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Office of Governor Gary Locke
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Locke announces children and family ombudsman office opens

OLYMPIA - Gov. Gary Locke announced today that a new office designed to ensure that agencies respond to abused or neglected children in need of state protection and to better serve families under state supervision is now open for business. The Office of the Family and Children's Ombudsman was created last year to serve as a watchdog on behalf of children and families who may need state help.

The ombudsman's office is independent of the Department of Social and Health Services, which is responsible for handling many issues of child welfare and family preservation. The new office will investigate complaints alleging risk of harm to a family or child and prompt agencies to reassess their decisions in some cases.

"Families and children will be better served by having an independent voice in their corner," Locke said. "The ombudsman's office will also play a critical role in pinpointing recurring problems so new laws, policies or procedures can be created to improve assistance to children and families."

Though the ombudsman will be located administratively within the Governor's office, their work will be independent of the governor as well. Washington is now one of just six states with an independent office charged with acting on complaints about state agency services to families and children who are under state supervision due to allegations or findings of child abuse or neglect. The ombudsman's office will issue reports on the overall child welfare system.

The law creating the ombudsman was an outgrowth of previous complaints about the OK Boys Ranch and the 1995 death of 4-year-old Lauria Grace. To register a complaint with the Office of the Family and Children's Ombudsman, call (206) 439-3870 or 1-(800)-571-7321.

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