Foster children find friends in mentors


POSTED: Monday, July 27, 2009

Jackie Gamboa was 12 when she entered foster care and did not leave until 2003, when she was 18.

“;My parents were from the Philippines. There were no child abuse laws in the Philippines, and what they did there they did here,”; the 23-year-old said.

Gamboa manages Kapiolani Child Protection Center's Peer Mentoring Program. She plans to teach elementary school after earning a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Hawaii next year.

The mentors, all current or former foster children, provide one-on-one assistance and support services under staff supervision to “;mentees”; — new foster kids from ages 6 to 12. “;I always encourage them to do what they want to do,”; Gamboa said.

The mentoring program developed a Survivors Offering Support Line for anyone with questions about foster care or wanting to talk to someone. It is available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 535-7708 on Oahu and toll-free, (888) 535-7790.

Many resources are available now for foster kids and youths aging out of the system at 18, Gamboa said, adding, “;I never had anything like this.”;

Many foster kids now have successful lives, Gamboa said. “;They're really my heroes. They've done so much and had such a difficult time getting out of the system.”;

She and a brother were separated from two sisters in foster care, but now they all live together and have get-togethers with their parents, she said. “;I think we have turned out pretty good.”;

“;Chef”; Christine Georgedes, 32, supervised present and past foster youths in preparing and serving gourmet pupu to guests at a Kapiolani Child Protection Center open house Wednesday.

She was not a foster care child, but said she had a difficult childhood and probably “;fell between the cracks.”;

She volunteers as an adult mentor, saying she wants “;to be what I wanted as a kid: someone to look up to. At the end of the day, that's what's in it for me, if I can make life better for them.”;

She is employed at Whole Foods Market and expects to earn a bachelor's degree in human resources management in one year from UH-Manoa's business college.