Who is that? That could have been me.
I once asked my Aunty Esther if she thought I would have turned out to be who I became, and she responded, "No. You had every reason to fail, but you didn’t." In large measure, she was the reason I did not fail.
But there are many at-risk youths who unfortunately did not grow up with an Aunty Esther in their lives. She nurtured and prodded me. She was caring, firm and loving; and she set high expectations. And when my Uncle Jim detected emotional overload in my voice he handed her the phone and brought her a chair.
Hale Kipa, the state Department of Human Services, Family Court, and the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Division are just some of the agencies that rescue children and youths when their own families cannot provide them a safe haven or solace.
I would like to think that society has moved beyond the time when domestic violence, abuse and other issues are considered private. When I grew up, speaking of family problems was considered "airing one’s dirty laundry," which silenced victims and perpetuated further abuses.
Through our support of community programs, we encourage a sense of humanity that rejects the abuse of our youths, and also reaches out a helping hand to give them hope and help them assimilate into their communities and meet the expectations of society.
Hale Kipa has served 40,000 youths in its community programs in 40 years, and more than 3,000 youths and families each year. Hale Kipa, like the other community-based programs that service our youths, faces the potential broad brush that paints all community programs as dangerous based on a particular case or misleading media reports.
Make no mistake: Hale Kipa adheres to the strictest regulatory standards and inspections. Multiple audits, investigations and unannounced site visits are conducted by state regulators throughout the year. Hale Kipa takes each issue seriously because it does not want the at-risk youths to suffer the consequences.
We cannot model aspirations in isolation. We cannot nurture through separation. We cannot teach values through rejection. We cannot promote inclusiveness by practicing exclusiveness. The problems our youths face cannot be resolved by transferring them out of our neighborhoods and at some future date magically returning them to our communities as model citizens.
As a caring society, we must model and shape the character we want to develop in our youths; provide them the education they need to succeed as functioning individuals; and, rest assured, that when our at-risk youths morph into adulthood, they will become model neighbors. The small, important steps taken at Hale Kipa today are predicated on reaching that goal.
As an advisory member of Hale Kipa, I humbly ask that our community continue the support needed to reshape the lives of our youths.
The community as a whole must teach the values of aloha today, if we are to live aloha tomorrow.