Maui Court Drug Court Graduation Features Surprise Guest Amy Hānaiali‘i

August 28, 2020, 7:52 AM HST · Updated August 28, 7:52 AM
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From left, Sunshine Puaoi, Amy Hanaialii (on monitor), and Karissa Pietzke.

Two Maui moms — Sunshine Puaoi and Karissa Pietzke — celebrated sobriety and reunification with their children along with graduating from Family Court Drug Court.  The proud graduates appeared at the first hybrid ceremony in Second Circuit District Family Court.

Surprise guest was Amy Hānaialiʻi, a six-time Grammy nominee and winner of 18 Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards.  She provided words of support and congratulations to the graduates as she performed her signature song, Palehua.

“Ms. Hānaialiʻi’s participation added an extra special touch to this 35th graduation ceremony,” said presiding Judge Adrianne Heely. “We really appreciated her gracious generosity. It meant so much to everyone in attendance, especially our graduates.”

Judge Heely was joined in the courtroom by the graduates, as well as a small, socially distanced group of judges, staff and invited guests. Nearly 30 people watched via videoconference, including social service support personnel, judges, court staff, program alumni and current participants.

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Puaoi and Pietzke were also honored by US Sen. Mazie Hirono. Her office presented each with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.

During their remarks, Puaoi and Pietzke spoke of their struggles and of their successes, thanks to the Family Court Drug Court program and the many agencies and individuals who helped them along the way. They said they are thrilled to have their children back from foster care, and have found jobs and housing.

“Sunshine and Karissa have persevered through incredibly tough times and are restarting their lives with their children and the support of many who are determined to help them succeed,” said Judge Heely.

Family Court Drug Court is a therapeutic specialty court program that supports juveniles and Child Welfare Service clients suffering from addiction. The goal is to keep families together by avoiding foster care and incarceration through comprehensive services, monitoring, and frequent court appearances.

“Keeping Family Court Drug Court going during the pandemic has been challenging,” Judge Heely said. “Participants have the option of attending their bi-weekly hearings remotely or in-person.

“Our staff has done an amazing job of keeping our clients engaged and motivated. With the help of Paul Tonnessen and the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center, we were able to buy household items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants, gas cards, books, school supplies and clothing for the children,” Judge Heely said.

“I especially want to thank our administrator Meridith Russell, program coordinator Michelle Boughner, and social worker Charnell Casil for their incredibly hard work and for caring so deeply for our clients,” added Judge Heely.

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