2023 Annual Report

Our hearts are filled with gratitude for everything we collectively accomplished this year. We shifted policies, won public investments, and grew our network of passionate advocates for keiki. Thank you for giving your time, knowledge, experience, and resources. We are grateful to continue building vibrant communities for Hawaiʻi’s children alongside you!


"I was overcome with the feeling of wanting to be a part of decision-making for my children on a larger scale."

Gwen Whiting



Parent Leaders in Action

Leaders in our communities drive HCAN’s work to build and unify voices in Hawaiʻi to create positive change for keiki. Parent leaders like Gwen Whiting fuel our mission and affirm our purpose. After seeing an ad for our Hawaiʻi Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) program, Gwen took the leap to cultivate her skills as a parent leader.

"I was overcome with the feeling of wanting to be a part of decision-making for my children on a larger scale." Gwen graduated from PLTI earlier this year. Shortly thereafter, she joined HCAN’s staff by accepting a new position as WIC Language Access Project Coordinator.


"[When] I became a mom, I wanted to be available to my kids physically and mentally so I started to look at different career opportunities that directly involved things that impacted them. I also felt that it was important for my well-being to work on surrounding myself with people who had the pilina of childhood needs and who may also be navigating the foreign waters of raising children."

Gwen exemplifies what we hope to ignite in our communities. She took incremental steps to grow from “[knowing] nothing about advocacy,” to a parent leader, to a team member of HCAN – all while being a proud advocate for keiki the whole time! “Now with a little more understanding of how things work, I feel confident that I can create change."




Mission: Build a unified voice educating and advocating for Hawaiʻi's children.
Vision: All of Hawaiʻi's children are healthy, safe and ready to learn.

We are the only nonprofit in the state of Hawaiʻi solely committed to advocating for children and families. We take a multifaceted approach to build power with parents and families through:
  • Advocacy and policy change
  • Coalition-building
  • Community mobilization
  • Data and research
  • Strategic partnerships


We address the root causes of poverty and inequity and develop public policies that help children and their families. Currently, we’re working on early childhood care and education, early childhood health, oral health, child abuse and neglect prevention, economic security, and food security.


Major Highlights

Working with partners across the state, we won huge victories for children this year!

⭐ About $80 million per year for the next 5 years going to working families via tax credits. Expansions and increases to the earned income tax credit, the food/excise tax credit, and the child and dependent care tax credit will give working families the biggest boost in recent memory!!

⭐ More than $38 million more per year going to Preschool Open Doors child care subsidies, which increases the total annual appropriation to $50 million in the base budget. Increased funding means more families can access affordable, quality child care.

⭐ Operating funding through the Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL) for an additional 55 Public Prekindergarten Program classrooms over the next two years. This means more capacity toward striving to meet the caregiving crisis for families with young children.



Data and research

High-quality data, research, and analysis are critical to children’s well-being. By deeply understanding the issues, we can explore how children and families are doing, uncover disparities, and develop evidence-based public policy solutions.

HCAN continued to serve as the Hawaiʻi state partner for KIDS COUNT, a nationwide network organized by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Hawaiʻi KIDS COUNT is a partnership between HCAN, the University of Hawaiʻi Center on the Family, Hawaiʻi Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, and the Hawaiʻi Budget and Policy Center.

⭐ HCAN released the 2023 KIDS COUNT Data Book, which showed Hawai‘i’s ranking in children’s economic well-being as 44th, or the seventh lowest in the nation. The Data Book also reported that Hawai‘i parents face some of the highest child care costs in the nation. The data reinforces what we hear from parents and families – that living in Hawaiʻi is tough.



Collaborative advocacy

HCAN organizes or co-organizes several community coalitions that cultivate important relationships to collectively break down barriers and advance solutions that ease burdens for families.


The mission of Hawaiʻi Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance (HECAA) is that all children will have equitable access to affordable, culturally reflective, high-quality care and education. HECAA includes dozens of members from a range of organizations, including the American Heart Association, Kamehameha Schools, HEʻE Coalition, Parents and Children Together, PATCH, and UH Center on the Family.

HCAN co-convened regular HECAA meetings with Kamehameha Schools. HECAA’s policy committee developed three legislative proposals: 1) the infant and toddler workforce wage supplement pilot, 2) the accreditation supports program, and 3) the infant and toddler child care slots pilot. The proposals were included in the Children’s Policy Agenda and all three were included as top priority or secondary priority bills in the Keiki Caucus. Ultimately, the accreditation support program successfully passed into law and the workforce wage pilot survived to the final day of conference. HECAA also focused on deepening relationships among coalition members by holding an all-day retreat following the legislative session and continuing to invite new members to join the coalition.

⭐ HCAN and HECAA led the passage of SB239 and $2.1 million to support early childhood care and education providers to gain accreditation. The act requires the state’s Department of Human Services to establish an accreditation program that will provide financial assistance for fees and technical assistance so regulated early childhood care and education providers can gain accreditation. The act also extends the deadline for the accreditation requirement instituted by Act 46 for the Preschool Open Doors program. These accomplishments will help to expand options for families to find quality child care providers.


The Hawaiʻi Working Families Coalition (WFC) is a diversified group of nonprofit organizations, academia, unions and community advocates fighting for Hawaiʻi’s low-income and working-class families through policy, advocacy, and education.

WFC policy priorities for the 2023 legislative session were establishing paid sick days, establishing guaranteed paid family leave, and addressing affordable housing.

⭐ HCAN and WFC rallied at the State Capitol to lift up policy priorities supporting working families. PLTI alumni Summer Yadao and Christen Zulli joined Representative Jeanne Kapela as featured speakers to emphasize the need for affordable housing and paid leave now.


The Hawaiʻi Oral Health Coalition (HOHC) aims to improve the overall health and well-being of all Hawaiʻi residents by increasing access and equity in oral health care through collaborative partnerships, advocacy, and education. The HOHC was established in the summer of 2019 and follows in the footsteps of decades of collaboration within the oral health community. Led by the Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute and HCAN, the HOHC is community-owned and has membership representation from all islands and diverse sectors.

The HOHC is comprised of three working committees and three neighbor island committees: Advocacy Committee, Workforce/Data Surveillance Committee, and Prevention & Access Committee. They work to improve preventative care, access to oral health services, and address oral health disparities among Hawaii’s underserved and vulnerable populations. Under the Prevention/Access Committee, three workgroups were born based on expressed interest of HOHC members. These workgroups focus on expanding access to Keiki Dental Sealants, Kupuna Care, and Disability Care and Needs.

⭐ HOHC listened to and built relationships with healthcare advocates, which strengthened their powerful network of community based health leaders and organizations. The counties of Kauaʻi, Maui, and Hawaiʻi Island lead their island committees by seeking input from the community, and engaging the larger Coalition in decision-making activities. HCAN provides support by helping to facilitate meetings, take notes, and follow up with individuals on action items. The island committees were able to hold events in their community, and recruit other stakeholders to join in the conversation about oral health.

⭐ HCAN has deepened the relationship between several Hawaiʻi federally qualified health centers in rural areas, which is evident in their continued participation in the neighbor island rural committees. Partnerships and conversations with Papa Ola Lōkahi (Native Hawaiian Health System) has led to a greater understanding of issues affecting our indigenous population and how we can work together to address those challenges. It has prompted activities to empower and engage our community to understand oral health integration.


The Hawaiʻi Children’s Trust Fund (HCTF) was established in 1993 by state legislation. This legislation created a public-private partnership between the Department of Health (DOH) and the Hawaii Community Foundation and structured the partnership to involve three advisory groups (a statewide Coalition, an Advisory Committee, and an Advisory Board). The mission of HCTF is to ensure that Hawaiʻi’s children develop into healthy, productive, and caring individuals by promoting the advancement of community family strengthening programs in order to prevent child abuse and neglect.

HCTF Coalition is made up of nonprofit organizations, state and government agencies, community grassroots organizations, and any person who feels passionate about family strengthening and preventing child abuse and neglect. The Coalition provides a meeting space for organizations to gather and share about initiatives, provides training on various topics which promote family strengthening for a diverse population, and announces grant making opportunities to continue the work of prevention.

The HCTF Coalition is engaging community members to work on policies that strengthen families and the prevention workforce. Through dialogue and advocacy, HCTF supports initiatives that strengthen the State Child Welfare Services, other State Departments, and key community stakeholders and agencies.


Community Engagement

13,000+ advocates reachable via email, mail, or phone
9,000+ followers on social media
200,000+ Social media impressions
64 media appearances



20 new parent and community leaders graduated this year
117 PLTI alumni across the islands


The Hawaiʻi Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) is a nationally affiliated leadership, civics, and democracy training course for parents and community members to improve child outcomes in their communities. This model has been replicated nationwide and began in Hawaiʻi in 2015. Hawaiʻi PLTI now has 117 alumni actively engaging and changing their communities!

PLTI participants complete community projects to integrate what they’ve been learning. Some projects this year included:

  • Head Start, Policy Council Member (Being on the policy council for the Head Start program)
  • Hey Aunty! (An app where youth can reach out for help and get 1-1 support)
  • IEP Meeting, Here I Come! (A picture book for IEP process & translation in Tagalog)
  • It's Cool to Be Kind (An anti-bullying coloring book)
  • Keiki Food Connection (Partnering with WIC to grow food at home)
  • ‘Ohana Garden and Grindz Ongoing [OGGO] (Teaching families gardening and kitchen skills with an emergency preparedness mindset)
  • Reiki for Keiki (A group teaching Reiki to parents in relation to their interactions with their children)
  • Renters Talk Story (Talk story sessions informing renters about their rights)
  • Spectrum of Support (SOS) Church Engagement Project (A support group for parents of children with Autism diagnosis)
  • The Hanuola Project (Addressing indoor air quality in schools)
  • The Risk to Keiki is Real-Naloxone on School Campus Can Save a Life (Getting Nar-Can in charter schools on Hawaiʻi Island)


ʻOhana Leadership Council

Parents and families coming together to create change! We launched the inaugural ʻOhana Leadership Council (OLC) earlier in 2023. OLC (formerly Family Leadership Council/FLC) brings together parent and family leaders from across the state. The Council lifts up family voices to change policies and systems. Currently, the Council is working to pass paid family leave, make child care affordable and available for everyone, and advance other family-centered priorities.

⭐ HCAN adopted new policies to compensate OLC members for their year-long commitment of sharing expertise and their lived experiences. The Council meets virtually each month and is gearing for the 2024 legislative session.


Annual Advocacy Training

109 attendees at 2023 Virtual Policy and Advocacy Training: Dreams into Actions

New and seasoned advocates gathered on a Saturday in January for the Annual Policy and Advocacy Training co-organized by HCAN. These passionate community members learned and reviewed skills to actively participate in Hawaiʻi’s 2023 law-making process.



About HCAN Speaks!


Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network Speaks! (HCAN Speaks!) is a nonpartisan 501(c)4 nonprofit. Although it’s a separate organization from HCAN, the two have a shared mission of ensuring all keiki are healthy, safe, and ready to learn.

HCAN Speaks! focuses on lobbying and endorsing candidates who work to pass legislation on behalf of Hawaiʻi’s children and families. HCAN Speaks! gives voters the tools needed to make informed decisions about advocating for public policy and choosing Hawaiʻi’s leaders.


2023 Children’s Policy Agenda


⭐ 56 Community Champion members contributed to the agenda

⭐ 12 priorities for the 2023 legislative session

⭐ 3 bills passed

The 2023 Hawaiʻi Children’s Policy Agenda, published by Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network Speaks!, reflected the input of 56 Community Champion members. These organizations, coalitions, and individuals are committed to improving the lives of our keiki by promoting public policy changes that benefit children’s health, safety, education, and economic security.

The Agenda contained 12 priorities for the 2023 Hawaiʻi State Legislative Session, which were the top priority issues of our Community Champion members. Ultimately, three of these priorities passed in bills or resolutions this year.

Legislators took necessary actions by:

  • expanding access to quality child care through support of providers to gain accreditation,
  • creating a collaborative partnership to transform the child welfare system,
  • improving custody evaluations to protect children and survivors of domestic violence,
  • making historic investments in early childhood care and education, and
  • giving the largest increase to tax credits for working families in recent memory.

Legislators fell short by not implementing paid family leave, despite witnessing dire caregiving needs before, during, and after the pandemic.


Community events


During the 2023 legislative session, HCAN Speaks! collaborated with coalition partners to host two successful rally + lobby day events in March.

Early Childhood Care and Education Day spotlighted young keiki, caregivers, educators, and advocates at the State Capitol. Preschoolers from around Oʻahu made paper lei that were presented to dignitaries. Each lei included a special note reminding recipients of the value of and responsibilities to our keiki. HCAN Speaks!, Hawaiʻi Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance, Hawaiʻi Association for the Education of Young Children, Holomua Collaborative, and other partners were joined by Lt. Governor Luke, Senator Kidani, and Rep. Woodson. Keiki to kūpuna enjoyed singing songs with Molly Whuppie, taking photos, and visiting with their lawmakers.

Working Families Day spotlighted workers, families, and advocates pressing for much needed affordable housing and economic security. HCAN Speaks! partnered with Working Families Coalition, Hawaiʻi Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, and Hawaiʻi Workers Center to stand in solidarity at the State Capitol. The rally featured speeches by PLTI alumni Summer Yadao and Christen Zulli, as well as Rep. Jeanné Kapela emphasizing the critical need for paid leave and affordable housing.







Community Champion members

Our Community Champion members include families, policymakers, business leaders, preschools, and nonprofit organizations who are committed to building a unified voice to speak for Hawaiʻi’s keiki. Community Champion members came together once again to develop a Children’s Policy Agenda.

Mahalo to these Community Champion members for participating in the 2023 Hawaiʻi Children’s Policy Agenda!


  • Aloha Diaper Bank
  • Catalight Foundation
  • EPIC ʻOhana
  • Hālau Hula o Nāmamoakeakua
  • Hawaiʻi Afterschool Alliance
  • Hawaiʻi Aquatics Foundation
  • Hawaiʻi Association of School Psychologists
  • Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network Speaks!
  • Hawaiʻi Coalition for Child Protective Reform
  • Hawaiʻi Dental Service
  • Hawaiʻi Diaper Bank
  • Hawaiʻi Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance
  • Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute
  • Hawaiʻi State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Hawaiʻi State PTSA
  • Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association
  • Hawaiʻi Youth Services Network
  • Hoʻōla Nā Pua
  • Kids Hurt Too Hawaiʻi
  • Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation
  • Parents And Children Together
  • Parents for Public Schools of Hawaiʻi
  • PATCH - People Attentive to Children Hawaiʻi
  • Paying It Forward
  • Protective Makua
  • Puakalehua Early Learning Consortium
  • Raise Up Hawaiʻi
  • Vibrant Hawaiʻi


  • Paula Adams
  • Raquel Aki
  • Dena Akiu
  • Heidi-ann Allencastre
  • Deborah Bond-Upson
  • Reid Chung
  • Regina Corniel
  • Dr. Lori de Crinis
  • Jill Guillermo-Togawa
  • Jessamy Hornor
  • Jackie Jackson
  • Kandice Johns
  • Leilani Kupahu-Marino Kahoano
  • Caitlin Kryss
  • Terry Lock
  • Deb Marois
  • Maluhia O’Donnell
  • Quin Ogawa
  • Amy Perruso
  • Robert Peters
  • Dana Anne Senaha
  • Jeannine Souki
  • Marialiliana Stark
  • Anna Stone
  • Todd Taniguchi
  • Jessica Wong-Sumida
  • Karen Worthington
  • Erica Yamauchi


Superhero Network

We are doing this children- and family-centering work in partnership with dedicated alumni, advocates, volunteers, collaborators, donors, and funders. Superheroes like you wear many hats and share your gifts through different means. Mahalo nui for investing in Hawaiʻi’s keiki – today and for generations to come!


Champions for Children Gala


Thank you for joining us at this year’s Champions for Children Gala in April! We celebrated amazing advocates for keiki with 200 friends – new and returning – from across the state. We enjoyed a beautiful evening at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel where we mingled as the sun set over the ocean in Waikīkī while musicians Melaniie and JRoQ played our favorite tunes. Through your abundant generosity we raised nearly $100,000, to continue our vital work building a unified voice for Hawaiʻi’s children.




The brightest shining stars of the evening were our Champions for Children honorees. A panel of nearly 20 community judges had the tough job of selecting from dozens of tireless advocates going above and beyond for keiki. The 2023 Champions for Children honorees were:

⭐ Youth Advocate of the Year Winner: Rylee Brooke Kamahele

⭐ Advocate Winner: Never Quit Dreaming

⭐ Advocate Honorable mentions: Hawaiʻi Chapter of Mocha Moms, Inc. & Adrian Tam

⭐ Innovator Winner: Dean Schmaltz

⭐ Innovator Honorable mentions: Andrea Alexander & Healthy Baby Hawaii

⭐ Unsung Hero Winner: Dr. Scott Shimabukuro

⭐ Unsung Hero Honorable mentions: Daynin Dashefsky & Tessa Coulter



Board of Directors

Fiscal year 2023


HCAN Board of Directors

  • Dana Senaha, Ed.D, President
  • David Gaudi, Ed.D, Co-Vice President
  • Erica Yamauchi, Co-Vice President
  • David Randall, Secretary
  • Tracy Nakashima, Treasurer
  • Lingie Chiu
  • Reid Chung
  • Camille Hampton, Ed.D
  • Travis Hong, M.D.
  • Nick Kacprowski, J.D.
  • Dean Wong


HCAN Speaks! Board of Directors

  • Liza Ryan Gill, President
  • Nick Kacprowski, J.D., Treasurer
  • Mandy Fernades, Secretary
  • Teri Keliipuleole
  • Jasmine Slovak
  • Erica Yamauchi

HCAN Staff


  • Deborah Zysman, Executive Director
  • Nicole Woo, Director of Research and Economic Policy
  • Philamer Felicitas, Creative Specialist
  • Krystal Baba, Family Engagement Coordinator
  • Mele Andrade, Director of Community Engagement and Training
  • Mai Kapuaoʻihilani Mei-Lin Hall, Children’s Health Coordinator
  • Keʻōpū Reelitz, Director of Early Learning and Health Policy
  • Diane Tabangay, Children's Anti-Hunger Policy Advocate
  • Noreen Kohl, Children’s Health and Wellness Policy Advocate
  • Zoë Brooks-Jeffiers, Communications and Development Coordinator
  • Courtney Velazquez, Deputy Director