Pilot project reducing institutional placement of at-risk youths

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A collaborative pilot project known as Wrap Hawai‘i—involving partners at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, in state government and at private agencies—is bettering the lives of at-risk children in the state.

Wrap Hawai‘i targets local high-risk youths with the aim of preventing or reducing institutional placements. The program develops an individualized plan for each participant, centering on the needs and goals of the child, and the strengths, resources and support systems distinct to each child’s family.


Said Susan Chandler, director of the Public Policy Center at the UH Mānoa College of Social Sciences, “Every child is different, with a unique set of circumstances, challenges and support networks that affect resilience and self-esteem. Wrap Hawai‘i does away with a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment—working in partnership with the child, the family, and members of the child’s external support system plan, to monitor and assess the child and identify areas of strengths and needs.

“The result is an integrated holistic approach that combines all social, educational, child welfare, mental health, juvenile justice, and supportive services and funding available,” Chandler continued. “The ultimate goal of the Wrap Hawai‘i program is to prevent or reduce institutional placements through clinical improvements in youth and family strengthening, with the end result being a reduction in the cost of care.”

One hundred and thirty (130) youths enter the Hawaiʻi’s Youth Correctional Facility annually at a cost of $160,000 per year for each youth. The costs for in-patient mental health care cost about $100,000 per child, per year. Basic foster care payments and associated services average more than $25,000 a year. Wrapping community-based, non-institutional services not only significantly reduces these costs, but also has been demonstrated to improve clinical functioning of these youths as well as family functioning.

There are currently nine youths between the ages of 13-17 in the Wrap Hawai‘i pilot program, with two additional young people who will be enrolling shortly. The youths were referred from a variety of sources, including Child Welfare Service, Family Court and the Office of Youth Services.

Since enrolling, none of the participants has been sent for inpatient care or incarceration in Hawai‘i or an out-of-state placement. One youth, originally considered for placement in a mainland mental health facility, has since been successfully reunited with his parent.

Wrap Hawai‘i is a collaborative effort between the Public Policy Center; state and private agencies, including the Hawaiʻi departments of Human Services, Health, and Education; the Office of Youth Services within the state Department of Human Services; Hawai‘i State Judiciary – Family Court; EPIC ‘Ohana Inc.; Families as Allies; and the Mediation Center of the Pacific. It is funded through a grant from the Casey Family Program Foundation.

The College of Social Sciences (CSS) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa is engaged in a broad range of research endeavors that address fundamental questions about human behavior and the workings of local, national and international political, social, economic and cultural institutions. Its vibrant student-centered academic climate supports outstanding scholarship through internships, and active and service learning approaches to teaching that prepare students for the life-long pursuit of knowledge.

The Public Policy Center brings together expertise, commitment, and a strong and continuing desire to enhance the quality of community life through teaching, research and civic engagement. The establishment of the center reflects the College of Social Services’ belief that public policy analyses are critical to sound public policy decision-making and that teaching and scholarly work are intertwined and should be continually linked to community beneficiaries.





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