State of Hawaii

State confident in
child welfare audit

Hawaii faces a federal review
that 28 states have already failed

By Nelson Daranciang

Human Services Director Susan Chandler says the state child welfare system will fare well in an upcoming federal audit, even though the first 28 states to undergo the review have failed.

The federal government funds 39 percent of the state's child welfare and board payments. The review, scheduled to begin next July, will see whether Hawaii meets federally established standards.

"We are, I think, very close in almost all of them," Chandler said.

The Department of Human Services and the federal Administration for Children and Families sponsored a conference yesterday to share information about the review and to kick off a self-evaluation by the state and individuals and agencies involved in child protection, foster care and adoption.

Participants will also compare Hawaii's child welfare system with those of other states.

One area in which Hawaii does not fare well is in the number of "threatened harm" situations in foster homes, she said.

"That sometimes is when a family member in a foster home maybe hits a foster child and that becomes a concern to us. I'm not sure that that's an abuse and neglect case as we would normally think about it," Chandler said.

But she pointed out that the state has a broad definition of harm and some states do not even list threatened harm as a situation that requires investigation.

Chandler said the biggest challenges facing workers in the state's child welfare system are parental abuse -- both substance and domestic violence -- and the high turnover of social workers.

"When people are using and abusing drugs, they're not very good parents and they don't take very good care of their kids," she said.

Each year, the state confirms about 2,500 child welfare cases, some cases involve more than one child.

There are about 1,800 foster homes in Hawaii and 10,000 children in the state's child welfare system. Thirty-five children in foster care are eligible for adoption today.

If you would like to be a foster or adoptive parent, call Hawaii Behavioral Health Services at 454-2570 on Oahu and 1-800-995-7949 on the neighbor islands.

State of Hawaii

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