RICHMOND, Va. – Delegate Chris Hurst (D-12) and Delegate Terry Austin (R-19) introduced bipartisan legislation today to establish the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman, which would provide oversight to Virginia’s child-serving agencies.
The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman would strengthen the accountability and transparency of state and local child-serving agencies by investigating and addressing misconduct and fraud while promoting continuous improvement in the administration of children’s services in the Commonwealth.
The Ombudsman would also provide support to Virginians involved with child-serving agencies by serving as a source of information and referrals.
In December, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) produced a report that highlighted the shortcomings of Virginia’s foster care system. Among the commission’s recommendations was to establish an Office of the Children’s Ombudsman.
“As a journalist, I interviewed several families who felt there were inadequate systems in place to raise questions or make complaints about agencies that assist children,” said Delegate Hurst. “An Ombudsman makes perfect sense, empowering families who need an avenue to have their voices heard.”
“This idea is not a new one, many legislators before me have introduced ombudsman legislation, what is new this year is a specific funding mechanism–the Children’s Advocacy Fund–that would cover the cost of the office and ensure that it would have a dedicated fund in the future,” added Delegate Hurst.
“The recent JLARC study on Virginia’s foster care system recognized the need for a more thorough system to protect our children. Creating the position of an Ombudsman will help ensure that proper oversight is put in place to protect those most vulnerable in the Commonwealth,” said Delegate Terry Austin, the Chief Co-Patron on the bill, and a member of JLARC.
See the full text of HB 2381 here.