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Childrens Ombudsman Offices

Children’s Ombudsman Offices / Office of the Child Advocate

By Kate Bartell Nowak

Group of children.

Updated August, 2012
 

What is an Ombudsman?
 
The word “Ombudsman” is derived from the Swedish word meaning “agent” or “representative[i].”  Ombudsman offices have been established in a variety of state, municipal, county, local, and federal governments, as well in academic organizations and businesses as an independent and impartial organization which assists in obtaining resolution of conflicts or complaints.  Ombudsman may be  alternatively known as "advocate," "citizen's representative," and "mediator.[ii]"  The United States Ombudsman Association (USOA), defines the public sector ombudsmen as "an independent, impartial public official with authority and responsibility to receive, investigate or informally address complaints about government actions, and, when appropriate, make findings and recommendations, and publish reports[iii]"
 
The USOA has established a set of best practices guidelines for Ombudsman offices: (1) An Ombudsman office should be independent-free from outside control or influence; (2)  An Ombudsman should be impartial- receive and review each complaint in an objective and fair manner, free from bias, and treat all parties without favor or prejudice. (3)The Ombudsman should control confidentiality- have the privilege and discretion to keep confidential or release any information related to a complaint or investigation; and (4) The Ombudsman should create a credible review process of complaints- perform his or her responsibilities in a manner that engenders respect and confidence and be accessible to all potential complainants. [iv]
 
Children’s Ombudsman Offices /Office of the Child Advocate
Overview
Children’s Ombudsman Offices, also known in some jurisdictions as Office of the Child Advocate, have been established at the state level in order to assist in providing oversight of children’s services.  Currently, approximately twenty-two states have established a Children’s Ombudsman/ Office of the Child Advocate with duties and purposes specifically related to children’s services.  Another five states have  a statewide Ombudsman program which address the concerns of all governmental agencies, including children’s services.  Nine states have related Ombudsman services, program specific services, or county run programs. 
The purpose, responsibilities and duties of the Children’s Ombudsman Office vary by state.  In general, these offices exist to:
 

  • Handle and investigate complaints from citizens and families related to government services for children and families - this may include child protective services, foster care, adoption and juvenile justice services.
  • Provide a system accountability mechanism by recommending system-wide improvements to benefit children and families - often in the form of annual reports to the Legislature, Governor and public. 
  • Protect the interests and rights of children and families - both individually and system-wide.
  • Monitor programs, placements and departments responsible for providing children's services - which may include inspecting state facilities and institutions.

 
Complaint Process[v]
Once a concerned party calls a Children’s Ombudsman’s Office with a complaint, the call is screened to determine what action is necessary.  One option is to provide the caller with resources and referrals.  The other option is to open a case.  Once a case is open, the Ombudsman gives notice of the complaint to the agency and begins to investigate or review the complaint and the agency is requested to respond.  If necessary, the Ombudsman may intervene by facilitating communication, holding a meeting, or pursuing legal action.  Once the Ombudsman has concluded its investigation, the office will develop a report while giving the agency the opportunity to respond.  On an annual basis, the Ombudsman will summarize citizen complaints and identify system trends in an annual report.   
 
Types of Children’s Ombudsman Offices/ Offices of the Child Advocate
Jurisdiction, size and operation of Children’s Ombudsman Offices vary by state.A Children’s Ombudsman Office may be established by legislation, executive order, or by the child welfare agency.A Children’s Ombudsman office can be an independent agency established by statute, existing either in the legislative branch or executive branch, or may be established within the child welfare agency.The office may be run by the government, ora non-profit organization under government contract.This section explains generally how states have organized Children’s Ombudsman Offices.The chart below provides a state by state breakdown. 

  1. Independent and autonomous agency with oversight specific to child welfare. 

Eleven states operate independent and autonomous Ombudsman offices, specifically handling issues related to children (Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington).  These offices are established by the Legislature and may exist independently within either the legislative or executive branch[vi].  These offices are not part of the state’s division of child and family services.  Independent Children’s Ombudsman Offices oversee child-serving agencies with independence, impartiality, and confidentiality, and have a credible review process which includes access to information.[vii]  These Ombudsman are generally appointed by the Governor or Legislature. Statutory duties likely include:  Receiving and investigating complaints; access to information, usually including the power to subpoena; control what information must be held confidential or released to the public; and must submit annual reports- usually these reports are available to the public. 
 
 
  1. Operates within, but autonomous of,  the state agency providing child welfare services.
 
Three states (California, Texas, and Utah) have established Children’s Ombudsman offices that operate within the state’s division of child welfare services, but are established to act autonomous of the  agency they oversee.  These Ombudsman are also established by statute.  The department director generally is responsible for or assists in appointing the Ombudsman.  The duties and functions of these independent organizational Ombudsman likely include: receive and investigate complaints related to child serving agencies; access information, without the power to subpoena; maintain confidentiality; and prepare an annual report which is usually made available to the public.  
 
 
  1. Provides oversight to all governmental agencies within the state including child welfare services.
 
Five states (Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Iowa, and Nebraska) have general jurisdiction ombudsmen established to oversee all public agencies or departments within the state including child serving agencies.[viii]  These five Ombudsman offices are each established by statute, and exist independently as part of the Legislative Branch.  Statutory duties include: receive and investigate complaints; access information with the power to subpoena; control confidentiality; and submit reports at least annually, available to the public. 
 
 
  1. Non-Independent Children’s Ombudsman office, established within the child welfare agency. 
 
Eight states (Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Oklahoma, New Hampshire,  New Jersey, New York, and Oregon) have non-independent Ombudsman offices established within state’s division of child welfare services designed to  take complaints and resolve disputes within the agency of oversight.  These Offices may or may not be established by statute.  These Ombudsman are appointed by the Director of the agency.  Duties generally include: receive and investigate complaints; access information, without the power to subpoena; and the office may or may not be required to submit reports. 
 
  
  1. Other statutory Ombudsman-like programs.
 
Four states (Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota,  and Nevada) have established Ombudsman-like services by statute,  limited to specific constituencies or services within the child welfare system.  Delaware’s program assists with judicial advocacy; Maryland has a Children’s Advocate who assists residential youth with complaints; Minnesota has four Ombudspersons working with four different communities of color; and  Nevada serves missing and exploited children.  These Ombudsman programs may or may not be independent and autonomous of the agency they oversee. 
 
  
  1.  Non-statutory county-based or program-based offices. 
 
Five states ( Montana, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia) have county- or program-based Ombudsman not established in state statute.  These programs may be run as a citizen complaint office within the Governor’s office; through individual county children’s services agencies; or,  are specific programs such as Virginia’s Juvenile Justice’s Ombudsman Office.  The main duty of these offices is to receive and help resolve constituent complaints. 
  
Children’s Ombudsman Services by State
The chart below provides state specific information regarding Ombudsman programs related to children’s services.  For each state, the hyperlink to office’s website is provided if available.  A hyperlink to state statue is also provided as available; if there is not a direct link, the authority can be found by statute/code search.  The information within the chart  includes: the year established, if known; the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman’s office and the location of the office within the state’s government; information regarding how the Ombudsman is appointed and required qualification, if available; and, the duties and powers of the Ombudsman.  This state-specific information comes from either the state’s statutory language or the office’s website.

[i] Jeffrey S. Lubbers, Ombudsman Offices in the Federal Government—An Emerging Trend? Administrative and Regulatory Law News, Vol. 22, No. 7 Summer 1997, available at: http://apps.americanbar.org/adminlaw/news/vol22no4/ombudsmn.html.
[ii] Id.
iii] United States Ombudsman Association, Governmental Ombudsman Standards, Oct. 2003, Available at: http://usoa.non-profitsites.biz/documents/PDF/References/USOA_STANDARDS.pdf.
[iv] Id.
[v] Moira Kathleen O'Neill, Pulling Back the Curtain: State Children's Ombudsmen at Work 107 (Jan. 2011), available at: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/child_law/moira_oneill_dissertation_2011.authcheckdam.pdf.
[vi] Id. at 81.
[vii] Id.
[viii] Id.

 

STATE

OFFICE

AUTHORITY

YEAR ESTABLISHED

JURISDICTION & LOCATION WITHIN THE GOVERNMENT

APPOINTMENT & QUALIFICATION

DUTIE & POWERS
OF THE
OMBUDSMAN/CHILD ADVOCATE

ALASKA Alaska Office of Ombudsman Alaska Stat. 24.55.010-340 1975 The Ombudsman has jurisdiction to investigate the administrative acts of all Alaska agencies, and is independent and autonomous of those agencies. As part of the Legislative Branch, the administrative facilities and services of the Legislative Affairs Agency may be used for management of the Office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is selected by the Alaska Legislature's Ombudsman Selection Committee, subject to approval by the Legislature and Governor. The Ombudsman serves for a term of five years and may be reappointed. 

The Ombudsman must be at least 21 years old, a qualified voter, resident in the state for three years, and cannot be a candidate for, or hold, public office.
The Ombudsman may investigate complaints; has access to confidential records; issue subpoenas: and must maintain confidentiality.  The Ombudsman may issue investigative reports; and may submit recommendations to the Legislature.
ARIZONA Arizona Office of Ombudsman Citizens Aide Ariz. Rev. Stat.  41-1371 through 41-1383 1996 The Ombudsman oversees all Arizona agencies and is independent and autonomous of those agencies.  The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent agency of the Arizona Legislature, and physically may not be located in the state office or any agency office. The Ombudsman is appointed by Legislative committee.  The Ombudsman serves a  five-year terms- and cannot serve more than three full terms.
 
The Ombudsman must not hold public office, must be a state resident for 6 months, 25 years old, and have investigatory experience.
The Ombudsman may investigate the administrative acts of agencies;  prepare an annual and public report; has access to confidential  information; issues subpoenas; maintains confidentiality; makes recommendations.
ARKANSAS

Arkansas’ Public Defender’s Commission’s Juvenile Ombudsman and

 

The Foster Parent Ombudsman 
 

Ark. Code Ann. § 16-87-216


 
 
Internally- Department of Human Services
1999 The Ombudsman is part of the Public Defender’s Commission, the Juvenile Ombudsman provides for independent oversight of the Division of Youth Service's facilities and programs that are unlicensed or unaccredited.
 
The Foster Parent Ombudsman is located within the Department of Human Services; has the responsibility of assisting foster parents.  No statutory authority.
The Ombudsman is appointed by the Executive Director of the Public Defender’s Commission. The Ombudsman should have an advanced degree in related field and four years related experience. The Ombudsman has access to confidential information and juveniles in the state’s custody; receives and investigates complaints; prepares annual reports.
 
The Foster Parent Ombudsman serves as an advocate for foster parents by answering questions, providing training and assistance, and working to help resolve complaints or problems the foster parents might be having with the Division.
CALIFORNIA California Ombudsman for Foster Care Cal. Welfare And Institutions Code § 16160-16167 1998 The Ombudsman is established as an autonomous entity within the State Department of Social Services with the oversight of children in foster care and relating to their care, placement  or services. The Department Director and interested committee shall appoint the Ombudsman for a term of four years.  The Ombudsman may be appointed for consecutive terms. The California Ombudsman for Foster Care investigates complaints; has access to confidential information; must maintain confidentiality; prepares an annual report for the Legislature that is available to the public.
COLORADO Office of Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman Colo. Rev. Stat. § 19-3.3-101 to -109 2010 The Child Protection Ombudsman is established in the State Department and administered by contract with a public agency or private nonprofit organization. The Ombudsman must act independently of Divisions responsible for child welfare, youth corrections, or child care, and independently of the county departments. Contract awarded by State Department’s Executive Director.  The current contract is with the National Association of Counsel for Children. The Child Protection Ombudsman receives and investigates complaints; maintains confidentiality; has access to confidential information; does not have the ability to subpoena; makes recommendations; reports annually; educates the public.
CONNECTICUT Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-13k 1995 The Child Advocate shall act independently of any state department.  The Office of the Child Advocate is located within the Office of Governmental Accountability. The Child Advocate is appointed by the Governor with Approval by the General Assembly to serve a four year term and may be reappointed. The Child Advocate receives and investigates complaints; periodically reviews institutions; recommends policy changes; provides training to attorneys and guardians ad litem; has access to confidential information; issues subpoenas; maintains confidentiality; maintains a child fatality review panel; represents a child in court; produces annual and public reports.
DELAWARE Delaware Office of the Child Advocate Del. Code Ann. tit. 29 §  9001A – 9009A
 
1999 The Office of the Child Advocate is a non-judicial agency of the Court. The Child Advocate serves as Executive Director to the Committee of the Child Protection Accountability Commission (CPAC). Appointed by the Executive Committee of the Child Protection Accountability Commission (CPAC).

The Child Advocate shall be an attorney duly licensed to practice law in Delaware.
The Child Advocate provides legal representation of children; provides public education and legislative advocacy; reviews child policy; recommends changes, submits an annual report; maintains confidentiality; effectuates the purposes of the CPAC.
FLORIDA Children’s Board Ombudsman Program Hillsborough County   The Ombudsman works with families who have children with complex mental health/behavioral challenges.   The Ombudsman provides advocacy referrals to appropriate services, information and resources.
GEORGIA Georgia Office of the Child Advocate Ga. Code Ann, § 15-11-170
 
2000 The Child Advocate provides independent oversight of persons, organizations and agencies responsible for providing services to or caring for children who are victims of child abuse and neglect, or whose domestic situation requires intervention by the state. The Child Advocate is located within the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget for administrative purposes only. The Child Advocate is appointed though a nominating process through the Governor. The Child Advocate coordinates the Child Fatality Review Panel; investigates complaints; has access to confidential records;
subpoenas records; reviews the facilities and procedures of any institution or residence;  provides public education and legislative advocacy; provides annual and public reports.
 
HAWAII Office of the Ombudsman Haw. Rev. Stat. § 6-1 to 6-19 1969 The Ombudsman is an officer of the Legislature and has jurisdiction to investigate the administrative acts of all agencies. The Ombudsman operates independently and autonomously of state and county agencies. The Ombudsman is appointed by the legislature for a six year term, with a three term limit. 

The Ombudsman may not currently serve public office.
The Ombudsman receives and investigates complaints; has access to confidential information; issues subpoenas; makes recommendations to state agencies; publishes recommendations; maintains confidentiality; publishes an annual and public report.
ILLINOIS Illinois DCFS Office of the Inspector General Ch. 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 505/35.5 1993 The Inspector General shall function independently, within the Department of Children and Family Services, with the authority to conduct investigations into by any employee, foster parent, service provider, or contractor of the Department of Children and Family Services. The Inspector General is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate for a term of four years. The Inspector General makes recommendations to the Director of the Department of Children and Family Services; has access to confidential information; acts as liaison between the Department and the police; has power to subpoena; publishes an annual and public report.
INDIANA Indiana Department of Child Services Ombudsman Bureau Ind. Code §  4-13-19 2009 The Ombudsman oversees the Department of Child Services (DCS) and acts independently of DCS.  The Ombudsman  is housed in the Department of Administration.
 
The Ombudsman is appointed by the Governor.

The Ombudsman must be an attorney licensed to practice law in Indiana or a social worker with a master's degree, and must have significant experience or education in child development and child advocacy, including at least two (2) years experience working with child abuse and neglect.
The Ombudsman receives and investigates complaints; provides public education; recommends changes; has access to confidential information; maintains confidentiality; makes reports.
IOWA Iowa Office of Citizen's Aide Ombudsman
 
Iowa Code § 2C-1 et. Sec.
 
1993 The Ombudsman is part of the Legislative branch,  acts independently and has the jurisdiction to investigate complaints about all state and local government agencies. The Ombudsman is appointed by the legislative council, approved by the Senate and House of Representatives for a term of four years and may be reappointed.

The Ombudsman must be a U.S. citizen, an Iowa resident, and qualified to analyze problems of law, administration and public policy.
The Ombudsman has access to confidential information; maintains confidentiality; investigates complaints; issues subpoenas; makes recommendations; publishes conclusions;  provides annual and public reports.
KENTUCKY Kentucky Office of the Ombudsman for
the Cabinet for Health and Family Services
Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 194A.030(A) 1980 The Ombudsman is established within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services . The Ombudsman is appointed by the Secretary of the Cabinet For Health and Family Services, with Governor approval. The Ombudsman receives and reviews citizen complaints; has access to confidential records; emphasizes research and best practice; program accountability; monitors federal compliance.
MAINE Maine Children Ombudsman Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 22 § 4087-A 2001 The Ombudsman is established as an independent program within in the Executive Branch, and contracted to a non-profit organization for operation to oversee the Office of Child and Family Services. Contract to a nonprofit organization by the Governor.  Current contract is with Maine’s Children’s Alliance.

The Ombudsman may not be actively involved in state politics.
The Ombudsman receives and investigates complaints; provides public outreach; has access to persons, files, and  records, does not have the power to subpoena; maintains confidentiality; provides annual and public reports.
MARYLAND

FOSTER PARENT OMBUDSMAN,
John J. Bertulis, Foster Parent Ombudsman

(410) 767-7561
e-mail: jbertuli@dhr.state.md.us

Internally, Department of Human Services 1985 Not Independent.  Autonomous within the Department of Human Resources and reports directly to the Secretary. The Foster Parent Ombudsman is hired by the Secretary of the Department of Human Resources.
 
The Foster Parent Ombudsman reviews and mediates inquiries made by or on behalf of Maryland’s public foster parents’ and is responsible for a quarterly newsletter to foster parents.
MASSACHUSETTS Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate Mass Gen. Laws ch. 18 § 1-13 2008 The Child Advocate is an independent office within the Executive Branch with the jurisdiction to oversee children served by the child welfare or juvenile justice systems. The Child Advocate is appointed by the Governor and a nominating committee and serves a term coterminous with that of the governor. The Child Advocate investigates critical incidents; receives and investigates complaints; reviews and makes recommendations for system-wide changes; educates the public; has access to facilities and records; has the power to subpoena; provides annual and public reports.
MICHIGAN Michigan Office of the Children’s Ombudsman Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.921 et.
sec.
1984 The Ombudsman is independent and autonomous within the Executive Branch Department of Management and Budget, with the jurisdiction to  oversee child welfare functions. The Ombudsman is appointed by the Governor with consent of the Senate and serves at the pleasure of the Governor.

The Ombudsman shall be qualified by training and experience.
The Ombudsman receives and investigates complaints; advocates to the legislature; makes recommendations; has access to confidential records; issues subpoenas; holds informal hearings; maintains confidentiality; provides annual and public reports.
MINNESOTA Minnesota Office of Ombudsperson for Families Minn. Stat. § 257.0755 et. sec. 2001 The Office of Ombudsperson for Families is an independent state agency. There are four ombudspersons working with four different communities of color. Each Ombudsperson works independently from, but in collaboration with, each of the following groups: the Indian Affairs Council, the Chicano Latino Affairs Council, the Council on Black Minnesotans, and the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans. The Ombudsperson for each community shall be selected by the applicable community-specific board and serves at the pleasure of the respective communities.

Each Ombudsperson shall be highly competent and qualified to analyze questions of law, administration, and public policy regarding the protection and placement of children from families of color; must be experienced in dealing with communities of color and knowledgeable about the needs of those communities; must not hold any other public office. 
The Ombudsperson monitors agency compliance with all laws regarding child protection and placement as to the impact on children of color; provides cultural diversity training to state and local courts; receives and investigates complaints; has access to confidential  information; has subpoena power; makes recommendations; provides annual and public reports.
MISSOURI State of Missouri Office of Child Advocate Mo. Rev. Stat. § 37.705 2004 The Office of Child Advocate is part of the Executive Branch Office of Administration and operates as an independent agent of accountability regarding Children's Protection and Services. The Child Advocate shall report directly to the Commissioner of the Office of Administration. The Child Advocate is appointed jointly by the Governor and the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Child Advocate shall hold office for a term of six years. The Child Advocate receives and investigates complaints; has access to confidential information; has the power to subpoena; makes recommendations; educates the public; maintains confidentiality; coordinates mediation efforts between school districts and students when allegations of child abuse arise in a school setting;  provides annual and public reports.
MONTANA Citizens Advocate Office Executive Order 1973 The Citizens Advocate operates under Executive order of the Governor within the Governor’s Office,  with the authority to assist Montanans in their interactions with all state executive branch agencies.   The Citizens Advocate takes complaints regarding state agencies; operates an assistance hotline.
NEBRASKA Public Counsel (Ombudsman’s Office)  Neb. Rev. Stat. § 81-8,240 to 8-8,254
 
1969 As part of the Legislative Branch the Public Counsel oversees all agencies and is independent of the agencies it oversees. The Ombudsman is appointed by the Legislature for a term of six years.

The Ombudsman shall be a person well equipped to analyze problems of law, administration, and public policy and shall not be actively involved in partisan affairs.
The Ombudsman receives and investigates complaints; has access to information; issues subpoenas; makes recommendations; publishes annual reports.
NEVADA Nevada State Advocate for Missing and Exploited Children Nev. Rev. Stat. § 432.205
 
1991 The Advocate operates within the Office of the Attorney General. The  Advocate is a Senior Deputy Attorney General. The Advocate assists other agencies in investigating missing and exploited children; educates the public.
NEW HAMPSHIRE New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services: Office of the Ombudsman     The Ombudsman is established within the Department of Health and Human Services.   The Ombudsman investigates and resolves complaints; provides mediation; maintains confidentiality.
NEW JERSEY Department of Children and Families Office of Advocacy Department of Children and Families 2010 The Ombudsman is established within the Department of Children and Families within the Office of the DCF Commissioner with authority as an independent advocate for children and families.   The Ombudsman provides education; receives and reviews complaints; provides advocacy for families; makes recommendations; and makes reports.
NEW YORK New York Office of the Ombudsman N.Y. Exec. Law § 523b 2008 The Ombudsman operates within the Office of Children and Family Services. The  Ombudsman is appointed by the Commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services.
 
The Director of the Office of the Ombudsman must be an attorney licensed to practice law. The Ombudsmen staff are either licensed attorneys or persons with expertise in the areas of juvenile justice or youth rights.
The Ombudsman receives and investigates complaints; monitors child welfare policy; advises residential youth; makes recommendations; has access to confidential information; receives critical incident reports; maintains confidentiality; provides monthly reports.
OHIO Lucas County Children Services Ombudsman Lucas County Children Services   The Ombudsman is established within the Lucas County Children’s Services.   The Ombudsman investigates complaints; makes recommendations.
OKLAHOMA Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Office of Client Advocacy     The Office of Client Advocacy operates within the Oklahoma Department of Human Services  (OKDHS).   The Office of Client Advocacy takes complaints from: minors in OKDHS custody; youth in voluntary care of OKDHS; and foster parents.
 
OREGON Oregon’s Governor's Advocacy Office
at the Department of Human Services (DHS)
Or. Rev. Stat. § 417.810
 
1993 The Office of Children's Advocate is established in the Department of Human Services within the Governor’s Advocacy Office at the Department of Human Services and is part of the Department of Human Services Director’s Office.  The Children’s Advocate specifically responds to concerns regarding child abuse and neglect, child protective services, and issues relevant to individual child welfare cases. With the concurrence of the Governor, the Director of Human Services shall appoint the Children's Advocate.

The Children's Advocate shall be a person who has background and experience in: law enforcement with particular emphasis on crimes involving child victims; or social work with particular emphasis on child abuse.
The Children’s Advocate educates the public; receives and reviews complaints; maintains confidentiality.
RHODE ISLAND Rhode Island Office of the Child Advocate R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-73-1
 
1979 The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) is an independent and autonomous state agency responsible for protecting the legal rights and interests of children in state care.  The Child Advocate is appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.  The Advocate shall have a term of five years.

The Child Advocate shall be a member of the Rhode Island Bar for at least three years and must be qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office.
The Child Advocate provides an annual report to the Governor and Legislature; insures all children in the child welfare system are appraised of their rights; reviews procedures; reviews complaints; provides training; has access to confidential information; has the power to subpoena; commences civil action against the state on behalf of a child; maintains confidentiality.
SOUTH CAROLINA The South Carolina Governor’s Office of Children’s Affairs Executive Order   The Office of Children’s Affairs exists within the Governor’s Office of Executive Policy and Programs and advocates for improved services for children and families.  There is no statutory authority.   The Office of Children’s Affairs provides arbitration and mediation services; researches constituent concerns.
TENNESSEE Tennessee Commission on Children
and Youth’s (TCCY) Ombudsman Program
Ten. Code Ann. § 37-3-101 et  seq.
 
Ombudsman- 1996
TCCY- 1988
The Ombudsman for Children Youth and Families is part of the Tennessee Commission of Children and Youth, an  Independent and autonomous agency with statutory authority to review children in the foster care system, kinship care or CPS and make recommendations for improvement. The Governor shall appoint one member of the 21- member commission to be chair of the TCCY for a term of three years. The TCCY shall make recommendations regarding the child welfare system; advocate; publish annual reports; review licensing standards; monitor foster care review boards.

The Ombudsman takes referrals concerning the children in state custody; access records and persons; annual reports.
TEXAS Independent Ombudsman for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and Health and Humans Services Commission’s Office of the Ombudsman

Tex. Hum. Res. Code Ann. § 261.001

 and

Tex. Gov’t Code § 531.008
 

2007 and 2003 The Ombudsman is independent of the Juvenile Justice Department, reports to the Governor and Legislature and is responsible for overseeing the rights of children committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

The Ombudsman is independent within the organization.
The Ombudsman is appointed by the Governor with consent of the senate for a two year term and may serve up to three terms.
 
The Ombudsman receives and reviews complaints; advocates for children in custody; provides quarterly reports; maintains confidentiality; provides public education and awareness; reviews facilities; has access to confidential information.

The Ombudsman provides dispute resolution services for the Commission and the health and human services agencies; performs consumer protection functions related to health and human services.
 
UTAH Utah Office of Child Protection Ombudsman Utah Code. Ann. 62A-4a-208 1998 The  Ombudsman was created as an independent office within the Department of Human Services, independent from the Division of Child and Family Services. The Ombudsman shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the executive director.

The Ombudsman shall have experience in child welfare, and in state laws and policies governing abused, neglected, and dependent children.
The Ombudsman receives and investigates complaints; makes recommendations; provides annual reports; has access to confidential information.
VIRGINIA Office of Juvenile Justice’s Ombudsman Program  Office of Juvenile Justice Initiative 2002 The Ombudsman exists within the Office of the Inspector General with the authority to help protect the rights of committed youth.   The Ombudsman maintains a relationship with juvenile correction centers; investigates complaints; makes recommendations.
WASHINGTON Washington State Office of the Family
and Children's Ombudsman
Wash. Rev. Code §  43.06A
 
1996 The  Ombudsman is established within the Office of the Governor, reports directly to the Governor and acts independently from the Department of Social and Health Services.
 
The Ombudsman is appointed by the Governor, with confirmation by the Senate, for a term of three years.

The Ombudsman shall be qualified by training or experience, or both, in family and children's services law and policy.
The Ombudsman educates the public; receives and investigates complaints; monitors child welfare procedures; reports annually; Has access to confidential information; maintains confidentiality; makes child fatality review recommendations.

 

Additional Resources

American bar Association, Center on Children and the Law http://www.americanbar.org/groups/child_law/what_we_do/projects/ombudsman.html
United States Ombudsman Association
 http://www.usombudsman.org/

Moira O’Neill- Pulling Back the Curtain: State Children's Ombudsmen at Work http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/child_law/moira_oneill_dissertation_2011.authcheckdam.pdf

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