Addressing Justice and Equality in our Community

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Neighborhood Place of Puna exists to help families recognize their strengths to raise safe and healthy children. In 2002, Neighborhood Place of Puna was formed to address disproportionately high rates of child abuse and neglect in East Hawaii. We know there are many contributing factors that may increase a family’s risk of child abuse: often factors outside of a person’s control, like income, mental health, substance abuse, poverty, and homelessness can contribute to stressors leading to neglect and abuse. To this day, children on the Big Island are twice as likely to experience abuse than other children statewide. This is unacceptable. 


At Neighborhood Place of Puna over half of the clients we serve identify as Native Hawaiian. We know that Native Hawaiian families experience disproportionate inequities in income level, disproportionately high rates of incarceration and harsher sentencing, and disproportionate negative health impacts and deaths from Covid-19. Data like the above point to continuing structural racism in Hawaii, including a lack of affordable housing where local families are “priced out” of their homes due to statewide gentrification. 



Another disconcerting inequity are the rates of child removal for Native Hawaiian people. Native Hawaiian children have been disproportionately taken away from their families in child protective orders. Although removal for safety is sometimes necessary, we know that outcomes for children in the foster system are often not positive, as children need a stable family structure to form emotional bonds and grow up in a healthy way. Taking children away from their homes and placing them in foster care can often cause additional trauma, and some families have experienced racial discrimination in the process of separation. 


Early missionary schools in Hawai’i often bear a striking resemblance to residential schools in North America. Hawaiian students were not permitted to use their native language in schools. Often removal of language is the first step in removal of ones cultural identity. Reviving cultural knowledge and native language is healing for many families.


While Hawaiian people were not subject to Residential Schools like First Nations people in the U.S. Mainland and Canada, Hawaiians experienced trauma through separation, incarceration, beatings discouraging speaking ‘Olelo Hawai’i and trauma from the outlawing of cultural practices like hula. Native Hawaiian rates of homelessness have remained disproportionate since the Great Mahele. To this day, health and economic disparities still exist with outcomes that are often hardest for Hawaii’s Native people. 


I ka ‘ōlelo nō ke ola, i ka ‘ōlelo nō ka make.

In language there is life, in language there is death.


During #NativeNovember, we stand in solidarity with our indigenous brothers and sisters who have survived impossible circumstances and histories, and who continue to strive for a better tomorrow. In our communities we work to keep families together and thriving, to help reclaim pride in strengths and identity, to help right wrongs, and give families the support they need to live safe and healthy lives. 




Check out our free community programs or donate to our Holiday Fundraiser to support families in Hawai’i.