Maui couple who fostered 15 children: ‘They are not mistakes in this world’

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The Pagay family celebrates the adoption of their daughter on Feb. 9, 2021. Duane and Lyn fostered her since she was 9 days old. (Courtesy: Partners in Development Foundation)

HONOLULU (KHON2) — As National Foster Care Awareness Month approaches in May, one Maui couple is being celebrated for their efforts.

The Pagays have fostered 15 children since 2015, adopted one child, and also have three kids of their own. It’s a success story that one Hawaiian nonprofit hopes will inspire others to follow their lead.

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On any given day in Hawaii, there are approximately 1,500 children in foster care, according to Partners in Development Foundation’s Hui Hoʻomalu Foster Care Services.

Duane Pagay was one of them.

Pagay, who was in and out of the foster care system since kindergarten, reunited with his parents in the sixth grade — but his life “took a turn for the worse.” Pagay eventually fell victim to using and selling drugs after growing up in an environment where dealing was a respectable trade. He ended up in prison and even attempted suicide.

Hui Hoʻomalu says foster kids are at a higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, sex exploitation and incarceration.

Despite all odds, Pagay decided to reevaluate his life and set some goals — that’s when he met Jonahlyn (Lyn) and became a family.

Lyn didn’t miss a beat when an opportunity came to foster a newborn in their family: “I’ll take care of your baby,” she told her relative.

After reunifying their first foster child with their parents in 2015, the Pagays underwent extensive home studies and background checks to switch their child-specific license to a general fostering license. They wanted to show children in foster care that, “They are wanted. They are loved. They are not mistakes in this world.”

While fostering children can be a challenge, the Pagays expressed that there are benefits to both sides. For Duane, fostering allows him to continue “growing as a father, as a man, as a husband, as a guidance teacher… and getting these kids back to their own happy place as well as my own.”

Hui Hoʻomalu recruited 55 resource caregivers to temporarily take care of children in foster care during the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2020.

Next month, they will host a virtual information session and giveaways, as they share more experiences on foster care in Hawaii.

Click here for more information, or call (808) 441-1117.

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