A House Concurrent Resolution, HCR165, was recently passed by the Hawaii State Legislature; it requests the state auditor to conduct a program audit on the efficiency and effectiveness of Child Welfare Services in processing and investigating complaints of child abuse and neglect, and on the misuse of child support.
The resolution was introduced by Rep. Ryan Yamane (left), Chair of the House Committee on Health, after hearing the personal experiences of victims, including that past claims of child abuse and misuse of child support have been ignored.
The Department of Human Services testified that the audit was “an unnecessary waste of limited State resources” and that “the audit will also divert the time and attention of child welfare services staff…”
The Cyrus Belt case has recently drawn attention to alleged deficiencies in the program. Cyrus Belt’s father, David Belt has filed a lawsuit claiming negligence by the Child Welfare Services branch, and that the mother allowed Matthew Higa access to the child. Matthew Higa was sentenced to life in prison yesterday for throwing 2-year-old Cyrus off an H-1 freeway overpass to his death.
“Very often, children who are abused or neglected have no one to fight on their behalf, and the results can be tragic,” said Rep. Yamane. “After hearing compelling testimony from victims who claim that complaints are often ignored, I believe the audit at the state level is warranted, and I hope the Department will work with us to make the improvements that need to be made.”
One of the testifiers, at the time a member of Rep. Yamane’s session staff, came forward as a victim in support of the resolution. Her testimony read, in part:
“In 2005, when I was 17-years-old I called the Hawaii Department of Human Services Child Welfare Services Program for help. By that time, things had gotten so bad that I didn't think I would see my 18th birthday. But instead of helping me find a way to escape my mother's abuse or receive the monetary support that was rightfully mine, the Child Welfare Services Program only referred me to the Child Support Enforcement Agency, which was unable to help me. This not only reaffirmed my belief that I did not deserve the help I needed to escape my abuser, but it also left me helpless as the abuse intensified. The efficiency and effectiveness of the Child Welfare Services Program needs to be investigated and improved so that children do not have to suffer through abuse without receiving assistance.”
The Attorney General and the Administrator of Child Welfare Services, through the resolution, have been asked to cooperate fully with the state auditor. The Auditor must provide a report to the legislature no later than 20 days prior to the convening of the 2011 legislative session.