In 2022, Friends provided direct assistance to 784 children by fulfilling 1,065 requests for goods or services through our Ho’ola Na Mana’o (HNM) program. Examples of items and services provided include: educational expenses such as school fees, supplies, tuition, laptops, tablets, and printers to facilitate distance learning; self-esteem and character-building activities such as ballet, martial arts, music lessons and instruments, enrichment camps, bicycles, activity sets, and craft/art supplies for children quarantined at home. Our HNM program also provides basic necessities as needed such as beds and bedding, clothing, groceries, and personal hygiene items.
Friends recognizes that children and families, affected by child abuse, experience different levels of trauma and hardship that continue after their interview at the Center. Our Hoʻola Na Mana‘o (HNM) Program’s goal is to provide items or services which extend beyond the “basic needs” with the aim to enhance the healing process for child victims after they leave the Center. Since the inception of the HNM program, Friends has fulfilled requests for over 5,300 children on Oahu.
Friends also maintains the warm, child-friendly atmosphere of the Children’s Justice Center for the more than 1,000 children and family members who walk through the doors each year. Every child and family member are offered light refreshments and after the forensic interview, each child was able to select a comfort item: either a small stuffed animal, book or handmade blanket. Friends also assists families with other ways while at the Center including transportation services and immediate needs such as clothing and items for children entering foster care.
The number of children requesting our assistance increases each year. Friends strives to assist as many children as we can.
A Tribute to Friends of the Children’s Justice Center
As a social worker with the Department of Human Services for the past 25 years, I have worked with families throughout Oahu who have had to face the sad reality of abuse in the family system. Whether it is physical, sexual, or emotional, the pain is felt by all, and it is especially evident with the children. The children’s lives become chaotic, their routine is disrupted, and it is a confusing time for them. Suddenly, there is only one parent and more often than not, the family’s finances are affected. Mothers, and sometimes fathers find themselves now struggling to pay rent, provide food for the family, while wrestling with his or her own emotions surrounding the abuse.
This is where the generosity of the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center (FCJC) plays a major part in helping our families. The children who continue to live with Mom or Dad want some semblance of normalcy, but this sometimes comes at a price that Mom or Dad cannot provide. An example is the family of four little girls, all under the age of 12, whose mother works a fulltime job to support her daughters. The girls recently asked for gift cards to buy new shoes. They have never had new shoes because they go to the local Goodwill or Savers to buy used shoes and then pass it down to the younger sibling. Within a day of requesting for gift cards for these girls, FCJC came through with $50 Pay Less gift cards for each child. They were thrilled! I wish there was some way to capture the joy on their faces when they tried on brand new shoes and walked out of the store with several pairs of shoes and sandals.
This is only one example for which FCJC has helped our children. For the older children, whose tastes, wants, and needs come at a higher cost, FCJC has graciously provided for them too. My girls who have been sexually abused and are dealing with emotional trauma often turn to music to self-soothe and cope during times of extreme stress. FCJC has come through for these girls, purchasing iPods for them. For another teen, so traumatized by the abuse that she needed to complete her school year through home hospital services, FCJC purchased a laptop computer so that she could do her work at home while working with a tutor.
These are just a few examples of how FCJC have become heroes in the eyes of our families and especially for our children. It is not only the material items that have made our children benefit from FCJC’s generosity, but also the belief now that there are good, caring people and organizations in our community who can be trusted and who are non-judgmental, only wanting to help our families. This is, by the far, the most important lesson and I know I speak for all when I say mahalo piha to FCJC for everything they have done for our families.”
—Lori Kanaeholo, Social Worker, Department of Human Services/Child Welfare Services
I value and appreciate what Friends does. Thank you so much to Friends for providing assistance and support by way of food, comfort items and school supplies/backpacks for the children and hospitality to the families and professionals utilizing our center. Often I get so busy working cases at one level, that I forget the victim experience and needs. Friends’ focus on victims’ comfort serves as a reminder of how important they are even if they may be feeling very badly. You make such a big, positive difference!
—Lisa Pang-Saito, Social Worker, Children’s Justice Center of Oahu
It is not only the material items that have made our children benefit from FCJC’s generosity, but also the belief now that there are good, caring people and organizations in our community who can be trusted and who are non-judgmental, only wanting to help our families.”
—Lori Kanaeholo, Social Worker, Department of Human Services/Child Welfare Services
Please note that the names and identifying characteristics of families and children in the stories on this website have been changed to protect their privacy, but the material facts of each story are true.
Breaking Free of Abuse: Sarah’s Story
When Sarah came to the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu, she was 11 years old, yet even at that young age, she looked much older. Her face showed signs of deep emotional distress and fear.
Her uncle, who was living with her family, had been sexually abusing her for nearly three years. He created a life of fear and shame for Sarah. She was afraid to tell anyone. No one in the family suspected anything, including Sarah’s mother, who was working two jobs to help make ends meet.
Sarah was looking for a way to escape and attempted suicide. It was a turning point and provided Sarah a way to break free and find the courage to speak out against her uncle.
At first, her mom found her story too horrific to be true, then she was overwhelmed with guilt for failing to protect her daughter. She also had a hard time turning against her brother-in-law, but it was undeniable.
Sarah’s mother reported the abuse and she and Sarah began to find hope and healing at the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu. She was able to better understand sexual abuse and learn why she needed to be especially supportive of Sarah during this critical period.
Professionals at the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu also helped Sarah to express her feelings about being abused by her own uncle. She was reassured that she had done nothing wrong, but was taken advantage of by someone the family had trusted.
Through the generous support of donors, Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu was able to pay for Sarah to take boxing lessons, which her mom noticed helped Sarah to cope with the anger and reduce her aggression. She says through the lessons, Sarah made new friends and expanded her social network.
Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu went one step further by covering part of the costs for Sarah to attend her junior prom. This too helped build her self-esteem as it allowed her to feel just as beautiful as her classmates and helped her find some normalcy in her life again.
The healing process has progressed in baby steps for Sarah. It has not been easy, but slowly there have been positive changes. It will be a long road to undo the pain of sexual abuse, but both Sarah and her mom are well on their way to healing and recovery.”
Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu went one step further by covering part of the costs for Sarah to attend her junior prom. This too helped build her self-esteem as it allowed her to feel just as beautiful as her classmates and helped her find some normalcy in her life again.”
Looking Forward: David’s Story
You could never tell by looking at him, but David was a victim of severe physical and emotional abuse as a child. Today, he is vibrant, confident and determined to make sure other children in Hawaii have a chance to live a full life.
He suffered the abuse at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend. She believed her boyfriend was providing the discipline her children needed and he helped pay the rent, so she remained silent.
David is the oldest of three children and he often suffered the most abuse, but his younger brother and sister endured severe beatings as well. “We were being tortured in our own home, and we hated our mom for not helping us,” he recalls.
The bruises and broken bones that were said to be from accidents, were so frequent, they could no longer be ignored. A caring neighbor called the Honolulu Police Department and Child Protective Services. The children felt both relief and dread.
“We knew in our hearts that this would be a turning point for us,” David said. “We had been given a chance at life and we wanted so badly to make it work.”
He and his siblings were placed with a foster family. It wasn’t an easy transition, but it provided temporary relief while David, his brother and sister received support and counseling from the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu.
“The people at the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu were kind and compassionate. It was exactly what we needed at the time.”
Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu paid for David to go to camp during spring break. “It was the best gift I could have received,” he said. “I got to get away from the foster home and the feeling of being responsible for my siblings. The camping experience was new and it was the first time I went on a zip line. I felt so free for the first time in my life.”
“I want more people to know that feeling of freedom. Even though we were young, it’s still hard to look back at what happened without feeling the pain, anxiety and fear all over again. I have to keep looking forward and want to help other children so that they never have to experience what I’ve been through.”
Helping Others: Malia’s Story
I can still recall the first time I stepped foot in the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu. There was a serene peace, and everyone seemed to be so nice and caring. It was such a contrast to what I had been experiencing.
I was 13 at the time, and I was angry and hurt about the abuse that I suffered at home.
For some reason, I felt there must have been a reason for my mother to treat me the way she did. There would be times that I would cry, not for myself, but for my mother. I wanted to find an alibi for her, whatever it was. Maybe I wanted to know that my mother was normal and that everything was just a big misunderstanding.
But the pain was too great to keep pretending. Fortunately, a teacher at school had the courage to ask me about my home life. I would usually try to avoid those questions, but this time I shared openly, hoping she might have answers to my situation, that she could even help my mother.
One thing led to another, and I was soon living with an aunty. I felt bad for telling on my mother, but everyone kept telling me that it was the right thing to do.
To this day, I’m still not sure why my mother treated me the way she did. But I do know one thing: I will never forget the day that the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu gave me a gift card for a new dress and shoes. That caring encouraged me to stay on track and finish high school.
Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu also helped me to pay for my senior announcement, student body dues, class dues and graduation fees. The best part was having the cap and gown with a tassel because I was able to participate in my high school graduation and be just like everyone else in my class. It was a feeling I’ll never forget. That had to be one of the turning points in my life.
Knowing there are others who understand how I feel and have gone through similar challenges is a comfort to me. And I know there are many other young girls who face similar types of challenges, wanting to believe that all will be well in time, even if it means having to put up with unexpected outbursts of anger and beatings for no reason.
Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu has been so instrumental in helping me find hope and to address the pain, and I appreciate all that they have done and are doing for me.”