Updated: Dec 8, 2021
As National Adoption Month comes to an end, adoption advocates remind us that many children are still hoping for a permanent family and that adoption is still a vital option for many birth parents, children, and prospective adoptive families. “We are mourning the unnecessary and tragic death of Isabella Ariel Kalua while keeping our hearts open to the many children who still wait for permanency through adoption” says Kristine Altwies, CEO of Hawaii’s only locally owned non profit adoption agency. Altwies’ agency, A Family Tree, was gearing up for a month of adoption related activities and had recently rebranded to better serve Hawai’i’s keiki. Previously known as Hawaii International Child, the new agency, A Family Tree, focuses on local and domestic adoption support work. Altwies had also just opened AFT’s new family counseling center, Pono Roots, when news of Ariel’s murder surfaced. “Our counseling center was created specifically to address the kinds of concerns that seem to have made Ariel’s life so unimaginably painful,” says Altwies. “Inter-generational family trauma is a silent toxin that can destroy families over generations. Traumatized adults parenting traumatized children is a recipe for disaster.” The solution, says Altwies, is for greater mental health awareness, more support for families wishing to parent their children, and more training for families seeking to adopt. “Having worked with families and children for the past 30 years, and loving my own (adopted) children as much as I do, I believe that adoption holds an important place in any healthy, connected community,” says Altwies. She also notes that in an ideal world, every child would be raised in the loving environment of their birth family, and every women wishing to give birth, would be able to. Altwies also notes that Hawai’i is unique in how it addresses foster care and adoption. “The State of Hawai’i has a kinship mandate. This means extra effort is spent to ensure that our keiki remain with, or are reunited with kin whenever possible. Hawai’i is one of three states that does not participate in the national AdoptUSKids.org foster child adoption data base, preferring that our children remain in Hawai’i” says Altwies. (Montana and South Dakota are the other two non-participating states). A Family Tree works with and supports many local Hawai'i-based families who wish to adopt children out of foster care. To accomplish this, local families work with AFT to complete the rigorous pre-adoptive training, vetting, and administrative processes, before AFT is able to help identify waiting children. Once a child on the AdoptUSKids.org site has been identified by a local family, AFT provides the support and case management necessary to ensure the child and family can meet, attach, and complete an adoption. Handling these cases with the highest level of oversight, AFT is able to serve the waiting children as well as local waiting families who wish to parent.
A Family Tree (AFT) adoption agency, formerly known as Hawai’i International Child Placement and Family Services, Inc. (HIC) was founded in 1975 and has been lead by Kristine Altwies since 1991. A Family Tree is a state licensed, non profit, full service child placement and adoption support agency. A Family Tree helps families adopt locally through its Ka Makana domestic adoption program focused on placing locally born children into local families. A Family Tree also supports families in preparing for foster care adoptions, and trains and supports families. Pono Roots Counseling Center provides professional trauma-informed psycho-therapeutic services to families, individuals, couples, and groups. Pono Roots specializes in parent/child support work, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), and couples counseling.