KAREN TAN

Child & Fam­ily Ser­vice’s new head talks about an ar­ray of aid,“from twin­kle to wrin­kle”

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - VIEWS & VOICES - By Vicki Viotti vviotti@starad­ver­tiser.com

Karen Tan now oc­cu­pies a dif­fer­ent job at the non­profit Child & Fam­ily Ser­vice — pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, mov­ing into her of­fice at the health and hu­man ser­vices agency’s down­town lo­ca­tion. But CFS’ head­quar­ters in Ewa Beach also had an of­fice for the CEO — and that she has de­cided to con­vert into an “in­no­va­tion room,” a place where, Tan said, “thought hap­pens.” One idea: There are plans for “cause mar­ket­ing” — link­ing CFS to the sale of items as a fundrais­ing and mar­ket­ing strat­egy, she said.

And where else is in­no­va­tion needed?

“Kupuna ser­vices have slowly been un­funded,” said Tan, 48. “We’re see­ing them shrink, when peo­ple are get­ting older. That’s con­cern­ing to me.

“So, I’m al­ready plan­ning on bring­ing a group of key peo­ple to that room, to do brain­storm­ing and plan­ning — what’s work­ing, what’s not, where do we go from here, and come up with a strat­egy to ad­dress that area.”

Tan is the mar­ried mother of three teenage daugh­ters, the el­dest start­ing col­lege at Seat­tle Pa­cific Univer­sity, where Tan had earned her bach­e­lor’s de­gree in so­ci­ol­ogy. She went on to get a master’s in so­cial work from Univer­sity of Hawaii at Manoa and is a li­censed clin­i­cal so­cial worker. Most of her jobs have been lead­er­ship po­si­tions, in­clud­ing her 12 at CFS — most re­cently serv­ing as chief pro­gram of­fi­cer. She has watched the state’s so­cial ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions strug­gle with di­min­ish­ing funds in el­der care and other ar­eas. And even when it’s not di­min­ished, it can be held up, putting ser­vices on hold.

“The chal­lenge is that the money comes from the fed­eral govern­ment, stops at the state, then to the city,” she said. “So you have three lev­els of pro­cess­ing, so it can de­lay the fund­ing.”

There are meet­ings in the works with govern­ment agen­cies aimed at curb­ing that prob­lem, she said.

“They don’t want ser­vices to stop, ei­ther,” Tan added, “and that’s the good thing. And I get it. It’s that the city doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily want you to start when the money hasn’t yet ar­rived. It’s the way we treat our own bank ac­counts.”

DEN­NIS ODA / DODA@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

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