Who we are

The Washington State Family and Children’s Ombuds is an independent and impartial office that helps citizens navigate Washington state agencies serving children, youth and families. The Ombuds also investigates complaints about a Washington state agency’s actions or conduct  that involve:

  • Any child at risk of abuse, neglect, or other harm.
  • A child or parent involved with child protection or child welfare services.
  • The safety or welfare of children in state care.

When a complaint issue is substantiated, the Ombuds intervenes to correct a violation of law or policy, or to prevent harm to a child or family.  Additionally, we identify system-wide issues and recommend appropriate changes to improve outcomes for children and strengthen families.  

The DCYF Oversight Board has a new website. Visit them at: https://dcyfoversight.wa.gov

 

File a complaint

The Ombuds investigates complaints about a Washington State agencies action or failure to act in cases involving:

  • Any child at risk of abuse, neglect, or other harm.
  • A child or family involved with child protection or child welfare services.
  • The safety or welfare of children in state care.

File a complaint

To report suspected child abuse or neglect call 911 or contact Child Protective Services at 1-866-END-HARM (1-866-363-4276). To find your local CPS Intake office see:

How to Report Child Abuse or Neglect

Child welfare in the news

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How do I make a complaint?

The quickest and easiest way to make a complaint to the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds is through our website at OFCO.WA.GOV

If you need assistance, you can call our office at 206-439-3870.

You can also mail a complaint to:

The Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds
6840 Fort Dent Way, Suite 125
Tukwila, WA 98188

How does an investigation work?

The Ombuds investigation focuses on the actions and conduct of the state child welfare agency. For example, the Ombuds does not go to a family’s home to investigate an allegation of child neglect, rather the Ombuds would review the actions of Child Protective Services to ensure CPS had responded appropriately to an allegation of child neglect.

The Ombuds collects and reviews information and evidence from the complainant, state agency staff, and other sources and reviews relevant laws, regulations, policies, and procedures. Once all the information and evidence is collected and analyzed, the Ombuds determines what happened and whether the state child welfare agency followed state laws, rules and agency policies. If the allegations in the complaint are substantiated, the Ombuds will make recommendations to the state agency to resolve the complaint.

Are complaints to the Ombuds confidential?

Yes. State laws require the Ombuds to maintain confidentiality of all matters under investigation including the identity of the complainant unless disclosure is necessary to enable the Ombuds to carry out duties and to support recommendations.  The Ombuds may not disclose confidential records obtained from an agency.

When should someone submit a complaint to the Ombuds?

If you feel the Department of Children, Youth and Families’ conduct is harmful to a family or child and inconsistent with laws and policies, please submit a complaint. While we encourage everyone to try to resolve their concerns directly with the state agency involved, you are not required to exhaust other procedures before submitting a complaint to the Ombuds.

What kinds of complaints does the Ombuds investigate?

The Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds investigates complaints about the actions or conduct of the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families. Examples of complaint issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Safety and welfare of a child
  • Placement of a child in state care
  • Family separation and reunification
  • Foster care
  • Agency Conduct
  • Parents’ Rights

The Ombuds does not investigate complaints about court cases or decisions, CASA/GALs, law enforcement, attorneys or child welfare agencies outside of Washington State.