How one Hawaii couple has taken care of its family’s mental health during the COVID-19 crisis.

Daneen Sandry with child drawing chalk on concrete near grass

Daneen Sandry

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed that nearly half of all Americans believe the coronavirus crisis is causing harm to their mental health. Here in Hawaii, mental health providers across the islands have been working especially hard throughout the pandemic to protect the well-being of their clients and communities.

The past three months of living with COVID-19 have inspired some Hawaii residents to step up for mental-health awareness. Daneen Sandry and her husband Rick are two of these unsung heroes. Over the past seven years, the Sandrys have served as therapeutic foster parents for many young people between the ages of three and 21 with emotional and behavioral challenges.

Daneen found her passion for becoming a foster parent over the course of 25 years of work with the Hawaii State Department of Education where she met many youth in foster care. Her current work with Catholic Charities Hawaii’s Na ‘Ohana Pulama program (CCH-NOP) offers Daneen yet another outlet to help local youth in foster care. The treatment program provides short-term therapeutic foster care for youth having difficulty functioning in their everyday lives at home, at school and in their communities due to emotional and behavioral challenges.  CCH-NOP is a Department of Health Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division (CAMHD) provider offering Transitional Family Homes on Oahu and the Big Island.

Rick is the varsity soccer head coach at Saint Louis School, and has served as a coach in several youth sports.

The Sandrys work together to firmly advocate for their youth and their interests, and coordinate services for their educational and medical needs. We asked Daneen to reflect on her mental-health work with Hawaii youth during the COVID-19 crisis.

What has ignited your passion over the course of this pandemic?

Daneen: This crisis gave me more time to bond and just hang out with my youth with no distractions. Seeing their gains in development, whether big or small, is very rewarding. I discovered information from them that I probably wouldn’t have. I hope this time together has let them feel loved and safe in my home.

How do you believe behavioral health services will change in your daily life as COVID-19 restrictions are lessened?

Daneen: It was interesting to me that they were able to sit and focus on services virtually. It’s good to know that these virtual services will still be available if they are not able to make it to services in person.

Can you share a behavioral health success story you’ve heard about during this crisis or share one from your own experiences?

Daneen: I’ve experienced many success stories. I experienced seeing one of my youth graduate from high school. One who had never played football made the high school football team and another reunited with [his/her] biological family.

How do you practice self-care?

Daneen: I love spending time with my family and talking on the phone with my sisters. When everyone is tucked away in bed, you can find me binging on Netflix, HBO or Amazon Prime. A good massage and pedicure will always rejuvenate me. Being forced to stay at home has given me more time to cook and have many meals together with my family.

The Hawaii Department of Health’s (DOH) Behavioral Health and Homelessness Statewide Unified Response Group (BHHSURG) is grateful to Daneen and Rick Sandry for their efforts to protect the mental health of young people in our communities.

For more stories like the Sandry’s, or more information on behavioral health and homelessness services in Hawaii, visit the BHHSURG website at http://bhhsurg.hawaii.gov/ or follow @BHHSURG on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.