KAILUA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than one thousand children end up in Hawaii’s foster care system every year, many from families that have been torn apart by drugs or violence.
Members of a Waimanalo family are now opening up about their struggle after being separated twice by Child Welfare Services.
Mike and Jessica Hikalea received a proclamation signed by Gov. David Ige during a recent ceremony that was part of National Reunification Month, which is celebrated each June.
1,201 children were placed in foster care in Hawaii in fiscal year 2018, according to the Department of Human Services. Of the 2,694 keiki in foster care state-wide during that time, just 613 were reunified with their families.
The Hikalea family endured a difficult journey to reunification. They celebrated during the “Reconnecting Hearts” event that brought together the different agencies and people that helped them to reunite.
In 2003, Mike and Jessica were both addicted to crystal methamphetamine. Child Welfare Services took their five children and put them in foster care.
“I wouldn’t have quit if they didn’t put my kids in front of me and said, ‘Drugs or your kids?’” recalled Jessica.
The children wound up living with other relatives while their parents took part in drug treatment programs. The family was reunified after nine months, and the couple later had a sixth child.
But after the deaths of his grandparents, Mike says he fell into a deep depression.
“When I was in my darkest days, I became an abusive person,” said Mike. “We got back into ice, and I couldn’t come out of that dark space I was in.”
By this time, some of their children were adults.
"Their daughter actually had turned them in and had called the hotline because she was tired of having to deal with her parents' substance use and the constant domestic violence in the home, and the ongoing neglect to them" said Puafisi Tupola, section administrator for East Oahu Child Welfare Services.
The young children went into the foster care system and again lived with relatives. Their parents returned to drug treatment, and the family was finally reunited after more than two years.
The Hikaleas now rely on their church to help keep them on the right path.
“It’s a great feeling to know that we really did earn their trust back because the older kids went through it for so long that was always a let down. They see us doing good, then relapse,” said Mike.