Parenting can feel like a daunting challenge – even for the experienced. Wai‘anae resident Christina Taosoga, would concur. Christina is a mother of four: 28 year-old Nicole, 16 year-old Payton, 14 year-old Hyrum, and 2 year-old Kala. Having already been a mother for 26 years, she had experience to spare when Kala was born, but so much time had passed since she had a newborn, she understandably felt out of practice. That is where INPEACE’s Hi‘ilei home visiting program came in.
A representative of Catholic Charities happened to be visiting new mothers one day at the hospital in which Kala was born. That representative informed Christina that a child development program for new and expecting parents called Hi‘ilei was available to Wai‘anae residents like herself. She jumped at the opportunity. “My youngest before [Kala] was 12 at the time, so it had been a long time since I had a little one. I wasn’t sure if I knew how to do it anymore. So, I was like, ‘Perfect. That’s what I need.’”
“They’ve been with us since he was born, and he’s just thriving,” says Christina. “I really owe so much of it to the program, and to April, especially. She’s just been so good.” April Shiraishi, Christina’s dedicated Parent Educator, has been assigned to the family since shortly after Kala’s birth in April 2019.
Shaking off the “rust” can be intimidating for some, and understandably so. As Christina puts it, “Because the age gap was so big, it’s just been difficult to know where he’s supposed to be. I’ve been a mom for 28 years, but it’s been a while. You know how there’s always new things to learn?”
“I just had to reassure her, help her build her self-confidence, remind her that she knows what she’s doing”April Shiraishi
April, a 10-year veteran at INPEACE, was up to the task. “I just had to reassure her, help her build her self-confidence, remind her that she knows what she’s doing,” says April. Core to the Hi‘ilei process is educating parents to be the best teachers that they can be for their own keiki. That means understanding early cognitive development and learning best parenting practices, recognizing potential signs of disabilities, and tracking developmental milestones. “Christina is great working with Kala. He’s ahead of his milestones in some ways,” says April. “Christina encouraged reading from birth. Not very many other 2 year-olds know words like ‘excavator.’ It’s pretty impressive.”
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. A year after Kala was born, the many effects of Covid-19 began to reveal themselves. All Hi‘ilei activities – traditionally in-person home visits, as well as group connections with multiple families and staff – were transitioned to virtual. The strain of this change alone was enough to negatively impact the attendance of many families. Many, but not the Taosogas. “She is such a dedicated mom. I never have to worry about her missing meetings.”
With just six months of Hi‘ilei left, Christina looks forward to the future. “I do feel like we’ve been empowered as a family, and not just Kala and I, but my other kids and my husband as well. They see how well he’s doing and they get into it too,” says Christina. “It’s just so nice to have someone like April be able to tell you, ‘You’re doing the right thing. You’re doing great.”
If you are interested in participating in INPEACE’s Hi’ilei program or would like more information, please contact Nalani at (808) 696-9300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.