Core Components of a Children’s Ombudsman Office
Revised October 24, 2008
1. Responsive to issues specific to dependent, delinquent and non-adjudicated children and youth involved in the children and youth and juvenile justice system. Responsive as well to families of dependent, delinquent and non-adjudicated children and youth involved in the children and youth and juvenile justice system, including resource families and kin.
2. Independence in structure, function, and appearance from county and state governments including their contractors and juvenile courts.
Accountability and Outreach to the Public and Reporting
3. Duty to inform dependent, delinquent and non-adjudicated children and youth involved with the children and youth and juvenile justice systems about their individual rights and the role of the ombudsman to guard those rights. Authority to investigate alleged violations of such rights.
4. Duty to inform parents and families, including resource families and kin, about their rights and the role of the ombudsman to guard those rights. Authority to investigate alleged violations of such rights.
5. Duty to respond to and, where necessary and appropriate, launch an investigation in response to a complaint filed by a parent, member of a child’s family, including resource families and kin, an employee of a county or state government, or contracted private provider, or the public at large.
6. Duty to make at least yearly public reports to the Governor and Pennsylvania General Assembly. This report should document the total numbers of calls received and the disposition of such calls, including how many of them required an investigation and the outcomes of such investigations.
7. The ombudsman should also be required to publicly identify systemic strengths and challenges as demonstrated by the complaints received, investigations undertaken and be prepared to put forth recommendations regarding policy and practice as well as budgetary and staffing needs.
8. Duty to make specific appropriate recommendations to the Pennsylvania General Assembly and be authorized to take and communicate positions about the child welfare system that come before the legislature or administrative branch.
9. Staffing and funding consistent with the anticipated number of complaints (including those that will be investigated and those that will require information and referral).
10. Duty to hold information confidential, except where disclosure may be necessary to prevent imminent harm, and including duty to not disclose the identity of the complaintant without the complainant’s consent
Impartial Compliant Investigation Process
11. Authority to receive and investigate complaints, including subpoena power, the right to communicate directly with dependent, delinquent and non-adjudicated children and youth, and authority to make recommendations for actions in response to complaints.
12. Assure that investigations utilize applicable and agreed upon professional and best practice case review standards and practice.
Meaningful Enforcement Powers
13. Authority to make recommendations to promote corrective action to the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) and any public or private children and youth service provider as a result of an investigation.
14. Authority to notify the Governor and the appropriate Standing Committees of the General Assembly when recommended corrective action has not been taken by DPW or any public or private children and youth service provider without a written reasonable explanation why this recommendation is either not possible or in the child’s interest.
15. Authority to pursue administrative, legal, and other appropriate remedies or approaches to ensure the protection of the rights of children and families involved with the child welfare system.
Clear Scope of Jurisdiction
16. The Ombudsman Office will not duplicate any services or mechanisms already in place for resolution of disputes and complaints with the understanding that existing services or processes do not meet the standard for independent review, investigation and resolution.
17. The scope of the types of complaints within the jurisdiction of the ombudsman will be detailed in regulation.