Should children stay with their parents if they are homeless?

Published: Aug. 14, 2015 at 10:21 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 17, 2015 at 2:00 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Children growing up on the street is unfortunately becoming a common sight across our island.  An issue that has many wondering why these kids are allowed to live this way.

According to the Department of Health Services, being homeless does not equal child abuse and neglect. Unless a child is in someway harmed or in danger, the state believes it's in the child's best interest to stay with parents.

In our Homeless in Hawaii poll we asked folks on Oahu, "Should child protective services allow children to remain with families who choose to live without permanent shelter?"

We'll get to your answers in a moment.  But first we want you to hear the stories of three people. This was and in some cases still is their reality.

"When we were going to school she said make sure nobody found out. Not even our counselors because we could be taken away and that was my biggest fear," said 18-year-old Victoria Cuba.

It was the day of Cuba's 6th grade graduation. Instead of the celebration she was expecting, her mom sat her and her brother down for a talk. She said they had to leave their apartment. Their new home was a shipping container at a junk yard in Pearl City. There, they struggled just to have the basics.

"We actually showered with the hose. You have to worry about food. Have to worry about what other people were saying," said Cuba.

Victoria's mom got the family into another apartment for a few years. But the three of them ended up living in a van when she was laid off.

"My mom did tell us that family was the most important thing and that as long as we were together nothing would happen," said Cuba.

At the age of three, one of Kimo Carvalho's first memories has to do with a scar that to this day is still on his thigh.

" It happened at a crack dealing house with strangers I didn't know. I actually got burned by somebody who was cooking crystal meth and my mom wasn't around," said Carvalho.

Carvalho's mother was only 16-years-old when he was born. A runaway without the means to take care of herself much less a child.

"When I was five CPS, chid protective services intervened on my families behalf so I could then be put into foster care," said Carvalho.

For the past year a father of three we'll call "Mark" has been working to secure housing so he could regain custody of his children.

"It's a big stress. Big hurdle," said Mark.

Child Welfare Services took his kids while they were living with his ex.

"They were not being taken to school. Not really being taken care of. There were other problems," said Mark.

At the time Mark was staying at a hostel. Although he had a job he wasn't making enough.

"I could provide housing for me. I could not afford suitable housing for the whole family to satisfy requirements," said Mark.

A glimpse into the reality of three people whose lives took them down very different paths.

Although Victoria and her family are still homeless she was able to excel at school. She will start her sophopmore year at University of Hawaii at Manoa later this month.

"We live in Hawaii. Family is one of the most important values we live. So if I was taken away from my family I wouldn't be the person I am today. I wouldn't have the motivation to do better," said Cuba.

"I remember just feeling this sense of relief that I was being taken care of," said Carvalho.

After spending a year in foster care Carvalho ended up with his grandparents.  They officially adopted him in the 6th grade. He has had very limited contact with his biological mother since then.

"The whole adoption process was really the best situation for me," said Carvalho

Mark says his experience with the child welfare service wasn't the best.

"It should have been a little bit quicker and they did not have advice like why don't you try this or that. It's like oh you don't have the requirements, that's it," said Mark.

It took one year for Mark to regain full custody of his three children.  On Thursday he and his family moved out of a shelter and into a new apartment. He says he wouldn't have been able to do it without help from the programs at the Institute of Human Services.

"They're not perfect but they work,"said Mark.

Now to the answer of the Homeless in Hawaii poll question.  Only 35 percent of those surveyed feel that children should be taken away from their parents if they're unsheltered.  Fifty-five percent said those families should be allowed to stay together.  Ten percent didn't know.

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