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Removal from the Home: Child Welfare Cases

Honolulu Attorney Protecting & Preserving Your Family Unit

We all want what is best for our children, but every parent has a different idea of what that looks like. To enforce a standard, the Hawaii Department of Human Services provides a Social Services Division (SSD) to protect the welfare of children.

Unlike other states, Hawaii does not have a Child Protective Services (CPS) unit. Instead, their Child Welfare Services Branch (CWSB) strives to maintain the following:

  • Child safety
  • Child well-being
  • Long-term stable homes and relationships

Contrary to popular belief, the CWSB does not want to take children away from their families. Sometimes, however, the branch decides removal is a necessary in order to protect the child.

If you do not agree with this decision, hiring an attorney may be helpful.

Child Abuse and Neglect

As one of its primary duties, the CWSB investigates reports of child abuse or neglect. According to Hawaii Revised Statues (HRS) Chapter 587A, child abuse and neglect are defined as harm, risk for harm, or threatened harm to a child. In this definition, “harm” includes, but is not limited to:

  • Substantial bruising or bleeding
  • Burns
  • Fractures
  • Malnutrition
  • Gross degradation
  • Extreme pain or mental distress

If anyone suspects that your child is suffering from or threatened by harm, they have a right to report you to Child Welfare Services (CWS). Certain individuals, such as health professionals, school employees, law enforcement officers, or childcare workers, are required to report their suspicions.

Under HRS Chapter 350-1.4(b), this report will remain confidential.

The Assessment

Upon receiving a report of child abuse or neglect, CWS is required by law to asses the report. CWS social workers will talk to you, your child, other family members, and even community members. Once the report is filed, CWS must determine whether the report is confirmed, unconfirmed, or unsubstantiated within 50 days. All reports are also shared with law enforcement, so the police department may choose to conduct its own investigation.

Removal from the Home

If the CWSB and/or the police department determine that your child is unsafe in their family home, a law enforcement officer will remove the child and give CWS temporary custody. CWS does not have the legal authority to remove your child from your home – this process must be completed by an officer.

Once your child is removed, CWS case workers have 3 days to assess the safety of your home. If the home is deemed safe, your child will be returned on the 3rd day.

If your home is not determined to be safe, your child will be placed in foster custody with a Voluntary Foster Custody Agreement or a petition in Family Court. While your child is in foster care, you will develop a case plan with the CWS to help create a safe environment for your child.

Your parental rights will only be terminated if you fail to adhere to the case plan and the Family Court determines you are unable to provide a safe home for your child within a reasonable amount of time (no more than 2 years from the report).

Appealing Orders from Family Court

If, at any point during your case, you disagree with the orders of the Family Court, you can file a “Motion for Reconsideration” within 20 calendar days of the court order. If your motion is denied, you can file a “Notice of Appeal” with the Intermediate Court of Appeals. The appeals system can go all the way to the Supreme Court.

You can discuss your appeals with an experienced attorney during a consultation.

Hiring an Attorney

At any point during CWS’ involvement with your family, you have the right to consult an attorney. Having a lawyer can be especially valuable for expressing your interests in Family Court.

The Law Office of Steve Cedillos has been helping Honolulu residents resolve family concerns for over 30 years.

I, Steve Cedillos, am a dedicated personal advocate who understands how much is at stake for you and your family.

Tell me your story today at (808) 201-0496, or contact my firm online to request an appointment.

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