Linda Machado gets a hug from Cyrus "Nui" Yee as her husband, Sanford, looks on. Linda and Sanford Machado have been foster parents since 1981, a practice that the Machados' daughter, Leiandra Yee, and her husband, Curtis, have taken on as well. Cyrus, 2, is the Yees' adopted son.

Family fosters lasting
love for children

Two generations of Machados reach out to needy kids

At 13, Leiandra Yee just couldn't understand why her parents would want to burden their lives -- and hers -- with a foster child.

But today, some two decades later, Yee and her husband are foster parents themselves, carrying on a selfless job that Yee's parents, Sanford and Linda Machado, took up in 1981 as they were facing retirement and yearning for a challenge.

"And it is a challenge," said Linda Machado recently, sitting in her living room and keeping alert eyes on her 2-year-old grandson -- whom Yee adopted -- and his 5-year-old foster brother, recently taken in by Yee and her husband, Curtis.

The couple also has a 7-year-old boy, adopted when he was 4.

Meanwhile, the Machados, of Waipahu, lost count of how many foster children they've taken in: They figure it's been at least one child a year for the past 24 years.

They've never adopted any of their foster children, but they may as well have.

Some of the children stayed in their home for much of their childhoods and still come to holiday gatherings, call them with good news or consult them with problems.

Their first foster child consulted with them, in his mid-20s, when he had marital problems. They helped him through his divorce and got him on the road toward a career with Meadow Gold.

Curtis Yee, left, says the goal of foster parents is to protect the children for whom they care. He is shown here with foster children Charles and Cyrus "Nui," and wife Leiandra.

Their second foster child, whom the Machados took in when he was 6, graduated from a school in Denver for children with behavioral problems. He still calls them more than twice a week from a jail on Maui.

He's slowly getting his life back together after making a big mistake and getting mixed up with the wrong crowd, says Sanford Machado, as he sighs and shakes his head.

"He's got a soft spot in his heart for that kid," Machado's wife whispers, smiling.

For every child that comes into her home, Linda Machado creates a scrapbook. Most, she's given to her foster children once they've left her home.

But some she still has around, holding them for safekeeping.

She pulls out one folder out labeled "Ryan," her former foster child now in the Maui jail.

And as the couple goes through the scrapbook, filled with photos and newspaper clippings, certificates and good grades, their eyes light up, remembering special days and fond memories.

The two get a similar look on their faces when they talk about foster parenting.

"I think it's a passion that we have," Linda Machado said, getting a nod of agreement from her husband. "A lot of people don't understand that passion."

But Curtis, who was adopted himself, and Leiandra Yee do.

"When you're a foster parent, your goal is to protect. You're there to support the reunification process. And you got to know in your heart what your motives are," Curtis Yee said.

The Machados aren't yet sure when they'll retire from foster parenting. They say they've been trying to quit for the past 15 years, but always cave in when they get a call about a child in need.

Most recently, they took in a teenage boy who has since been moved to a residential group home. They still meet with him regularly, though, and take him to appointments or invite him to dinner.

As for Leiandra Yee, she's not too sure whether she'll be as prolific a foster parent as her own parents -- at least for the time being. She says she's expecting a child of her own and her home just isn't big enough for any more children.

For more information on becoming a foster parent, contact Hawaii Behavioral Health at 454-2570 or the Hawaii Foster Parent Association at 263-0920.

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