Governor Youngkin Announces Official Launch of Office of The Children’s Ombudsman

Governor Glenn Youngkin has announced the official launch of the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman. In addition to advocating for systemic changes in Virginia’s child welfare system, the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman is authorized to receive complaints from the public regarding the actions or decisions of departments of social services in cases involving children alleged to have been abused or neglected and children who are in foster care.

“I am pleased that we are officially launching the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman, which will play a critical role in improving Virginia’s foster care system, facilitate complaints, and advocate for changes to the child welfare system. My administration is committed to serving the next generation of Virginia’s children,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin.

The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) was established in statute by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020 as a means of effecting changes in child welfare policy, procedure, and legislation and reviewing actions of departments of social services in cases involving children receiving child protective services or who are in foster care. Creation of the office was a recommendation of the 2018 report “Improving Virginia’s Foster Care System” issued by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. The office is housed within the Office of the Governor but is not within any Secretariat in order to maintain its independence.

“I am excited that, after several months of preparation and with the support of the Administration and our partner agencies, information about the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman and the services we provide will finally be made publicly available to Virginians across the Commonwealth. My staff and I are looking forward to helping families navigate the child welfare system and ensuring that child safety and family preservation remain top priorities for our local and state agencies that serve Virginia’s children and families,” said the Director of OCO, Eric Reynolds.

Eric J. Reynolds, Esq. was appointed for a four year term in June 2021 as the OCO’s first Director. Since then, Reynolds has been assembling a team, establishing office procedures, and assisting families with their concerns regarding the child welfare system. During the 2022 session of the General Assembly, he supported bipartisan legislation promoting the welfare of children in foster care recently signed into law by the Governor. Reynolds is also a member of the Governor’s Safe and Sound Task Force and helped identify some of the root causes that have led to children in foster care becoming displaced and having to sleep in emergency rooms, hotels, and social services offices while they await appropriate mental health treatment and placement arrangements.

The Office can investigate complaints alleging that agency actions violated laws or policies or were imposed without a stated reason or based on irrelevant or erroneous information. The OCO works closely with the Virginia Department of Social Services to assist local departments improve practices to better serve the Commonwealth’s children and families.

The official OCO website can be found at www.oco.virginia.gov. Complaints can be submitted by email to [email protected] or by phone at (804) 225-4801. For general information about the OCO, inquiries can be emailed to [email protected].

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