Ombudsman

Ombuds-what?! The DCS Ombudsman Bureau and its Role in the Indiana Child Welfare System

Since 2009, the DCS Ombudsman Bureau has been receiving, investigating, and attempting to resolve complaints against the Department of Child Services. However, few people even know what an ombudsman is, much less the function of the DCS Ombudsman Bureau. The term “ombudsman” is a Swedish term for an appointed government official who investigates or resolves citizens’ complaints, reports findings, and provides recommendations to a state agency.

In 2009, pursuant to Indiana Code 4-13-19, Governor Mitch Daniels appointed Director Susan Hoppe to be the first DCS Ombudsman; since then, Director Hoppe has added two full-time Assistant Ombudsmen. In 2013, upon the retirement of Director Hoppe, Mike Pence appointed Director Alfreda Singleton-Smith to the role of DCS Ombudsman.

So, what does the ombudsman do? The DCS Ombudsman has the statutory authority to receive, investigate, and attempt to resolve a complaint that alleges the Department of Child Services, by an action or omission, failed to protect the physical or mental health or safety of any child or failed to follow specific laws, rules, or written policies. The DCS Ombudsman may also examine policies and procedures, evaluate the effectiveness of the child protection system, and provide recommendations to improve the system. Further, the DCS Ombudsman Bureau is an independent agency that is housed within the Indiana Department of Administration that provides unbiased and independent review of issues regarding DCS.

Anyone who believes DCS failed to protect the health or safety of a child, or failed to follow laws, rules or written procedure, may file a complaint with the DCS Ombudsman Bureau.

For more information, please visit http://www.in.gov/idoa/2610.htm or call 1-877-682-0101.