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Reach out and help groups that help children

By Chris Benjamin

LAST UPDATED: 2:05 a.m. HST, Nov 21, 2011

As parents or caregivers, we commit our lives to nurturing and protecting our children. But for our community to thrive, we must extend that care beyond our own children to those who have been dealt a tragic hand and who face emotional, physical or sexual abuse and/or the effects of poverty.

Children do not get to choose their family circumstances, and many come from families with severe substance-abuse problems, while others develop emotional issues that require involvement with state agencies and community-based services.

Fortunately for our community, these children have access to service providers that can help them build a more secure future and ultimately be reunified with their families, if appropriate. A variety of needs calls for several levels of structure and care, including foster care, shelter, transitional and independent living, and therapeutic group settings. All these services help prevent further (and more costly) interventions, such as incarceration or hospitalization, and allow individuals to transition into productive, healthy lives.

Yet the providers of these services need our support. We cannot afford to let social service providers, on whom these children depend, fail because of our indifference. We cannot label these children and abandon them because we see them as potentially dangerous, or too far gone. Many of the children who have been involved in assistance programs become positive contributors to the community as a result of the assistance they received from social service organizations.

It is critical that, as a community, we remain committed to and educated about these types of services because they prevent many of our at-risk youth from making life-altering mistakes.

I am a volunteer with Hale Kipa, a community agency that has served more than 40,000 youth in its 40 years of existence, and an average of 3,000 youth and families annually through its locations on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii island and Kauai. Hale Kipa is just one of many organizations needing community support to help those in need.

It is critical that social services for children are preserved and funded. Without the proper support, we cannot expect our at-risk youth to recover from their experiences and take their place in a productive society.

We must educate ourselves about how to best support a healthy future for our youth so desperately in need, and place a high value on the care and services that are essential to their health and recovery.

There are many ways to help. Reach out to organizations with your support, contact legislators to voice your opinions, and stay engaged in your community. Together we can make a difference for Hawaii's youth by providing them with options for the care they need.

Chris Benjamin, president of A&B Land Group, wrote this in his capacity as vice chairman of the Hale Kipa Capital Campaign.

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