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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Wai'anae family receives 'Ohana of the Year' award

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Nakea family of Wai'anae, Child & Family Service's 'Ohana of the Year, includes, from left, Reginald Brown Jr., 23; Carter Nakea, 48, with Shantelle Danahey, 7, on his lap and Elijah Danahey, 5; Annette Moe, 21, with 4-year-old Michael Nakea-Brown on her lap; Renette Nakea, 44; Sierra Nakea, 15; Valerie Brown, 19, with 3-year-old Sarah Danahey on her lap; and Carl Danahey, 10, left foreground, and Xaviera Danahey, 8. Not pictured is Donald Moe, 32.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

The Nakea family's full house

Parents: Carter, 48, is a mason. Renette, 44, is a childcare provider.

Children: Daughter Sierra Nakea, 15; daughter Annette Moe, 21, and son-in-law Donald Moe, 32; daughter Valerie Brown, 19, and son-in-law Reginald Brown Jr., 23; and grandson Michael Nakea-Brown, 4

Foster children: Carl Danahey, 10; Xaviera Danahey, 8; Shantelle Danahey, 7; Elijah Danahey, 5; and Sarah Danahey, 3

The sounds of muffled conversations and peals of children's laughter spill onto the street in front of the Nakea family's Wai'anae home.

Inside, the home bustles with activity: Mom and Dad settle down after a full day's work as the older Nakea kids prepare dinner, watch TV or chat on the phone, and the little ones finish a meal, do homework or play in the living room.

The scene is a sort of organized chaos, and understandably so, with a1l 13 residents at home.

Carter and Renette Nakea have three daughters, ages 15 to 21, two sons-in-law and a 4-year-old grandson, as well as five foster children, all siblings ages 3 to 10. Not to mention their pet dog, three birds and five fishes.

They're a super-sized family and proud of it: "We're a team," Renette Nakea said.

The Nakeas, among a dozen nominees statewide, were named Child & Family Service's 'Ohana of the Year, an award that honors families who have accomplished much with help from the agency.

The award was established in 1984 to "celebrate a family in Hawai'i that is a role model for all families," said agency president and CEO Geri Marullo. "This family ... is a great example of how social services and families should work together."

In October 2001, the Nakeas were referred to Child & Family Service's Post Permanency Services program, which works with families with adopted and long-term or permanent-placement foster children by providing support, training and other help with the transition process.

The Nakeas' foster children had some special needs, and Ellen Brown, an agency child development specialist, said the parents needed help with behavior management techniques that would be effective.

Brown, who has been working with the family since January, nominated them for the award, calling the Nakeas "willing and eager partners" with the agency.

Child & Family Service "helped tremendously," Renette Nakea said.

For more than 20 years, the Nakeas have welcomed a dozen-plus foster children into their home. "I cannot stand to see children suffering," Renette Nakea explained.

"As long as I've known her, I've never heard her say 'no,' " Carter Nakea said.

The Nakeas have always been able to manage with extra bodies to shelter and mouths to feed.

Carter Nakea, a full-time mason, sometimes works seven days a week to make ends meet; the family jokingly brags about its bargain-hunting skills when it comes to shopping for food and clothing.

To accommodate the recent additional family members, friends and neighbors helped Carter Nakea build an extension to their home, now an 8-bedroom, 3 1/2-bath sanctuary.

 •  Child & Family Service

Mission: To strengthen families and foster the healthy development of children

The agency reaches families through programs that include: adoption, alternative education for teens, behavioral healthcare for youth, child-abuse prevention and intervention, domestic-violence shelters and treatment, elder services, employee assistance services, group homes for teens, healthy start for infants, immigrant assistance, individual and family counseling, parenting education and support, sex-abuse education and prevention, and school-based violence prevention.

The agency has 44 service delivery locations statewide.

Programs and services offered by the agency touch the lives of 30,000 families statewide each year.

Established in 1899

Contact: www.cfs-hawaii.org or 681-3500

The Nakeas said that making their situation work and overcoming obstacles is a team effort.

It isn't just the parents who work hard, Renette Nakea emphasized; their older daughters and sons-in-law always offer to lend a hand.

"The commitment that the whole family has and the bond that's there for the children is amazing," Brown said. "The whole family works together as a unit."

But this "support team," Renette Nakea said, also includes social services agencies such as Child & Family Service, schools and teachers, and neighbors.

"Those are your biggest assets because you can't do it alone," she said, "and if this one team member doesn't have an answer, the next one might."

The Nakeas will be honored at a luncheon Nov. 20 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Coral Ballroom.

While the family is grateful for the recognition, Carter and Renette Nakea said what will be even more special to them is officially adopting their five foster children.

"That's the biggest gift," she said. "All of this other stuff is secondary."

Reach Zenaida Serrano Espanol at zespanol@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8174.