BY TONI SCHWARTZ – To help the public gain a greater understanding about the life of Erwin Celes, a former foster teen who recently committed suicide, the State Department of Human Services (DHS) is preparing to release his child protective services (CPS) records.
These records will be posted on the agency’s Web site (www.hawaii.gov/dhs), just as DHS did in 2005 for the first time ever with the case of “Peter Boy” Kema, Jr., a Big Island child abuse victim who disappeared in 1997 and is presumed dead.
“In the short time since Erwin’s tragic suicide occurred, a lot has been said about this young man and what happened to him in foster care,” DHS Director Lillian Koller said. “Some of those comments are consistent with what is in the CPS records and some comments are not consistent.
“My intention in sharing this information – which is normally confidential – is not to bare Erwin’s life but, instead, to ensure transparency and accountability so the public can see what CPS, the Family Court and our other partners did and did not do in this foster care case.”
Koller created administrative rules in 2004 allowing the release of confidential CPS records under certain circumstances. This enables DHS to disclose information without a court order or consent from any parties.
Before posting the CPS records, which date back to 1997, DHS is required by law to redact certain items, such as medical information and the names of family members, those reporting child abuse, therapists and others involved in this foster care case.
“It is the Lingle-Aiona Administration’s policy that only through public disclosure – withholding no more than what the law requires us to withhold – that people can make informed evaluations regarding what can and cannot be done by government and others to prevent such tragedies,” Koller said.
“By collectively examining Erwin’s case, we hope to find additional ways of helping foster children – especially older teens as they make the often difficult transition from foster care to independent living.”