Edit ModuleShow Tags

6 People Making a Difference in Honolulu

Meet a few people making Honolulu a better place for all of us.


(page 3 of 7)

Laurie Tochiki

For the more than 300 underage teens in Hawaii’s welfare system, life can be hard. According to the nonprofit EPIC Ohana Inc., 25 percent of Hawaii youth transitioning out of foster care will be homeless at some point, only 6 percent will earn any sort of college degree and more than 81 percent of the males will get arrested.

“Our mission is to transform child welfare,” says Laurie Tochiki, EPIC’s CEO. “The court system is about punishment, rather than rehabilitation. I think that what we’re trying to accomplish is more humane, more connected, more restorative than punitive.”

Tochiki founded the organization in 1997 with Arlynna Livingston, and, when Livingston retired in 2012, Tochiki left her deanship at the William S. Richardson School of Law to helm EPIC.

The acronym stands for Effective Planning and Innovative Communication—an apt summary of Tochiki’s philosophy. “I don’t know why the criminal justice system seems like such a black hole, but we try to do these things in silos. And whenever you can break down the silos and have people partner and collaborate, you get better results. That’s our goal: To break down the barriers between the social worker, the family, the DOE—to make better connections.”

Among EPIC’s programs are voluntary meet-ups that bring families together with Child Welfare Services and other service providers to talk about what each family needs. The Ohana Finding program scours databases and the Internet to find possible relatives for children in foster care (EPIC then helps bring everybody together for counseling).

Susan Chandler, director of UH Mānoa’s Public Policy Center and a board member at EPIC, says that, in the old days (about 10 to 15 years ago), the system was bogged down with secrets. “It used to be that somehow you weren’t allowed to tell the family that you were making decisions, or where you were taking the kids in foster care.”

Because of the work Tochiki and her team at EPIC Ohana have achieved, “You don’t do that anymore,” says Chandler. “Everything is just more open and transparent, and families feel that they are getting help, that they’re part of a collaborative process. It’s a rule and a practice, but it’s very profound.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Subscribe to Honolulu

Honolulu Magazine July 2020
Edit ModuleShow Tags



9 Greatest Honolulu Homes

Great Homes

Stunning, historic, extraordinary.


Can the Mainland Do Poke Right? Do We Want Them To?​


Martha Cheng, author of The Poke Cookbook and former line cook, talks about how a New York City publisher decided Hawai‘i’s favorite pūpū was for everybody.


50 Essential Hawai‘i Books You Should Read in Your Lifetime


The most iconic, trenchant and irresistible island books, as voted by a panel of literary community luminaries.


Everything You Need to Know About Local Fruit in Hawai‘i


Fruits are part of our history and culture, a way for us to feel connected to our community.


A Local’s Guide to Buying Reef-Safe Sunscreen


Five Hawai‘i brands have created reef-safe sunscreens that are safe for your ʻohana and the ocean. 

Edit ModuleShow Tags