We are happy to report that the bills we advocated for this year at the Hawaii State Legislator passed and have been signed by the governor, thus they are now law! Thank you to all who helped make a safer place for children and youth by joining us in legislative action! By being involved in the law-making process, you made your voice heard and gave meaning to the democratic process! Here is a recap of the bills we advocated for this session:
House Bill 2350 is now Act 133! This new law brings Hawaii in compliance with the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (HR 4980) that was signed into law on September 29, 2014. It expands opportunities for children/young people in foster care to participate in developmentally appropriate activities such as field trips, sleep overs and other extracurricular activities. It establishes qualified immunity for resource caregivers and child caring institutions when they use reasonable and prudent parent standards when authorizing children in foster care to participate in activities. It also changes the age from sixteen to fourteen years of age for children in foster care to be involved in their foster care plans.
Higher Education for Foster Youth
SB 2878 is now Act 134! We are very excited that DHS submitted this legislation – it extends the application deadline for financial assistance for higher education available to foster or former foster youth and clarify eligibility and program requirements for Imua Kakou, the Young Adult Voluntary Foster Care Act passed in 2013.
This law bans sex trafficking in Hawaii in a victim-centered way. Governor Ige signed it into law on July 5, 2016. “It was a historic day for Hawaii. Now, from sea to sea, the United States can say it banned sexual slavery,” said Kris Coffield, executive director of Imua Alliance, which works with sex trafficking victims. “The most direct benefit for victims is that now, instead of being criminalized and put in a jail cell, and facing prosecution, they’ll be placed in a support services network and treated as victims of violent crimes instead of accomplices to their own exploitation.”
Preschool Open Doors (POD)
This year the budget for POD has been increased from $6,000,000 to 10,000,000!! This is great news and may allow the program to begin serving some 3 year olds. Thank you to all who helped make this happen!
Hawaii Child Welfare Education Collaboration
This restores the program to recruit and train graduate students from the UH Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work for child welfare positions at DHS. This is a great program that brought wonderful talent to the DHS, which in turn helped bring great results to many families. The program has gotten enough funds to re-start. We still need to work next year to secure enough funds to keep it going.