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John Hill: A Lawsuit Against The Child Protection System Digs Up Troubling Facts

John Hill: A Lawsuit Against The Child Protection System Digs Up Troubling Facts
Written by ZJbTFBGJ2T

John Hill: A Lawsuit Against The Child Protection System Digs Up Troubling Facts  Honolulu Civil Beat

Litigation Reveals Troubling Information about Hawaii’s Child Protection System

One of the few ways to crack the unusual secrecy of the bureaucracy that is supposed to protect Hawaii’s children is to sue them — and even then it can be infuriatingly hard.

Inadequate Response to Allegations of Sexual Assault

Exhibit A: Joy Graves v. Hawaii et al. The lawsuit alleges that the state negligently placed a 13-year-old girl, known as T.G. in court filings, in a Kailua-Kona home where she was sexually assaulted.

Right away, this case — filed in 2019 — included a shocking charge: A Child Welfare Services worker brushed off a warning from T.G.’s older sister that T.G. was about to be placed in a foster home frequented by a man who had sexually molested the older sister.

“Don’t tell her that,” the social worker Kerry Perez said to the sister, according to the lawsuit. “Otherwise she won’t go there.”

The state and Perez, no longer at CWS, deny in court filings that this conversation took place.

Now, almost five years after the suit was filed, the plaintiffs have managed to pry out some new and troubling information. They found a 2015 report from someone warning that young children were being sexually exploited in the same home. This was two years before T.G. was placed there.

T.G.’s lawyers unearthed this, not from CWS, but through a subpoena to the Hawaii Police Department for any records pertaining to the foster mother. The police investigator said he contacted CWS about the allegations, and that they had found them without merit.

Here’s the kicker: The state told the plaintiffs quite plainly that it knew nothing about any earlier reports about sexual abuse in the foster household. Despite requests for any reports over the last 15 years, the plaintiffs got nothing.

“It’s highly prejudicial to our case,” said Carlos Perez-Mesa, one of T.G.’s attorneys. “It does appear they’re playing hide the ball.”

Transparency and Accountability in Child Welfare

None of these allegations have been proven. No one has been convicted of anything. But the lawsuit is shining a light into processes that are usually opaque, and it’s raised some pressing questions about the state’s actions in this case.

It’s provided the kind of review that lawmakers and others with oversight powers should be doing in response to horrific deaths of children — namely, Ariel Sellers and Geanna Bradley — allegedly killed by people who started off as their foster parents.

But in these cases, too, it looks like we will have to wait for the adversarial process to play out in court to get any answers.

A Warning At A Starbucks?

The narrative described in Graves v. Hawaii is as follows:

In 2017, T.G. — then 13 — met with social worker Kerry Perez at a Starbucks in Waimea to discuss T.G.’s placement in the foster home of a woman named Gloria Holmes. T.G.’s older sister was also there.

The sister said that, when she was a minor, a man named Tye Puaoi-Marcellino, a frequent visitor who sometimes stayed at the Holmes residence, had sexually abused her. That prompted Perez’s alleged admonition for the sister not to talk about it, lest T.G. be afraid to go to that foster home.

A short time later, T.G. did move in with Holmes. And within two months, Puaoi-Marcellino snuck into her bedroom and tried to have sex with her, the lawsuit alleges. A month after that, when Holmes was taking another foster child to a medical appointment, Puaoi-Marcellino allegedly led her into a bedroom and forced her to have sex, despite her protestation that “I’m scared and I don’t want to do this.”

The lawsuit alleges that Holmes’ son, Wayne, also sexually assaulted T.G. Neither Puaoi-Marcellino nor Wayne Holmes has ever been charged. T.G. claims in the lawsuit to have suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts because of the events.

Gloria Holmes, Wayne Holmes and Puaoi-Marcellino could not be reached for comment.

Obstacles in Obtaining Records

The plaintiffs embarked on a yearslong effort to get CWS records. At one point, the state was arguing that either all the parties had to sign releases or the court had to review the records to determine which ones were relevant to the case.

The first option would have required Gloria Holmes, Wayne Holmes and Puaoi-Marcellino to agree to the release of records. In fact, the state sent them the forms but never heard back.

This outraged T.G.’s attorneys. “Plaintiff can’t, and shouldn’t, have to wait for the signature of one of the men who raped her in order to obtain her own records,” they wrote.

Eventually, the second option — judicial review — led to the plaintiffs getting some documents.

One thing T.G.’s attorneys wanted to know was whether there had been earlier complaints about the foster home where the girl was alleged to have been assaulted. Obviously, this kind of information would help bolster their case that the state was negligent in placing T.G. there.

They asked for all documents on Gloria Holmes, including any investigations of her and for any report or complaint made to the Department of Human Services, the parent agency of CWS, in the last 15 years.

Also, social worker Kerry Perez was asked in written questions whether she’d had any communications about sexual abuse of T.G., her older sister or “anyone else” in the Holmes household.

“There was no communication regarding alleged sexual abuse of anyone in the home of Gloria Holmes, prior to the initial disclosure to the State of allegations of sexual abuse by T.G. on or about February 26, 2018,” the state responded.

Keep in mind that, though these questions were directed at Perez, they were answered by the state and its attorneys. A number of officials were listed as assisting in the responses, including Elladine Olevao, the head of CWS. Olevao read all the answers and verified that they were true to the best of her knowledge.

Then how can the state account for the 2015 report of sexual abuse dug up by T.G.’s attorneys?

A Call To A National Hotline

SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
  1. SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

    • Target 16.6: Develop effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels
    • Indicator 16.6.2: Proportion of population satisfied with their last experience of public services
  2. SDG 5: Gender Equality

    • Target 5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres
    • Indicator 5.2.1: Proportion of ever-partnered women and girls subjected to physical, sexual, or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months
  3. SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

    • Target 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic or other status
    • Indicator 10.2.1: Proportion of people living below 50 percent of median income, disaggregated by age, sex, and persons with disabilities
  4. SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

    • Target 17.14: Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development
    • Indicator 17.14.1: Number of countries with mechanisms in place to enhance policy coherence of sustainable development

Analysis:

  1. SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

    The article highlights the need for effective, accountable, and transparent institutions in the context of child welfare services in Hawaii. The lawsuit and the alleged negligence of the Child Welfare Services worker raise questions about the transparency and accountability of the bureaucracy responsible for protecting children. This connects to SDG 16, which aims to develop such institutions at all levels.

  2. SDG 5: Gender Equality

    The article discusses allegations of sexual assault and abuse against a 13-year-old girl placed in a foster home. This highlights the issue of violence against women and girls, which is addressed by SDG 5. The targets and indicators under this goal focus on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

  3. SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

    The article raises concerns about the placement of children in foster homes and the potential for unequal treatment and abuse. This relates to SDG 10, which aims to promote social, economic, and political inclusion for all individuals, irrespective of their status. The targets and indicators under this goal focus on reducing inequalities in various aspects of life.

  4. SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

    The article emphasizes the need for policy coherence and partnerships to address the issues in child welfare services. The lack of transparency and oversight calls for enhanced policy coherence for sustainable development. SDG 17 focuses on partnerships for the goals and includes targets and indicators related to policy coherence.

Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators

SDGs Targets Indicators
SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions Target 16.6: Develop effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels Indicator 16.6.2: Proportion of population satisfied with their last experience of public services
SDG 5: Gender Equality Target 5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres Indicator 5.2.1: Proportion of ever-partnered women and girls subjected to physical, sexual, or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months
SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities Target 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic or other status Indicator 10.2.1: Proportion of people living below 50 percent of median income, disaggregated by age, sex, and persons with disabilities
SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals Target 17.14: Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development Indicator 17.14.1: Number of countries with mechanisms in place to enhance policy coherence of sustainable development

Copyright: Dive into this article, curated with care by SDG Investors Inc. Our advanced AI technology searches through vast amounts of data to spotlight how we are all moving forward with the Sustainable Development Goals. While we own the rights to this content, we invite you to share it to help spread knowledge and spark action on the SDGs.

Fuente: civilbeat.org

 

John Hill: A Lawsuit Against The Child Protection System Digs Up Troubling Facts

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