Young Hawaiians Play Key Role in Passage of Foster Youth Bill of Rights

Posted August 28, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Governor David Y. Ige with youth advocates during the signing ceremony on the rights of children in foster care.

Governor David Y. Ige with youth advocates during the signing ceremony on the rights of children in foster care. Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office.

Hawaii is home to a new law designed to sup­port the well-being of youth in fos­ter care. It’s a piece of leg­is­la­tion shaped by young Hawai­ians who have expe­ri­enced the fos­ter care sys­tem firsthand.

Through their involve­ment in the HI H.O.P.E.S. Ini­tia­tive, young peo­ple pro­vid­ed tes­ti­mo­ny and facil­i­tat­ed meet­ings with law­mak­ers to raise aware­ness about the needs of youth in fos­ter care.

The new law — called the Fos­ter Youth Bill of Rights — aims to serve these needs in a num­ber of ways, including:

  • paving the way for young peo­ple to access per­son­al records;
  • ensur­ing that young peo­ple can par­tic­i­pate in appro­pri­ate extracur­ric­u­lar activities;
  • pro­vid­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion about vital documents;
  • encour­ag­ing edu­ca­tion­al stability;
  • spec­i­fy­ing rights for young peo­ple who iden­ti­fy as LGBTQ; and
  • includ­ing youth old­er than 14 in deci­sions about their lives.

HI H.O.P.E.S Ini­tia­tive, which stands for Hawaii Help­ing Our Peo­ple Envi­sion Suc­cess, is a statewide group of young peo­ple who are or were in fos­ter care. Epic Ohana, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive site in Hawaii, leads HI H.O.P.E.S. and its work with youth leadership.

The state’s Fos­ter Youth Bill of Rights replaces a set of guid­ing prin­ci­ples that had remained large­ly sta­t­ic over the last 12-plus years. The law also includes updat­ed fed­er­al, state and admin­is­tra­tive poli­cies — such as guide­lines on pru­dent par­ent­ing and ensur­ing young peo­ple in care have devel­op­men­tal expe­ri­ences sim­i­lar to their peers — that were not reflect­ed in the guid­ing principles.

The guid­ing prin­ci­ples were nice to have,” says Delia Uli­ma, the statewide ini­tia­tive man­ag­er at Epic Ohana. Now, with the Fos­ter Youth Bill of Rights, there is respon­si­bil­i­ty and accountability.”

HI H.O.P.E.S mem­bers were present when Hawai­ian Gov­er­nor David Ige signed the bill into law on July 52018.

Young peo­ple prac­ticed and pre­pared in a strate­gic way so their voic­es were not only heard but used to fuel sus­tain­able change,” says Uli­ma. The voic­es of the young peo­ple were the impe­tus for this leg­is­la­tion — they had a seat at the table and set the table for what authen­tic youth engage­ment should be.”

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