Keiki in the Foster Care Need a Strong Child Welfare Services

February 16, 2018



HB2277 (establishes the East Hawaii Child Welfare Services Section Pilot Project within the Department of Human Services to increase staff and reduce caseloads in the East Hawaii Child Welfare Services Section) and SB2276 (appropriates funds for DHS to establish a five-year pilot program in the east Hawaii child welfare services section in Hawaii county that limits the number of children per child welfare services caseworker to no more than twenty. The bill also appropriates funds for additional case managers and support staff for the pilot program) are moving through the State Legislature.  Listen to this podcast and find out why these two bills are a POSITIVE RESPONSE to the concern of the legislature on keiki who fall through the cracks.

The legislature finds that the east Hawaii child welfare services section in the county of Hawaii faces unique challenges as it is the office responsible for the safety and well-being of the State’s most vulnerable children who have been abused, neglected, or are at high risk for abuse and neglect.  The legislature further finds that due to challenging economic times and funding cuts in Hawaii’s child welfare services, layoffs and hiring restrictions have caused the east Hawaii child welfare services section to lose nineteen of the fifty-six positions it had in 2009, resulting in a dramatic increase in average caseload per caseworker.  The recommended number of caseloads for social workers is no more than fifteen children, but social workers in east Hawaii regularly have caseloads of forty to fifty children.” (from SB2276)


Joe O’Connell is from Waimea (Kamuela) Hawai‘i. He spent time in foster care as a youth, separated from his siblings after his mother was incarcerated and his father passed away because of drugs. Growing up with a lot of anger and ‘acting out’ resulted in a series of school suspensions and he stopped attending school in the 7th grade. Joe describes his attendance at Winner’s Camp, through a scholarship from the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center, as a life‐changing experience, one which helped him to realign his view on the world and himself, empowering him to take responsibility for his life, to “Be Bitter or Be Better.” Joe continues to serve as a Core Leader at Winner’s Camp and gives back as much as possible. Understanding the importance of education, Joe eventually completed his GED and went on to attend and graduate from UH‐Hilo with a Bachelor’s in Economics and Business. Today he is a resource caregiver and currently employed at EPIC ‘Ohana as a financial literacy trainer for the HI HOPES Match Program. He has been working on this legislation as member of the East Hawaii Friends of Foster Families.  Contact Joe at (808)640-0905 or send email.

Harvest Family Life Ministries exists to provide the nurturing environment displaced children need to feel safe and to thrive through various program implementations such as Harvest House, Clergy In Court for Kids, Stand Sunday, Shop With A Cop and their first and foremost, Foster/Adopt Program.  They recruit, train and support families who desire to open their home to children and youth who desperately desire a safe place to live. Their foster/ adoption program encourages the achievement of every child’s full potential by providing a stable and nurturing alternative family environment.  Esther and Brad McDaniel have been serving the community for many years. For more Information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, please contact HFLM directly by phone at (808)694-0000. Or, you may Contact Esther via email.