The Faces Behind the Family Strengthening Center

May 4, 2023

Behind the Family Strengthening Center

The Family Strengthening Center has had another year of exciting events and changes. We were thrilled to gain two new staff psychologists, Drs. Megan Deaver and Danielle Pagat. Their addition has been of great value to our center as they bring with them their areas of expertise, clinical experience, and positive presence. They have been involved in training our future behavioral health providers and the future planning of the center. We look forward to their continued contributions in working with our families and helping to expand our services.

Looking ahead, we also appreciated the past efforts that built the foundation of our center as we celebrated the retirement of Dr. Steven Choy, the founder of the FSC. Thanks to the many hands offered in preparations for his party, namely Alana Anderson, Erin Nobriga, and Dr. Kimberlee Kunichika. The celebration was a memorable event for Dr. Choy and those who worked alongside him for so many years. His work in changing lives was evident in the many who came forward to share of their memories. From the unexpected phone call in the middle of Dr. Sean Scanlan’s presentation, to the heart-felt thanks by former peer mentors, the emotions that were felt reflected Dr. Choy’s many accomplishments in the field of child maltreatment. His work will be further recognized as he was recently informed of being selected to receive the Jonathan Won Child Maltreatment Prevention Award at the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma (IVAT) Hawaii International Summit this month. 


We had another successful training year with our 2021-2022 trainees comprised of 10 diagnostic practicum students, two marriage and family therapy students, four advanced practicum students, three interns, and two post-doctoral fellows. Our 2022-2023 trainees are currently mid-way through the training year and preparing for mock trial, which provides trainees the opportunity to interface with UH Law students in a mock trial situation. 

Two of our FSC interns, Julia Palozzi and Megan Broome, will have their posters presented at the annual IVAT conference in April. Several of our staff, interns and practicum students will also be volunteering at the IVAT conference and attending trainings focused on providing trauma-informed care. The ongoing training opportunities provided to our trainees and staff help to ensure that our FSC clients receive empirically-based treatment that adheres to current best practices in the ever-changing field of mental health.


The FSC continues to expand in several areas including Developmental Disability (DD) Assessments, which has created another specialized niche for our clinicians. We had a number of families graduate from Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) during this past year where they demonstrated learned skills and exhibited closer bonds with their children. There has also been an increase in requests for PCIT services from both CWS and self-referred clients from the community. Currently, the FSC has anywhere between 30 to 40 clients being provided therapeutic services. 


There have been several accomplishments in this short year. In January, we received confirmation that the FSC/FPH was awarded a 50k grant from the Chamber of Commerce. This will be used to hold a training for certification in the specialized area of child maltreatment, which will be open to various organizations who work and interface with children and families. This has been a lengthy journey for Drs. Choy and Andaya as it is hoped that this training will enable others to identify early signs of maltreatment and reduce incidents of abuse, preventing harm, and protecting our precious keiki.

Another cause for celebration is FSC entering the final stretch towards seeking accreditation from the American Psychological Association for the FSC internship program. Drs. Choy and Andaya first embarked on this path in July 2020 and in February of this year, the site visit from APA finally happened. To our pleasant surprise, the APA site visitors were impressed by our internship training program, including having the full support of FPH CEO, Keith Kuboyama. The visitors conveyed their positive feedback, and we await their final decision in the next few months. 

Overall, it has been a year of positive growth and expanding opportunities. The tireless efforts of our FSC staff has been critical in the success of FSC. Their innovative ideas, supportive efforts and tenacity help to inspire as we work together in accomplishing our mission of strengthening families.