Court appointed lawyers in Hawaii fail to serve parents who risk losing their children, grantees find

Carlos Valdez in Hilo, Hawaii fronting the Judiciary building.

Many parents in Hawaii who are accused of abusing or neglecting their children qualify for court-appointed attorneys, paid for by the state, but an investigation by John Hill for Civil Beat found that this system often falls short. Hill’s reporting, supported by the Fund, found that parents almost never win on appeal. Parents said their court-appointed lawyers were hard to reach and didn’t explain what was happening in court, and refused to help correct inaccuracies in state reports. Instead, the parents say, attorneys urged them to go along with whatever state Child Welfare Services wanted in the hopes of having their children returned to them more quickly.