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Hawaii Launches Foster Portal to Improve Application Process

Hawaii’s new portal, launched by the Department of Human Services, brings new technology into the process of connecting foster kids to caregivers, making the process faster and easier.

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Hawaii’s Department of Human Services (DHS) launched a new portal in July that aims to bring efficiency to the foster application and matching process, creating a more user-friendly experience for those participating.

Hawaii joins Rhode Island and New Mexico in the transition to modernize foster care systems. Designed by Binti, the platform aims to create a user-friendly experience for those applying to be foster parents — or as they are referred to in the state of Hawaii, resource caregivers.

According to Kintaro Yonekura, the assistant program development administrator within the DHS’ Child Welfare Services (CWS) branch, the application process to become a resource caregiver could be very time-consuming, so modernizing the system allowed DHS to streamline processes.

The project used state funds tied to DHS’ budget, according to Yonekura, who noted that DHS will be seeking federal reimbursement for costs where eligible.


Prior to the portal launch, the process of matching children to families traditionally involved using Excel to match based on preferences and ages, but Yonekura said that the many moving parts made that method challenging. The portal is intended to make the application process more efficient.

“On average, when agencies work with us, we help them approve 80 percent more families per year,” explained Felicia Curcuru, CEO of Binti.

Curcuru stated that she started Binti to build software that “drives outcomes for kids, saves social workers’ time, and provide better data to make better decisions.”

In addition, she said, it drives a return on investment for agencies that use it. The two primary ways this happens is in reducing the number of children in group homes, which are costly; the other is by driving higher federal reimbursement by reducing the time taken to approve family members.

The portal is viewable as a dashboard by agencies that use it, Curcuru explained. The information, which is typically sorted based on geography, can be filtered based on various characteristics, such as age or language.

According to Yonekura, Binti supported the state’s vision for processing licensing by having standing meetings on a weekly basis to communicate specific needs for the portal.

Yonekura explained that Hawaii's islands act similarly to counties in other states, and this portal has facilitated collaboration by synchronizing processes across the state.

He noted that the portal will also be open for use by the providers who assist in child welfare services; they can use it for recruitment as well as informational purposes.

The company’s software aims to meet the needs of the six teams in child welfare services that manage different aspects of the work. The first two modules have already been launched and are actively being used. The remaining modules are in various phases but are expected to be live soon.

The first connects the agencies within a state, enabling what Curcuru described as an “umbrella view” of information to simplify collaboration. The second enables the matching of families for quicker placement.


The portal makes the process of becoming a resource caregiver to a child more accessible by offering services outside of typical working hours, according to Yonekura.

Additionally, it simplifies a process for applicants by allowing a prospective resource caregiver to check in any time to see the status of their application. If any piece of the application is missing, they can see what is needed.

To further improve accessibility, the platform can be accessed through any Internet-enabled device.

The new portal also acts as a resource library for anyone interested in learning more about the foster system in the state, with information ranging from legal information for foster children, to material on concurrent planning, to information on the state’s HI H.O.P.E.S. Initiative, which involves former foster children to drive reform.

While COVID-19 has impacted government modernization for many entities in different ways, for the state of Hawaii, the modernization of this system was a positive outcome, according to Yonekura.

He said that CWS was able to develop a road map and acquire funding as a result of the success of online processes in other DHS divisions.

“It’s provided Child Welfare Services the opportunity to learn how online access can be successful, not just for the ease of information, but just the efficiency in the application processing and sharing that information with the departments,” he said.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.