KAILUA-KONA — A West Hawaii mother whose daughter was removed from school and flown to Kauai to live with her father is suing several state agencies and the school’s principal for kidnapping.
A South Kohala Family Court judge, meanwhile, in a custody dispute over the child, ruled last week that Hannah David’s 11-year-old daughter be returned to her.
“Hannah has seen her daughter only once in three weeks,” David’s attorney, Eric Seitz, said last week prior to Judge Mahilani Hiatt’s ruling on Jan. 10 that returned David’s daughter to her care.
David says that Child Welfare Services removed the West Hawaii minor from school and placed her with her noncustodial father, Kauai fire captain William “Butch” Keahiolalo.
A 2012 Family Court order, according to copies of court records, granted David sole legal and physical custody of the child and denied Keahiolalo visitation rights. The court also ordered a no-contact physical restraining order prohibiting Keahiolalo from having any contact with David.
But on Dec. 20, the child was taken from her school by a CWS investigator and two Hawaii County Police officers.
“We don’t know what, if any paperwork or explanation was given to the school,” said Seitz. “Teachers were present who tried to intervene, but the principal told them not to get involved.”
According to court documents, the worker took the child and gave her to Keahiolalo who had flown to Kona, and he took her back to Kauai.
David was informed her daughter had been removed from school and served a temporary restraining order at her home the same day.
On Jan. 2, Seitz filed a civil suit in US District Court in Honolulu on behalf of David and her daughter against the director of the Department of Human Services, the State of Hawaii, The Kona CWS worker who removed the child from school, the principal of the school, Kauai County’s Police Chief, Kauai attorney Shaylene Iseri, Keahiolalo and others.
The filing states it is an action for declaratory and injunctive relief and damages arising from the defendants’ conspiracy to kidnap David’s daughter from her school and deliver her to her father in violation of a valid family court order without any judicial authority, sanction, review or justification in clear and deliberate violation of the civil and custodial rights and well-being of David and her daughter.
It maintains the entry of a judgment declaring that the seizure of the child without any due process was unlawful and that David is the sole person entitled to custody and possession of her daughter.
That civil rights violation suit was put on hold until Jan. 10, when an outcome was reached in family court.
Seitz further states that no documentation from CWS was ever produced in court regarding the seizure of the child.
According to an email response from the Department of Human Services, if a child is removed and a pending petition for temporary foster custody is being filed with the respective court, a petition is required to detail the various reasons why the family home is not safe, and why it is in the child’s best interest to be removed from it.
A parent, the DHS said, whose child has been removed from their care has an ability to contest the court’s jurisdiction, adjudication of the petition, the findings made by a CWS worker, placement of the child while exercising their right to a fair trial.
Keahiolalo’s Kauai attorney, Iseri, said CWS on Kauai told Keahiolalo to fly to Kona and pick up the child. She maintains CWS on Kauai assessed his home and found it to be safe. She also said that she was informed Kona CWS determined that David’s home was not safe.
“The child was not kidnapped,” said Iseri. “There was a document from Kauai CPS.”
She said it was Kauai police and Kona CWS that gave Keahiolalo custody of the child.
After the 2012 ruling that granted David custody, Keahiolalo had not seen the child again until an encounter with David and the child at a Kauai mall in November.
The day after that November meeting, David confronted Keahiolalo at his workplace, according to court records. The video recorded confrontation shows David physically assaulting Keahiolalo.
David said she was incensed over the previous day’s encounter.
David was arrested and charged with abuse of family or household member, a misdemeanor. She posted bail and returned to the Big Island with her daughter.
But on Dec. 4, Keahiolalo filed a petition for an order of protection for himself, his wife, two children who reside with him, and David’s daughter against David. A hearing was set in Kauai Family Court for Dec. 31.
Seitz said that two CWS workers then came to David’s home on Dec. 18 to question her. He asserts they did not provide her with any paperwork. David said the CWS worker told her there was nothing to worry about.
But on Dec. 20, the child was taken from her school.
Then, at the Dec. 31 hearing in Kauai Family Court, Judge Joe Moss dissolved the restraining order against David on her child, stating in his findings of fact that Keahiolalo did not disclose to the court in his petition that the child did not live with him and that David had sole legal and physical custody of the child and Keahiolalo did not have the legal authority to file the petition on behalf of the child.
However, the girl was not returned to her mother. The TRO for Keahiolalo and his family remained.
After that hearing, Seitz said Kona CWS told him there was no order entitling CWS to seize the child, there was no pending investigation and they had no interest in the matter.
“One hour later they changed their position and told us, ‘We’re going to assert custody and take her into custody and leave her with the father for the time being,’” Seitz said.
After the Dec. 31 hearing, the child was removed from Keahiolalo’s home and placed in foster care on Kauai.
Seitz said US District Court Judge Michael Seabright directed CWS to respond immediately and to grant visitation to David.
“On Jan. 6, CWS flew the child back to the Big Island and placed her in foster care here,” Seitz said last week.
Seitz said the same day, CWS filed a petition for custody in family court.
Iseri said she will file for custody on behalf of Keahiolalo in Kauai Family Court.
Last Friday in South Kohala Family Court, Hiatt granted David custody. Because of that ruling, the federal case can now move forward.
CWS, through the Department of Human Services, said they could not comment on the specific case, however Per HRS 587A, a police officer may assume protective custody of a child who is in imminent harm without a court order and without the consent of the child’s family.
When DHS receives protective custody of a child from the police, DHS may assume temporary foster custody of a child. Parents and family members are notified, and a temporary foster custody (TFC) petition is filed within three days of the child no longer being cared for in the family home.
A safety assessment, CWS continued, is completed and if a safety plan can be established, the child is returned to the care of his/her parents. If a safety plan cannot be supported, the child remains in care, relatives or kin are sought to provide temporary care for the child and a TFC petition is filed with the Family Court within three days.
“We are asking for a substantial amount of compensation,” said Seitz.