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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:08 a.m., Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Center for missing kids in jeopardy

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

After reuniting 1,000 abducted children with their worried parents, an unexpected state financing cut threatens to close the Missing Child Center-Hawai'i.

State Attorney General Earl Anzai said he was forced to eliminate the eight-year-old program after the Legislature this year asked all departments to make deeper than anticipated budget cuts.

"At that point, I said that's enough, we can't harm every program," Anzai said. "There is a limit to how much you can cut across the board."

The center is not one of his department's "core programs," so he cut it, Anzai said.

The center helps police, prosecutors and social services agencies by coordinating searches and linking detectives with a network of similar agencies that exist in every state.

Carol Hee, coordinator of the center, said she was surprised last week when she started getting telephone inquiries from concerned colleagues in the Attorney General's office.

"They had to make some cuts and I guess this was the easiest," Hee said. "I guess we're the least important people. At least that's how it feels."

Created in October 1994, the center operates as a public-private partnership. The center's annual state financing is about $11,000 for operating expenses and about $80,000 for two staff positions, Hee said. An additional $150,000 in private donations and services lets the center run its programs.

Hee, who joined the center in October, has about 50 active cases, including Peter Boy Kema, whose face appears on bumper stickers created by the center.