The Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds works to protect children, youth and families from harmful agency action or conduct, and to make agency officials and state policy makers aware of system-wide issues and recommendations in the child protection and child welfare system to strengthen families and improve outcomes for children and youth.
What we do
The Family and Children’s Ombuds investigates complaints about agency actions or inaction 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.
Important features of the Family and Children’s Ombuds include:
We are part of the Governor’s Office. We operate independently from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) and other state agencies.
We act as a neutral fact-finder, not as an advocate. We step in when an agency action or conduct is unauthorized or unreasonable.
We do not disclose the identity of persons who have filed a complaint with us without their permission. Our records are confidential by law and cannot be obtained through public disclosure, civil discovery or court order.
- Access to Confidential Information
We have unrestricted access to information and records held by DCYF and are authorized by law to receive confidential information from other agencies and service providers.
The Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds was established in 1996 by the Washington State Legislature (Chapter 43.06A RCW). The Legislature wanted to ensure that abused and neglected children and their parents are served reasonably and fairly by government agencies. The Legislature created the Ombuds to intervene when children or their parents are subjected to unauthorized or unreasonable agency decisions. The Legislature also empowered the Ombuds to recommend changes for improving the child protection and child welfare system.