Of all Arlynna Howell Livingston's efforts on behalf of children and families, perhaps none is as significant as those supporting the development and implementation of Ohana (Family) Conferencing in Hawaii.
Ms. Howell-Livingston began working with the Department of Human Services and the Family Court in a Family Court/CPS Diversion Project in 1996. From there, she worked with the CPS staff and community members to conceptualize a new model of child protection called Ohana Conferencing. This approach builds on the cultural strengths of each child's family and/or extended family, as well as those people who make up a circle of caring around the child.
Two aspects of Ohana Conferencing in Hawaii are unique. One is the use of neighborhood-based facilitators to work with CPS families to bring them into the problem-solving conferences. The second is the structured "family time" in which the family sits alone, without professional staff, to design a safety plan for the child. The successes of this approach have made it a national model.
Ms. Howell-Livingston established non-profit corporation called EPIC (Effective Planning and Innovative Communication), which contracts with the State Department of Human Services. She has conducted multiple trainings and workshops for CPS staff and its private sector partners, as well as neighborhood facilitators who assist in running the Ohana conferences. She also facilitates the most difficult cases herself.
Ms. Howell-Livingston has brought about an alternative approach to child welfare practice in Hawaii. She has embraced the diverse cultures of the people of Hawaii and, by respecting their strengths as well as they differences, searches and finds the most appropriate way to protecting and nurture children.