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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 22, 2003

Party brightens holidays for Hawai'i foster kids

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

Thousands of smiling kids were running around the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall yesterday, with the trappings of Christmas all around.

Kurt Kipapa, back row with necklace, and Jolyn Kipapa, back row with flower in her hair, of Waimanalo have cared for 14 children over the years, including three of their own, eight whom they have adopted and three from the foster program. Nine of the kids still live with them.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

But amid the joyous scene Stacy Eli was pensive.

Sitting at one of the decorated tables set out as part of the 5th annual Friends of Foster Kids Hawai'i Christmas party, Eli said it was great to see all the kids and their families, but sad to consider the circumstances behind the event.

Eli, a mother to two foster children, thinks it's discouraging that the demand for foster parents in Hawai'i keeps increasing.

Gay Tsukamaki, Executive Director of FOFK, said the desperate need for foster parents is fueled in large part by the state's ice epidemic, which has forced more children into foster care.

"With the extreme drug problem, especially ice, their parents are simply not there for them," Tsukamaki said.

According to FOFK, last year 4,827 children entered foster care in Hawai'i, and on any given day there are almost 2,700 children in the foster care system.

Children go into foster care for many reasons, the most common of which are parental drug abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Eli, a Wai'anae resident, said when she and her husband first attended the FOFK's Christmas party several years ago there was a fraction of the 2,300 foster families that attended yesterday's event.

"It's kind of sad to see all these people," Eli said, gesturing to the throng of parents and children. "Look at how big it's gotten."

But despite all that, there were a lot of happy kids on hand yesterday to enjoy food, games, and a visit from Santa.

Safeway and Times supermarkets donated more than 100 turkeys and all the amenities. Through sponsor donations, every foster kid who showed up yesterday received a gift with his or her name on it.

The food and presents were handed out by the almost 400 volunteers who gave their time yesterday.

Craig Nakanishi, President of FOFK, said the Christmas party required so much work that he didn't sleep for 24 hours leading up to the event.

"We're trying to make life easier for these kids," Nakanishi said as he dodged toddlers running around a nearby Christmas tree.

Jolyn and Kurt Kipapa of Waimanalo have cared for 14 children, three of their own, eight whom they have adopted and three who are part of the foster program. To accommodate a brood of such size, the Kipapas' maintain two homes, a six-bedroom house, and a smaller beachfront residence.

Kurt, a city parks supervisor, said other parents' loss is his gain.

"Look at this little girl," Kipapa said, bouncing his 2-year-old foster baby on his knee. "How could you give up this kid? It's unreal to me."

Of the Kipapas' many children, nine live with them. Jolyn Kipapa wakes up every morning at 4 a.m. to get the family ready for work and school. She said the secret to maintaining a happy family life with so many kids is patience.

Chris Miller, an interior communications technician with the Navy said he and his wife became foster parents because they love children. Miller, who has six children, including two adopted kids, two foster kids and two biological children, said he has come home from two deployments to Bahrain only to find another foster child in his care.

He said his wife, Randalynne, is the strength of his family.

"If I could be a mom and never work for the rest of my life, I would," Randalynne Miller said.

Jolyn Kipapa agrees. "My life revolves around kids," she said. "Anyone who doesn't want their kids, give them to me."

For information on FOFK call 922-5526.

Reach Peter Boylan at 535-8110 or pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.