Lowry names Vickie Wallen to new position aimed at protecting children

OLYMPIA - Gov. Mike Lowry today named Vickie Wallen to a three-year term as the state's first Family and Children's Ombudsman. The independent position was created through legislation the governor signed into law in March to better monitor and investigate services provided to children in the state's care.

Wallen, 35, has worked on children's issues at both the federal and state levels and currently serves as the governor's senior policy coordinator for human services. She is an attorney with experience as a citizen's advocate and also has worked on state policy issues related to the juvenile justice system and family and children's services.

Lowry said Wallen is ideally suited to a position he describes as a watchdog for children.

"Vickie has an extensive working knowledge of policy issues that affect children and families in our state, as well as direct experience investigating the concerns of child care consumers, providers and parents," Lowry said. "She will do an excellent job of making sure children in the state's care have a strong, supportive voice."

Prior to joining the governor's executive policy office in March 1993, Wallen worked for the Washington State Court of Appeals and as a staff member of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C.

She also has served as associate director for governmental affairs for the National Association of State Boards of Education in Virginia; a group she represented before congressional budget, appropriations and educational policy committees.

Wallen earned a bachelor's degree in politics from Princeton University and a juris doctor from the Washington College of Law at The American University.

In her new role, Wallen will report directly to the governor and will work independent of the state Department of Social and Health Services. The ombudsman will issue an annual report to the governor and the Legislature on the work of the office.

Originally suggested by the Governor's Child Protection Roundtable which was convened by Lowry in September 1995 the ombudsman position was created to promote public awareness of family and children's services and monitor DSHS compliance with relevant statutes, rules and policies related to children's services.

In addition, the ombudsman will conduct periodic reviews of state institutions and state-licensed facilities that serve children and youth, and will investigate actions or failures to act by DSHS or state-licensed facilities that affect a child's health , safety or welfare.

Wallen will begin work on December 16 and will earn $73,800 annually.

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For more information, contact the Governor's Communications Office at 360-753-6790.