Family first


POSTED: Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ask Nancy Young about her life and the answer will be a litany of achievements of the 32 children she has mothered.

Young, a retired teacher, and her husband Mike, pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, have opened their home and their hearts to foster children and foreign exchange students in addition to their own three children for the past 44 years.

They've only lost track of two of them.

“;He bought and sold jumbo jets, she was on the pharmaceutical research team that developed Aleve, her daughter became a doctor.”;

The anecdotes flow when the Youngs review the photo gallery on the wall of their Kalihi Valley home.

They don't need photographs to stimulate stories about the last two fledglings about to leave the nest. Misha Oberemok will leave Tuesday to return home to the Ukraine. He has attended Farrington High School for the year under a State Department exchange student program.

Their son Daniel, 18, will graduate from Farrington High School this month and leave for Santa Monica College in the fall to major in theater arts and journalism. The Youngs took care of Daniel's birth mother as a teenager, brought him into their family as an infant and adopted him when he was six.

Their daughter Caprice is an education development agency executive and former Los Angeles school board member and their son Josh is a sound engineer in Florida.

“;I really enjoy kids, their beings,”; said Nancy Young, who taught special needs children here and in California for 23 years. “;I feel that everybody should have an opportunity to reach their potential and I like helping give that opportunity. It's so much fun to see them grow and be ok.”;

The Young household is not big on rules. “;We have only two,”; she said. “;We want to know where they are at all times and what time they are coming in, so if we need each other, we can find them.

“;The kids see us active and involved and learn from that; I wouldn't know how to preach about it.”;

Both parents are active in advocacy efforts for the poor. He is a leader of local interfaith activities. She is housing chairman with Faith Action for Community Equity, which succeeded in an effort to save Kukui Gardens as low-rent housing for the poor. She's a sculptor, working in a studio at the house. “;I'm always reading a book and that's another thing for them to see.”;

She said she's not inclined to be verbal about her parenting philosophy but she's been forced to give it some thought to prepare for a speech at a Thursday honors program in Los Angeles. Daughter Caprice will also be honored by the New Economics for Women program for young women. Young said she will use a theme from the second U.S. President John Adams: “;He said children should be taught ambition, not for fame but for excellence.”;

Mike Young was on his first ministry assignment in Palo Alto in 1965 when a children's hospital physician persuaded them to take in a 3-year-old girl who had been in the hospital so long that she needed to “;re-socialize”; in a family.

Playing with her own daughter, wrestling and tickling, Young tried to bring Sharon into the fun. “;Being touched meant bad things to her, she was frightened. Her mother had burned her with boiling water,”; said Young. In her 10 months with them, Sharon got comfortable with being hugged.

When they moved to Los Angeles, they fostered Vietnamese children who were brought to the United States for medical care by a doctors' organization. In Hawaii, they raised a niece for several years and hosted students from Japan, Sweden and Russia.

“;Whether we were strict or laid back as parents was determined by the youngster,”; said Mike Young, whose experience worked with the Los Angeles juvenile court system affirmed their tradition of family meals. He quotes an anti-recidivism study that found kids whose families eat meals together frequently have a low rate of return to juvenile detention.

They will retire from the child raising phase of their life when Mike Young retires as pastor next month.

That doesn't mean goodbye to their 32 kids and their extended families.

“;I can't let go of people,”; said Nancy Young. She'll be keeping in touch.