Critics: State didn’t do enough to protect 2 kids from alleged abuse at foster home

Critics say the state didn't do enough to protect them.
Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 6:05 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 25, 2022 at 7:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Child welfare advocates are criticizing the state over the alleged sex assaults of two young girls at a foster home over a six-year period.

The victims were 6 and 8 years old when the alleged abuse started.

Child welfare advocates allege suspect Bryson “Bula” Mahoe of Wahiawa was able to get away with the crimes for so long because state social workers did an inadequate job of monitoring the foster home.

“It’s horrible. They’re supposed to do checks once a month. That’s the protocol, once a month. Doesn’t seem like a lot,” said attorney Randall Rosenberg.

“It sounds like it would have saved these kids.”

In court papers, federal investigators also said the girls suffered from physical abuse. They alleged that one of the foster parents “withheld food” from the girls.

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Authorities also say Bula Mahoe then “would give them food” but in exchange would sexually molested them.

HNN spoke with one of the foster parents, who denied the allegations and said the kids were always fed. They also said their son was innocent and did not sexually exploit the children.

The family said they they agreed to terminate their parental rights to the children earlier this year after the girl’s biological father allegedly threatened them in court.

State Child Welfare officials declined to provide the parents’ status in the foster care system.

According to federal authorities, the state Child Protective Services began investigating the abuse allegations early this year then turned the case over to child abuse experts at the Children’s Justice Center, where they were interviewed by a forensics expert.

The case was turned over the Honolulu police and Mahoe was arrested on Feb. 10.

Federal investigators said after he was arrested, the HPD conducted a further search of Mahoe’s home in Wahiawa, seizing several electronic devices including an Android cell phone, several SD cards and flash drives.

“HPD found multiple videos and images of child pornography which depicts (the foster children),” FBI Special Agent Gabriel Keown wrote in his affidavit, in support of the criminal complaint. “HPD also found multiple images/videos of what appeared to be child pornography not pertaining to (the foster children).”

State lawmakers said the Mahoe case, along with the Isabella “Ariel” Kalua case, shows why more protections are needed for foster children. Kalua is the 6-year-old girl that went missing in Waimanalo last year.

Her foster parents have been charged with murder.

“Whenever we hear that a foster child who’s in the care of the state is put at risk, it really bothers us,” said state Rep. Ryan Yamane. “We need to work harder ... on ensuring that these kinds of cases never happen again.”

A measure dubbed Ariel’s bill would have provided the DHS with more resources to investigate abuses. It was approved by the state Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. David Ige, who said it was too intrusive on law-abiding foster parents. Lawmakers said they plans to introduce the bill again this session.