Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Hawaii

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 587A-2

The policy and purpose of this chapter is to provide children with prompt and ample protection from the harms detailed herein, with an opportunity for timely reconciliation with their families if the families can provide safe family homes, and with timely and appropriate service or permanent plans to ensure the safety of the children so they may develop and mature into responsible, self-sufficient, law-abiding citizens.

This chapter creates within the jurisdiction of the family court a child protective act to make paramount the safety and health of children who have been harmed or are in life circumstances that threaten harm. Furthermore, this chapter makes provisions for the service, treatment, and permanent plans for these children and their families.

The legislature finds that children deserve and require competent, responsible parenting and safe, secure, loving, and nurturing homes. The legislature finds that children who have been harmed or are threatened with harm are less likely than other children to realize their full educational, vocational, and emotional potential and become law-abiding, productive, self-sufficient citizens and are more likely to become involved with the mental health system, the juvenile justice system, or the criminal justice system as well as become an economic burden on the State. The legislature finds that prompt identification, reporting, investigation, services, treatment, adjudication, and disposition of cases involving children who have been harmed or are threatened with harm are in the children's, their families', and society's best interests because the children are defenseless, exploitable, and vulnerable. The legislature recognizes that many relatives are willing and able to provide a nurturing and safe placement for children who have been harmed or are threatened with harm.

 Best Interests Factors

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 587A-2

The service plan shall work to help the child remain in the family home, when the family home can be immediately made safe with services, or the child to return to a safe family home. The service plan shall be carefully formulated with the family in a timely manner. Every reasonable opportunity should be provided to help the child's legal custodian succeed in remedying the problems that put the child at substantial risk of being harmed in the family home. Each appropriate resource, public and private, family and friend, should be considered and used to maximize the legal custodian's potential for providing a safe family home for the child. Full and careful consideration shall be given to the religious, cultural, and ethnic values of the child's legal custodian when service plans are being discussed and formulated. Where the court has determined, by clear and convincing evidence, that the child cannot be returned to a safe family home, the child shall be permanently placed in a timely manner.

The policy and purpose of this chapter includes the protection of children who have been harmed or are threatened with harm by doing the following:

 Providing assistance to families to address the causes for abuse and neglect

  • Respecting and using each family's strengths, resources, culture, and customs
  • Ensuring that families are meaningfully engaged and children are consulted in an age-appropriate manner in case planning
  • Enlisting the early and appropriate participation of family and the family's support networks 
  • Respecting and encouraging the input and views of caregivers 
  • Ensuring a permanent home through timely adoption or other permanent living arrangement, if safe reunification with the family is not possible

The child protective services under this chapter shall be provided with every reasonable effort to be open, accessible, and communicative to the persons affected by a child protective proceeding without endangering the safety and best interests of the child under this chapter.

This chapter shall be liberally construed to serve the best interests of the children affected and the purpose and policies set forth herein.

Other Considerations

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.