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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 18, 2006

Smiles mix with tears at party for foster families

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

As Janelle Dumancus, had her hair styled by Kellie Aragon at a party sponsored by Foster Family Programs of Hawai'i yesterday at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall, she traded tearful glances with her biological mother, Mary Pheiffer.

Photos by DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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FOSTER PARENTS NEEDED

Hui Ho'omalu, a program of Partners in Development Foundation, is working with Catholic Charities Hawai'i, Foster Family Programs and the state Department of Human Services to recruit, screen, process, train and license foster families.

Contact Hui Ho'omalu at 441-1117, toll-free at (888) 879-8970 or hui@pidfoundation.net for more information.

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Mother and daughter had not seen each other since 2002.

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Janelle Dumancus, left, took in the party at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall with her foster parents, Roy and Rose Castillo, as well as Samantha Samson-Dumlao, 14. The Castillos are Samson-Dumlao's guardians.

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Mary Pheiffer, left, a volunteer at a holiday party sponsored yesterday by Foster Family Programs of Hawai'i, shares an emotional embrace with her daughter Janelle Dumancus, 16, whom she hadn't seen since 2002.

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As 16-year-old Janelle Dumancus was getting a makeover at yesterday's Foster Family Programs of Hawai'i holiday party, tears began to stream from her eyes.

A woman stood across from her, watching intently, crying as well.

"That's my daughter," said Mary Pheiffer, who was working as a volunteer at the event, as she cupped her mouth and watched a hairstylist braid Janelle's hair. "I haven't seen her since 2002," she said.

For the past three years, Janelle has been living with her foster family in Waipio Gentry after her mother's parental rights were taken away. Pheiffer, who has five other children, said she is comforted to know that Janelle is with a family who cares for her.

"I just want her to be safe," Pheiffer said.

Janelle was among nearly 1,200 foster children and their foster families at yesterday's annual Christmas party at Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. The goal of the event is to bring the community's foster families under one roof and to thank parents for the work they do, said Keith Kuboyama, clinical director with Foster Family Programs.

Kuboyama said the event allows foster children to see other kids in similar situations and realize they are not alone.

Just as the stylist was putting the final spritz of hairspray on Janelle's locks, she jumped from the chair and rushed to hug her mother. The two embraced and cried, without saying a word, for minutes.

"Being in foster care, it's hard," Janelle said. "You see other kids with their families and it's really hard. It brings up your past," she added, her eyes fresh with tears.

But Janelle said she is grateful that there are people like her foster parents, Roy and Rose Castillo, who dedicate their lives to taking care of children in need of a loving home.

The Castillos have been foster parents for 10 years, and more than 100 children have cycled through their home during that time. Rose Castillo, 51, said she feels great satisfaction knowing that she has helped provide a safe and happy home to so many children.

"Children need love and a home," Rose Castillo said. "It's very important that children feel that they are a part of a family."

Castillo, who has two biological children, said her desire to become a foster parent stemmed from working as a nurse and wanting to care for people.

"Foster parent is my full-time job now," she said.

CHILDREN HURTING

Children enter foster care for many different reasons, the most common of which are physical abuse, drug abuse by parents, domestic violence and sexual abuse. Children stay in foster care from one to two years, and the majority may live in several foster homes.

About 2,700 foster children are in the system on any given day, and more families are needed desperately, Kuboyama said.

"There are never enough foster families available," Kuboyama said. He estimated that the state is in need of about 280 more foster homes.

Roy Castillo said he and his wife always urge others to become foster parents.

"There are a lot of kids who need help and don't have the luxuries we have," he said.

The Castillos do both general and emergency foster care, meaning they have children they care for long-term and children who come in and out if they need a home. They are now caring for six children all girls.

'THEY REALLY CARE'

The Castillos also have become parental guardians to some of the children they have fostered. Most recently they became guardians to 14-year-old Samantha Samson-Dumlao.

"Some children need extra care and more stability," Rose Castillo said. She said many foster children often jump from home to home.

Samantha, who has been in four foster homes, said she is grateful to have found parents who love her and want to see her succeed.

Samantha said she also is grateful that she won't have to worry about moving and adjusting to a new family again.

"It's been a year with them," she said. "They really care."

Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.