with a lot and I really didn’t get the help I needed at that time.
“The homes that I was put into, they were families, but they weren’t the best, or safest places, and often the foster kids were treated differently. In one home, the mom would let her kids beat up on the younger ones, and we foster kids would only get to eat the expired foods. One time, they forgot about me when I was in the County Fair parade for ROTC, and I had to walk home. These foster homes weren’t healthy homes.
“I didn’t get the help I needed in any of the foster homes until I was in a Maui Youth & Family Services program home. I was in a really good foster home for the first time. I was 17 by then. They gave me what I needed, and I was in therapy, which is one of the things that I found necessary. When I aged out at 18 they told me I could stay until I was 19, but I decided to go out on my own. I went back to live with my mom, who was in Oregon. But she didn’t have a stable living situation, and I wound up homeless with my little sister. Here on Maui, Eva, my case manager at MYFS, was trying to help me get into the Imua Kakou independent living program, so I came back to Hawaii. Now I live with a friend. My plans are to start school at UHMC in the spring semester; I want to become an RN and also minor in entrepreneurship.
“My case manager Eva, and the clinical director Susan, have made a big impact on me and have been super beneficial for me. They have helped guide me to where I need to be. They helped me get my school transcripts so I could apply for college, they helped me get health insurance. And not just that – through all of that they were trying to get to know me, and to build a relationship with me. They are like my family in a way, they are the people that actually helped me accomplish the goals that I had. When I started working with them, I actually started to get things done. I could count on them, unlike other people in my life. I started getting back on track, I got unstuck.
“The biggest impact this program had on me is that it taught me how to be an independent adult, and how to grow as an individual. It taught me not to give up on myself or others, and to keep pursuing the things I want to pursue.
“MYFS has really made me want to help others. I would love to travel the world and provide healthcare for those who don’t have access to it. I want opportunities to learn about myself and others, and to take on new lessons. Eva has been a big help with that for me, she’s always there to give me that tough love that I need. Especially not having my parents around, giving me that, it really helps to have her support.
“This program would definitely be beneficial for the kids in CPS. It’s beneficial for both the foster parents and the kids. Sometimes kids are angry. Especially as a kid, when you’re like that, you’re not going to know what to do with those feelings, you don’t understand them. In the programs at MYFS, they actually take the time to see how kids are feeling, where they are coming from, why they are being the way they are. I think that’s need a lot more.”
Trinity, age 19
Trinity is enrolled at UHMC and pursuing her educational goals.
“I was born and raised on Maui; I come from being the 9th child of 12. I first went into foster care when I was 4 years old. My dad was very abusive with my older siblings, so me and two other siblings were taken away. Then I got legal guardianship with my grandparents.
“At 14 there were a lot of things going on around me, including the passing of my grandmother. When one of the school-based counselors from MYFS learned I was suicidal, I was put into a therapeutic foster home. Then I had support after that with MYFS’ independent living programs. They helped me find help and resources in the community. Later, I returned to live with my grandpa. But with my grandmother gone, and now was getting too old to take care of me, I was put into a therapeutic foster home again. At 18 went in to Imua Kakou, a support program for youth aging out of the foster care system.
“With the services provided by MYFS, I found that having at least one adult person that I was totally able to trust made the biggest difference. The staff really do care about the people who come into their programs. They actually take their time to get to know their clients, and they care about them not just as clients, but as people in general.
“In the program I learned to make short and long-term goals. And now, as a result of the goal setting I was doing, those things actually happened. I wanted to buy a car, get a job, go to college full time, and start a family. I’m doing all of those things now. My next goal is to make sure I am financially stable and able to buy a brand new house.
“If I didn’t get the help I did, I don’t know how my life would be. I think I would be dead by now. In the past I had tried to commit suicide, and I didn’t know how to reach out for help. Then MYFS found me.”
Aponi continues to move forward in accomplishing her life goals.
Jolie has participated in Project Venture, a prevention program that features community involvement and cultural learning. She says:
“Project Venture has made a difference in my life and how I make my decisions. They have taught me how to rethink everyday situations even the smallest of things. They helped me have different ways of looking at something, to make a decision, or learn how to resolve or avoid a conflict in the future.
“The staff are always willing to help me with anything I might need. They taught me multiple skills like camping etiquette, learning about cultures around the world, and even first aid. They also give me an opportunity to get out of the house, while being safe and learning something new. That is how Project Venture has impacted me and my life.”
“They gave me the guidance I needed growing up.”
Owen participated in Maui Youth & Family Services’ Ho‘ala Mai program while he was in the Kanehoalani Safe House Group Home for boys. He shares how MYFS staff gave him direction and helped him get on track to get his GED and be self-sufficient.
“I grew up in Kihei, and I was always in the ocean. My home life was basically just me and my dad, and he was a drug addict and alcoholic. I met Aunty Fern and Aunty Christy from MYFS when I went into the boys’ home, and I started doing classes with them.
“This program definitely helped me change the group of people I hang out with, and process why I was doing drugs, and why I was making those choices. They gave me the guidance I needed growing up.
“Now, I feel more free, I’m not always looking behind my shoulder, because I might be in trouble. I would definitely do it again.”
Owen, Ho’ala Mai Program Participant 2022
Owen is working full time and in the last phase of completing his GED.
“If I didn’t have this program, I would have gone down a different path, drinking and going out and not caring about life.”
Kanoe shares how she benefitted from participating in Maui Youth & Family Services’ Ho‘ala Mai program.
“I was missing school because I was rebelling against my mom. Then I became involved with Ho‘ala Mai. My counselor pushed me to get back to school, and actually came to my house to help me get up and ready in the morning. It showed me that she really cared. She also helped me with getting school supplies and clothing. I was so happy that she would go above and beyond for me. Her support made me open my eyes to realize that school is really a big part of your life.
Before entering this program I was not a leader, I was always missing school and I made no effort towards doing well. If I didn’t have this program, I would have gone down a different path, drinking and going out and not caring about life, and not caring about my education. Now, I have opened my eyes to see the opportunities out there, and I’m encouraged to continue my education.”
Kanoe, former Ho’ala Mai Program Participant
Today, Kanoe works as a supervisor for a non-profit organization.