WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 16-year-old Waimanalo boy charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing of his foster mother Saturday is suspected to have two types of mental illness, and his father and grandfather went to prison, relatives said.
Prosecutors are still deciding whether to ask a Family Court judge to allow him to be tried as an adult. Hawaii News Now is not releasing the boy’s name because he’s a juvenile.
Sources said for the last nine years or so, the boy was a foster child with Jolyn Kipapa and her family in Waimanalo.
"He has a condition that is passed along through his family on his father’s side, schizophrenia, bi-polar. The dad has been locked up many times," said his biological mother, who said she lost custody of him about 14 years ago.
She said she believes the boy suffers from those two mental disorders, just like his grandfather, who served time in prison for murder, and his father, who's in prison on the Big Island awaiting trial in a felony drug dealing case. The boy’s aunt – his father’s sister – told Hawaii News Now she too suffers from mental illness, and was institutionalized. The boy's grandfather said he was in prison from 1973 to 1992 for murder and also was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.
Hawaii News Now is not naming the family members of the boy to protect his identity.
An attorney from the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice said foster families dealing with mentally ill kids have to navigate sometimes slow bureaucracies at two state departments: Human Services that handles foster care and Health that treats the mentally ill.
"It's the difficulty in two departments communicating with each other," said Victor Geminiani, the executive director of the nonprofit group.
"The process can be very slow and grinding so that the result may not be a timely result, too late to really deal with the child's downward spiral. Or may not be appropriate. Maybe group therapy or therapy once a week as opposed to more intensive therapy that's necessary," Geminiani said.
The Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice sued the state last fall on behalf of foster families because the state had not raised their pay since 1991. At $529 a month per month per child, the state’s payment to foster families was the lowest in the country in spite of Hawaii’s high cost of living, Geminiani said. The state has since raised the monthly payments to anywhere from $590 to $680 per child, depending on their age, he said. But Geminiani said his organization is still pursuing the lawsuit.
Marya Grambs, who is executive director of Mental health America of Hawaii, said, "When people are very, very ill, it's very hard to take care of them."
"For teenagers, it's doubly hard because they are so young and they are vulnerable. And many times they come from families that do not protect them, and traumatize them," Grambs said.
Grambs also worried that people will worry about mentally ill teens being violent, when few of them are.
"When we are talking about acutely ill or mentally ill children or adults, violence is rarely the outcome. It gets all the headlines. It's in the news and it’s tragic. But suicide and suicide attempts are far more likely," Grambs said.
Grambs said just four percent of the violent crime in the country is committed by the mentally ill.