Plan would ensure child welfare investigations are handled swiftly by Office of Children’s Ombudsman

Categories: Crawford News,News

Rep. Crawford leads committee in passage of important reforms

The House Families, Children and Seniors Committee, chaired by State Rep. Kathy Crawford, today approved a package of bills to improve operations within the Michigan Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO), which exists to ensure the well-being and safety of children in need of foster care, adoption and protective services.

The Office of the Auditor General released an audit of the OCO in April 2019. The audit examined the effectiveness of the OCO’s efforts to properly address complaints, conduct investigations into child welfare and deaths, and report information. Among several findings, the Children’s Ombudsman office was not investigating a large percentage of child abuse cases because mandates related to child fatality cases were eating up too many of the agency’s resources.

“The OCO simply doesn’t have the resources necessary to fulfill all that’s being required of them,” said Crawford, of Novi. “Their processes must be made more efficient so we can ensure every child welfare complaint is handled promptly and effectively.”

Often, child fatality cases can be investigated quickly when it is determined that no state organization is at fault for the tragedy. Under the current system, however, a full, time consuming investigation is required no matter how clear the signs, taking time away from investigating cases of children in potential danger.

In response, members of the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee introduced legislation to make necessary changes to the Children’s Ombudsman Act to help improve performance.

The first bill in the package requires the ombudsman to release findings, recommendations and the response of the entity alleged of wrongdoing to the public no more than 30 days after the date the case is closed. Confidential information would be redacted.

The second bill would give the ombudsman the discretion to conduct only a preliminary investigation into a child fatality case if it is deemed a full investigation is not necessary.

“This will free up much needed time the OCO needs to devote resources toward investigating other complaints in an effective manner,” Crawford said. “It’s also imperative that the OCO is held accountable to taxpayers by disseminating information about the work it does to ensure the health and safety of the state’s young people.”

The bills now move to be considered by the House Ways and Means Committee.