HONOLULU, Hawaii – Hawaii officials say the father of a 15-year-old boy who stowed away in a jetliner’s wheel well has arrived in Honolulu from California, but they have been tightlipped about what happens next.
A state Department of Human Services spokeswoman said the agency’s child welfare unit won’t disclose any information on the release of the teen, Yahya Abdi, because of concerns about privacy and confidentiality.
Spokeswoman Kayla Rosenfeld on Tuesday confirmed the arrival of Abdilahi Yusuf.
She said previously that Abdi was in a Honolulu hospital after being transferred to state custody from the Maui airport, where he was questioned by FBI and airport officials following the April 20 flight.
A spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in San Francisco who had been speaking for the family declined to comment beyond reiterating a statement earlier this week that Yusuf wanted to see his son soon.
In a typical runaway case in Hawaii, the Human Services Department’s child welfare unit would begin by investigating any abuse allegations, said Jaque Kelley-Uyeoka, deputy CEO of Hale Kipa, a non-profit that works with at-risk youth in Hawaii.
“DHS, they’re not looking to take kids away from families,” she said. “If DHS rules there is no abuse or neglect, then they are not going to allow for an extended out-of-home stay, by any means. The possibility is DHS steps out of the picture, and we work to unify the family.”
Brokering reconciliation in a runaway case without evidence of abuse could take only a few days, Kelley-Uyeoka said. Alternately, the state or a service provider could try to arrange counselling, or for the child to stay with another relative.
Hawaii does not have an emancipation law that allows minor to declare themselves their own legal guardians, so kids who continue to reject all other options eventually would be “on the run,” she said.
Abdi survived a 5 1/2-hour flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui after hopping an airport fence and climbing into the wheel well of a Boeing 767. He has not spoken publicly about the ordeal that raised questions about airport security and revealed the personal family drama of a Somali immigrant struggling to adjust to life in the United States.
Abdi, who lives in Santa Clara, Calif., with his father, stepmother and siblings, had been unhappy in California and desperately missed his mother, according to those who know his family.
His mother lives in a refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia. Ubah Mohammed Abdule told The Associated Press that the boy longed to see her, but couldn’t because his father told him she was dead and didn’t allow contact.
The boy’s sister Najma Abdi said Monday that their birth mother was lying, and that the father didn’t take the children away from her or mistreat them.
Yusuf says his son was “struggling adjusting to life” in America but that he is excited to bring him home to California.
Associated Press writer Sam Eifling contributed to this report. Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia