In the early 1990’s, the State of Hawai’i ranked among the highest in the nation for rates of child abuse and neglect (CAN) and had the third highest rate of children in foster care at 40%. In 1994, a revolution in child welfare services occurred when, in response to growing concerns for child safety, the Hawai‘i State Legislature created the Child Welfare Services Reform Task Force for the purpose of developing a “Blueprint for reform in child protective services.” Over the course of 18 months, nearly 500 people were involved in the project. Sixteen focus groups were held statewide with groups ranging from current and former CWS workers, foster parents, Family Court judges, physicians, present and former clients, and community advocates.
After two years of discussing and evaluating the issue, the task force produced a report on its findings and recommendations among which included, frontloading the Child Welfare System with prevention and differential intervention response services that focused on diverting at-risk families from involvement with the Child Welfare System (Insert link to 1996 taskforce report). Subsequently, a “Blueprint for Change Coordinating Committee” was created which brought together health care providers, social workers and policy makers to discuss findings in the task force report and implement a comprehensive child welfare strategy capable of addressing the unique needs of families living in Hawai‘i.
The culmination of this work was the creation of what would become known as, The Neighborhood Place Model. This model was developed on the theory that, in order to be effective, family strengthening services need to be community-driven, and must be designed to reflect the unique culture of their target population. In 1996, the Committee recommended that two Neighborhood Place (NP) pilot be funded by the State and administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS) to test theories outlined by the Committee. These effort resulted in legislation being passed that established the Blueprint for Child Welfare Services Reform Coordinating Committee and two community-based pilot projects to test the proposed reform model (Insert link to 1996 Senate Resolution).
The first program was opened in Waipahu on the island of O’ahu in April of 1998. The Waipahu Neighborhood Place (WNP) built on existing resources to provide services for families at high risk of abuse within the context of its involvement in the community centered on Waipahu Elementary School. The following year, the second site was opened in Kona on the sland of Hawai‘i. Over the course of 2 years, 175 families received services from the NP programs. In late December of 1999, SMS Affiliations, a Honolulu-based research consulting firm, conducted an in-depth analysis of the two sites. The report found that:
The Waipahu Neighborhood Place and Ohana Center have helped people achieve extensive personal change in their lives. Success stories include people who have found balance and sobriety, and learned to raise their children with love and wisdom.
NPK (Neighborhood Place of Kona) has noted a few families’ improvement in parenting skills and risk of abuse or neglect. Attention to values and interactive choices of parents has helped families step back from a sense of continuing crisis. Others have been assisted in stabilizing housing. Clients interviewed by the evaluator viewed the NPK staff as helping them accomplish major changes in values and parenting styles.
(Chandler, Susan: 2000 link to sms report)
The report outlined a number of recommendations which were used by the Blueprint Coordinating Committee to finalize the core elements of the Neighborhood Place model. Once completed, the committee was able to use the success of the two pilot sites to obtain funding for the expansion of model statewide. In 2000, Blueprint for Change (BFC) was formed and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to serve as master contractor for Neighborhood Place services, and to promote the vision that, Every child in Hawai‘i will grow up in a loving family, nurturing home, and a safe environment.
For 6 years, BFC leveraged private and public funding to provide Neighborhood Place programs in Kona and Puna on the island of Hawaii; Waianae and Kalihi on the island of Oahu, and in Wailuku on the island of Maui. In 2008, the Hawaii State Department of Human Services (DHS) acknowledged the contribution of Blueprint for Change and other community-driven prevention programs in its annual report, stating, “The availability of community-based services to help families in crisis remain intact has helped to relieve some of the strain on a once overburdened CWS system, as indicated by the declining number of children in foster care.” In the same report, DHS noted that:
Strategies to frontload family strengthening and voluntary case management services and to provide families in crisis access to community-based early response alternatives appear to be working in terms of keeping families intact, keeping children safe, and engaging families through less restrictive/intrusive approaches.
In 2009, BFC was awarded funding to open Neighborhood Place programs in Waimanalo on the island of Oahu, and in Waimea and Kapa`a on the island of Kaua`i. Unfortunately, the financial crisis that occurred that year put these projects on hold, and in fact, placed the sustainability of the existing Neighborhood Places in severe jeopardy. Thankfully, because of the inherent value of our services, the State of Hawaii – Department of Health collaborated with the Department of Human Services to stabilize BFC funding, and allow the NP’s to weather the economic storm.In 2010, BFC secured a 5 year contract with the Department of Human Services to fund the existing Neighborhood Places. In 2011, the organization was able to pool together small pots of private funding to establish a satellite NP program in Waiamalo, and in 2013, we successfully worked with the Hawaii State Legislature to fulfill our promise to the residents of Kauai by obtaining funding that allowed us to open two sites on their island.