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All in the Ohana for These Forever Families

Posted on Dec 19, 2022 in Featured News, News & Reports, Press Releases

HILO, Hawaii – National Adoption Day took on a local flavor as 16 Hawaii island keiki joined their “Forever Families” after their adoptions and guardianships were finalized by the Third Circuit Family Court last month.

The courtroom in Hilo was transformed into a whimsical wonderland for the children and families to celebrate the happy occasion.

Image of Laura Knutsen, Nobriga family, and Judge Ng.

From left, Laura Knutsen, Nobriga Ohana, and Judge Jeffrey Ng.

“We affectionately recognize this day as our ‘Ohana Day to celebrate our youth and our families in our community,” remarked Family Judge Darien Ching Nagata.

Teresa Witten of the Department of Human Services, Kenneth Goodenow and Ariane Moniz of the Department of the Attorney General, Valerie Grab and Jenny Rasmussen of the Children’s Law Project of Hawaii, attorney Jacky Mena, and Judge Nagata planned this event. This was the Hilo Family Court’s Fifth Annual Adoption Day celebration.

Mena and her cousin Daniel Madrid provided their artistic vision, design, and donations and filled the courtroom with balloon arches and columns, flowers, silky backdrops and drapery, and most importantly the love of all in attendance.

Families were treated to professional photographs by Sarah Anderson to memorialize the special day. Children received individually monogrammed backpacks filled with blankets, teddy bears, and books compliments of Jockey, family board games from CLPH, gift cards from the Geist Foundation, gifts from DHS, books from the Clinton Foundation, and certificates from the Judiciary.

Before leaving, children and families enjoyed cupcakes and fresh fruits compliments of K.T.A. Superstores.

Judge Nagata said she was overwhelmed by the emotion that filled the courtroom. “Many times in family court we are faced with tough decisions, conflict, and adversity. Today the courtroom was filled with pure hope and love,” she said.

During the proceedings, testimony from adoptive parents and guardians, social workers, and guardians ad litem was heartfelt and powerful.

“From the day at four months when I got her I didn’t want to let her go.”

“Because they are my daughter’s kids and they are my blood and I love them.”

“These children need permanency and they are with bio family, and they are thriving in their home.”

“Take a look at these kids! These parents took on a lot with this kid and just look at him now. I believe that this is in his (the child’s) best interest”.

Grab of CLPH first approached Judge Nagata more than five years ago with hopes to start up an Adoption Day in Hilo.

“When we first proposed holding ‘Ohana Day we never imagined it would grow into the event it is today,” said Grab. “Thanks to our amazing community sponsors and collaborations with the public agencies that serve our foster children, ‘Ohana Day has become an incredible occasion that celebrates and honors loving families who care for our keiki.”

Image of Ohana day participants.

Front row, left: Sarah Anderson, Daniel Madrid, and Jacky Mena. Back row, Kenneth Goodenow, Valerie Grab, Judge Darien Nagata, and Judge Jeffrey Ng.

Judge Nagata commented, “We are honored to be a part of a celebration to raise awareness of the many children in foster care waiting for a permanent and loving home. When we can grant an adoption or guardianship for a foster child or a non-foster child, we are happy to provide that child with permanency and a loving family.”

This year the Judiciary was able to bring back our adoption day to being in-person.

Image of Judge Nagata and Lealasola family.“We are thrilled to have our hearings back in the courtroom so that we could celebrate in person with the families. We also did leave the option for parties to appear remotely and have family and friends watch via Zoom to celebrate the joyous event,” said Judge Nagata, pictured left with the Lealasola Ohana. “We look forward to continuing with this yearly tradition and hope to continue to grow this event and provide more and more youth with forever homes.”

For more information, contact the Communications and Community Relations Office at 808-539-4909 or via email at

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