Parents use Ombudsman services for children. Parents are more likely to communicate their concerns to a State Ombuds for Children than to the employees of a state agency.
For example, last year, over 90 percent of parents, foster parents, and practitioners who used the services of West Virginia’s new Foster Care Ombudsman Office cited fear of retaliation as a critical factor in their decision to use the new Ombuds service. 90% is a considerable percentage.
The full report, WV Foster Care Ombudsman Program, The First Year in Review, is available online. It provides a good example of what a new Ombuds office can do in a short time.
There is no standard measure of the ‘fear of retaliation among families involved with state agencies. Until Louisiana creates an Office of Children’s Ombuds and the Ombuds’ survey asks the question, we cannot know to what degree fear of retaliation concerns Louisiana’s parents.
Even if fear of retaliation is not a factor in a parent’s decision to seek the help of a Children’s Ombuds, there are several reasons parents seem more likely to communicate their concerns to an Ombudsman when state agencies are unresponsive. First, ombuds are independent; they act as objective mediators and have the power to investigate legitimate grievances. An Office of Children’s Ombuds can improve Louisiana’s services to children.
Ombuds are advocates who are independent of state agencies. Because they are responsible for ensuring that children’s rights are protected, parents can feel confident that their concerns will be heard by an objective third party and addressed in ways that prevent retaliation.
Acting as a mediator, an Ombuds can help parents navigate the complexities of Louisiana’s child-serving public agencies. Help to navigate “the system” can be especially valuable for parents who may be unfamiliar with their civil rights. When situations do not feel right, a Children’s Ombuds can help parents understand the process and protect their child’s and their family’s civil rights.
In addition to providing a safe space for parents to share their concerns, the Ombuds may investigate and address any complaints about public services for children. While an Ombuds cannot give legal advice, overturn a state agency policy or decision, or take action on matters regarding personnel or discrimination, the Ombuds can make recommendations for changes to policies or procedures.
An Office of Children’s Ombuds may also help to build trust and confidence between parents and state agencies. When parents and state agencies know that an Ombuds is at work, both parties can settle into a collaborative relationship because they know an objective Ombuds can help resolve disagreements. Parents can feel confident that their children’s rights will be protected.
Parents use Ombudsman services for children. By providing a safe and confidential space for parents to share their concerns and advocating for children’s rights, the Louisiana Office of Children’s Ombuds can play a crucial role in improving the well-being of our children.