Helping a Grandmother Rebuild Her ʻOhana


Photo: David OnoueBy David Onoue

Reuniting kamaliʻi with their birth parents or a family member from foster care can be long and arduous. For Tūtū Jackery, the process of uniting her twin grandsons with their ʻohana started before their birth. “The language, cultural barriers, and the prejudice, all of that was being fired at me,” Tūtū said. “I thought I was crazy.”

To help her through this process, EPIC ʻOhana contacted Liliʻuokalani Trust (LT), partners in the Ka Pili ʻOhana (KPO) program.

KPO is a community-based, culturally grounded program designed to achieve better outcomes for Native Hawaiian kamaliʻi in foster care. It’s a collaboration between Child Welfare Services (CWS), LT, EPIC ʻOhana, and various community partners.

After hearing about Tūtū’s story, LT social worker Yuki Lei Tanaka-Pabo met with her at her home in Waiʻanae and explained what LT could offer, such as the Queen and her values, along with a safe, nurturing space for her and the ʻohana to rebuild.

Photo: Tūtū Jackery and the twins with Liliuʻokalani Trust’s Yuki Lei Tanak
Tūtū Jackery and the twins with Liliuʻokalani Trust’s Yuki Lei Tanaka-Pabo. – Photo: Courtesy of Yuki Lei Tanaka

Tanaka-Pabo will never forget the importance of ʻohana to Tūtū. “That was her goal,” she said. “She wanted to restore and rebuild the relationships with her ʻohana.”

Tūtū recalled numerous occasions when the information she received was not pono and could have caused her to lose her grandsons. But LT was at her side to explain things to her in a way she understood.

It took years for the adoption of her grandsons to be finalized, complicated by the fact that there were two fathers and one mother, in addition to the resource caregiver (foster parent).

There were divisions and communication issues, causing situations to escalate. “We cannot do this,” she said, tears rolling down her cheek. “I cannot because I can imagine their foster momma crying for them. How can this happen? This is not pono. So, I asked for a hoʻopono session from LT.”

With encouragement from the hoʻopono team at LT, Tanaka-Pabo facilitated two sessions, once with the resource caregiver and once with one of the twins’ fathers, to make things pono.

The hoʻopono process includes Kūkulu Kumuhana – finding out what is wrong, pule (prayer), kūkulu kumuhana (statement of problem), mahiki, mihi/kala/oki, and pani.

“They love these babies,” Tūtū said. “They took care of these babies, but something went break.” And through hoʻopono, both parties opened the lines of communication to allow for a two-mākua (parent) relationship.

Tūtū happily reported that they now celebrate the twins’ birthday together.

“If Liliʻuokalani Trust didn’t come in, I don’t think I would have my grandsons the way I have them now,” she said.

David Onoue is the manager for communications and marketing at Liliʻuokalani Trust. He was born and raised in Honolulu and holds a master’s degree in magazine, newspaper, & online journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.