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Hawaiʻi Gov. Green signs into law 15 bills related to domestic violence, child welfare

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Hawai’i Gov. Josh Green signed 15 bills into law on June 14, 2023, that were related to of domestic violence, sexual assault or child welfare. (Office of the Governor)

Hawai‘i Gov. Josh Green on Wednesday signed into law 15 bills that are related to child welfare, sexual assault and domestic violence.

Some laws address child abuse, which reached a state record-high in 2021. It was a time during the pandemic, full of tension due to lockdowns, job-losses, economic uncertainty, and families finding themselves with few healthy outlets for their stresses, a state press release said.

“We have a lot of suffering in our state,” Green said. “Children sometimes are abused … It is an epidemic of violence.”

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Senate Bill No. 295 establishes the Malama ʻOhana Working Group within the new state Office of Wellness and Resilience to seek, design and recommend changes to the state’s existing child welfare system.

“Times change, needs change, but suffering should never be there,” said Green, who worked as a medical doctor on the Big Island before going into government service. “This engages with communities and the families that have lived experiences. It identifies best practices.”

Green created the Office of Wellness and Resiliency and appointed Tia Hartsock as its first director to oversee the many efforts to assist impacted families and support and sustain the child welfare system.

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Other bills signed Wednesday included House Bill No. 777, relating to child welfare background checks.

“These checks are for state employees and volunteers, but also for contractors and subcontractors and their employees and their volunteers, so it’s much more extensive,” said Rep. Nadine Nakamura of Kaua‘i, House Majority Leader.

Green and Nakamura also highlighted House Bill No. 948, which establishes a two-year child and adolescent crisis mobile outreach team pilot program on Oʻahu and one neighbor island site to expand existing crisis response services.

Hawai’i Gov. Josh Green signed 15 bills into law on June 14, 2023, that were related to of domestic violence, sexual assault or child welfare. (Office of the Governor)
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The neighbor island site has yet to be selected by the State Department of Health.

“After a phone call comes in, within a hour, someone will go to the house where the crisis is taking place,” Nakamura said. “And a diverse team of resources will converge and provide over an eight-week period the support that family and that individual needs to stabilize.”

Freshmen lawmakers in the State House of Representatives identified mental health as a number one priority in their communities, Nakamura said

“Mobile outreach is necessary … I love these programs because a lot of times, it is hard to get people to come in for care,” Green said. “We want to meet people where their needs are.”

The bills Green signed on Wednesday:

  • SB933 – Relating To Temporary Restraining Orders: Authorizes the family courts to allow petitioners to attend TRO hearings remotely upon request. Requires the courts to consider certain factors. Requires the courts to allow petitioners who allege domestic abuse to attend TRO hearings remotely.
  • SB1267 – Relating To Protective Orders: Expands the jurisdiction for where petitions for domestic abuse protective orders and temporary restraining orders may be filed.
  • SB1527 – Relating To Address Confidentiality: Changes the governmental entity responsible for the administration of the Address Confidentiality Program from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor to the Department of Law Enforcement. Allows the Department of Law Enforcement to contract with a third party for the mail forwarding and acceptance of service of legal process aspects of the program. Appropriates funds for full-time equivalent positions, operating costs and equipment to support the Department of Law Enforcement in administering the Address Confidentiality Program. Effective Jan. 1, 2024.
  • HB554 – Relating To Campus Safety: Requires that the University of Hawaiʻi ensure that any individual who participates in implementing the university’s disciplinary process has training or experience in handling sexual misconduct complaints and the university’s disciplinary process. Requires that the university provide mandatory annual trauma-informed, gender-inclusive, LGBTQ+-inclusive sexual misconduct primary prevention and awareness programming for students and employees of the university. Prohibits the university from taking certain disciplinary action against individuals reporting sexual misconduct unless certain exceptions apply. Establishes positions and appropriates funds.
  • HB579 – Relating To Human Trafficking: Establishes the statewide human trafficking prevention program within the Department of the Attorney General to provide services and assistance to victims of human trafficking and victims of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Requires reports to the legislature.
  • HB580 – Relating To Victim-Counselor Privilege: Expands the victim-counselor privilege under the Hawaiʻi Rules of Evidence to include confidential advocates employed by the University of Hawaiʻi. Increases the minimum number of hours of training a domestic violence victims’ counselor must complete to be considered a victim counselor.
  • HB581 – Relating To Child Custody: Requires certain individuals attempting to serve as child custody evaluators to complete a training course on the dynamics of domestic violence every three years. Requires individuals to submit a letter or certificate of completion to the family court.
  • SB406 – Relating To Child Visitation: Allows the court to award reasonable visitation rights to a petitioning grandparent of a minor child when the child’s parent is unable to exercise parental visitation due to death or incarceration and denial of reasonable grandparent visitation rights would cause significant harm to the child. Requires the court to follow best interest of the child procedures, considerations and standards when granting grandparent visitation rights. Specifies that any person who violates the terms and conditions of a court order granting reasonable grandparent visitation rights are subject to sanctions.
  • SB295 – Relating To Child Welfare Services: Establishes within the Office of Wellness and Resilience the Malama ʻOhana Working Group to seek, design, and recommend transformative changes to the state’s existing child welfare system. Allows the Office to contract with an administrative facilitator to provide necessary support for the working group. Requires the Malama ʻOhana Working group to report to the legislature.
  • SB712 – Relating To Corrections: Establishes a trauma-informed certification program at the Windward Community College campus of the University of Hawaiʻi for adult corrections officers. Requires the curriculum to include a level I trauma-informed care course designed for adult corrections officers.
  • SB894 – Relating To The Office Of Wellness And Resilience: Transfers the Office of Wellness and Resilience from the Office of the Governor to the Department of Human Services on July 1, 2025. Extends the Trauma-Informed Care Task Force dissolution date to June 30, 2025 and establishes the Task Force as an advisory board to the Office of Wellness and Resilience until its dissolution. Reconstitutes the membership of the Trauma-Informed Care Task Force into a permanent advisory board to the Office of Wellness and Resilience to be called the Wellness and Resilience Advisory Board. Effective Jan. 1, 2024.
  • HB349 – Relating To Children: Expands the original jurisdiction of family court to include proceedings for declarations of emancipation of minors. Specifies the rights of an emancipated minor. Establishes procedures for the emancipation of minors. Effective Jan. 1, 2024.
  • HB350 – Relating To Child Abuse Reporting: Establishes that the exemption from mandatory reporting by members of the clergy does not apply when the clergy member believes that there exists a substantial risk that child abuse or neglect that is especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity, may occur in the reasonably foreseeable future.
  • HB777 – Relating To Background Checks: Authorizes the department of human services to conduct background checks for current and prospective employees, volunteers, contractors, contractors’ employees and volunteers, subcontractors, and subcontractors’ employees and volunteers whose position places them or would place them in close proximity to certain minors, young adults or vulnerable adults. Clarifies that any state law permitting a more extensive inquiry into an individual’s criminal history by the state and any of its branches, political subdivisions, agencies or semi-autonomous public bodies corporate and politic will prevail over conflicting conviction record inquiries under the state’s employment practices law.
  • HB948 – Relating To Child And Adolescent Mental Health: Establishes a two-year child and adolescent crisis mobile outreach team pilot program on Oʻahu and one neighbor island site to expand existing crisis response services. Appropriates funds. Sunsets Dec. 31, 2025.

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