HONOLULU — The agency that oversees the welfare of abused and neglected children throughout Hawaii failed to make some necessary improvements in its operations, according to a federal review.
The federal government recently completed its third major evaluation of Hawaii’s Child Welfare Services agency since 2003. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2017 analysis, the agency was not in “substantial conformity” with any of the seven categories DHHS evaluated.
The agency also failed to meet any of those thresholds in 2009.
The seven categories, described as systemic factors, include quality assurance and foster parent licensing, recruiting and retention.
The federal government’s Administration for Children & Families, an arm of Health and Human Services, is in charge of conducting major reviews of state child welfare agencies nationally, gauging the effectiveness of their systems and compliance with federal requirements.
The evaluators review a sampling of cases for each category, and if the agency fails to meet compliance thresholds in 95 percent of the cases, it is deemed not in substantial conformity for that category.
In analyzing whether “children are first and foremost protected from abuse and neglect,” for instance, Hawaii met the threshold in 83 percent of 24 maltreatment cases surveyed, missing the mark in four of them, according to the federal report. The problem, the report said, was that Hawaii fell short in initiating timely investigations in the four cases.
Kayle Perez, social services division administrator for Child Welfare Services, noted the agency made positive changes since the last review in 2009, but some will take more time before the effects show up in evaluations.
The state is working on an improvement plan to address the most recent review.
Hawaii is not alone in its history of poor marks.
In the 2009 review, the state was one of 39 that did not meet any of the seven outcome thresholds, according to a 2015 study by the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego and First Star, a nonprofit that advocates for abused children.