By Melinda Lloyd
Unpublished data from Hawaiʻi’s Child Welfare Services show that Native Hawaiian (NH) kamaliʻi are over-represented in the child welfare system in Hawaiʻi and spend significantly longer time in foster care compared to non-Hawaiians.
While removal from their families is sometimes necessary, youth who experience foster care are less likely to thrive as adults, with lower than average educational attainment and income, and poorer physical and mental health.
To help reduce the number of NH kamaliʻi entering foster care, and to help transition them more quickly to permanency with their ʻohana or other permanent caregivers, Liliʻuokalani Trust (LT) partnered with Child Welfare Services (CWS), Family Programs Hawaiʻi, Child and Family Services, and other providers to develop Ka Pili ʻOhana (KPO). KPO is a community-based, culturally grounded program designed to achieve better outcomes for NH kamaliʻi in foster care.
KPO was piloted on Oʻahu’s Leeward Coast between January 2019 and December 2020 and is currently expanding to serve kamaliʻi and ʻohana across the state.
KPO supports kamaliʻi in foster care by:
- Developing cooperative relationships among the biological and foster mākua and CWS social workers to facilitate consistent and increased support to the kamaliʻi while in foster care.
- Increasing and enhancing visitations with their biological mākua, siblings, extended ʻohana and others who are part of their supportive relationships.
- Engaging in culturally relevant activities, individually and with their ʻohana, to build pride in their cultural identity and connect them to positive cultural role models and practices.
- Helping kamaliʻi and their biological and foster mākua navigate the foster care system to access resources.
Key outcomes achieved for kamaliʻi and their ʻohana include:
- KPO kamaliʻi spent less time in foster care compared to similar CWS families.
- Cultural approaches and programs promoted ʻohana engagement and facilitated healing and bonding.
- Program success hinged upon supporting ea (self-determination, agency) and reducing dependency on systems and services.
Key outcomes achieved in service delivery include:
- Creating collaborative relationships with all partners (including ʻohana) allowed the hui to adapt programming and approaches based on lessons learned throughout the process.
- Trust, transparency, and crucial conversations related to making changes across the child welfare care ecosystem were crucial in addressing tensions across agencies before they negatively impacted programming and kamaliʻi.
Moving forward, LT is committed to expanding KPO across the state and working with our partners to promote healing and restoration of ʻohana relationships that provide all our kamaliʻi with pathways to thrive.
Melinda Lloyd is a clinical social worker, researcher, and evaluator at Liliʻuokalani Trust. She has an interest in Native Hawaiian wellbeing, privileging Indigenous worldviews and perspectives, and conducting evaluation with aloha. A graduate of Sacred Hearts Academy, Melinda lives the servant leadership motto of Orare Et Laborare (To Pray and To Work) towards social justice.