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Foster care expert says missing 6-year-old’s adoptive placement raises red flags

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 4:38 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 16, 2021 at 5:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A foster care expert says there are several red flags in 6-year-old Isabella “Ariel” Kalua’s disappearance ― and adoptive family placement.

Steve Lane, the principal investigator in several high-profile child abuse cases in Hawaii, is even questioning whether the state should have placed the Waimanalo 6-year-old and her siblings with their adoptive family to begin with.

“I’d ask who the social worker was, who approved this family,” he said. “And on what basis.”

His concerns stem from her adoptive father’s criminal history.

According to court records Isaac Kalua III was convicted on three counts of terroristic threatening and assault 20 years ago and sentenced to five years probation.

“The broad outlines of what’s required of the Department of Human services in licensing a foster parent giving them wide opportunity to deny a license,” Lane said.

“It’s inconceivable to me that anybody with that kind of criminal record and convictions of physical violence would be licensed as a foster family.”

Lane says another red flag is that the 6-year-old wasn’t going to school in person.

The state Department of Education confirms Isabella attended kindergarten at Waimanalo Elementary last school year via distance learning. In June, however, her adoptive parents filed paperwork to withdraw the child and home-school her.

Lane says that’s been used in the past to hide evidence of abuse.

“There’s virtually nothing that you have to do to warrant your application for home schooling to be approved,” said Lane. “Nor is there any supervision provided for children once they are placed in home school.”

On Tuesday, volunteers were told to stay away from the Puha Street home where the little girl disappeared. The girl’s biological aunt said it was because they were asked not to go there.

When asked why, Jamie Kumai said, “It’s just for the respect and boundaries of those parties.”

Lehua and Isaac Kalua haven’t publicly participated in any search efforts. HNN has also learned through multiple sources that they’ve asked for an attorney.

On Thursday, HNN did get in touch with someone over the phone at the Kalua residence to give them a chance to tell their side of the story.

A man said HPD detectives instructed them not to speak to the press. HNN asked HPD officials if that was true, and has not received a response.

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