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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 18, 2005

Child welfare agency in promising gains


Congratulations are in order for the state's Child Welfare Services administration and staff, whose work to improve the safety of our foster children has drawn the notice of federal officials.

But that's not all. Increased resources for the embattled agency are in order, too.

Facing a June 2006 deadline to meet benchmarks set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Services has earned partial credit for improvements in its two primary goals: placing the children in permanent homes and ensuring more frequent in-home visits by foster-care workers.

Both of these are essential components of a child-welfare agency fulfilling its function. In particular, having the staff keep close personal contact with households may help avoid future episodes in which children like abuse victim Peter Kema Jr. slip through the social service net.

But this improvement doesn't come cheap.

Already, only halfway through the reform period, staffers privately have been venting their frustration with their duty to maintain both a rigorous visitation schedule and necessary recordkeeping.

There's no way to juggle that much without dropping some of the balls along the way, so increased funds for staffing would be a worthy investment the state must seek when officials approach lawmakers next year.

It won't do to expect the office entrusted with the welfare of our children to employ best standards of the profession while withholding the means to keep the kids safe.