Welcome to the Office of Children's Ombudsman
Orlene Hawks is the Director of the Office of Children's Ombudsman (OCO). The OCO investigates complaints about children involved with Michigan's child welfare system (protective services, foster care, adoption, and juvenile justice) because of abuse or neglect issues.
What Does the OCO Do?
- Independently investigate complaints about children involved with protective services, foster care, adoption services, and juvenile justice.
- Determine if an action or decision was made according to the laws, rules and policies governing the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) and private child placing-agencies.
- Take all necessary action, including legal action, to protect the rights and welfare of a child.
- Investigate cases involving children who have died as a result of child abuse or neglect when there has been previous agency involvement.
- Make recommendations to the Governor, Legislature and the DHHS Director to improve the child welfare system.
- Educate the public about child welfare laws and policies.
What Should I Do Before Calling?
First, try to resolve your problem by contacting DHHS or the child-placing agency handling the case. Many times an agency official can explain a specific policy or correct a problem. When you contact the agency remember to:
- Have all the relevant information. It helps to write down the problem and your questions ahead of time.
- Talk to the right people. If you cannot resolve the problem with the caseworker, ask to speak to the worker’s supervisor. If you are still not satisfied, contact the program manager and agency director. Be sure to clearly state what you want the agency to do.
- Keep careful notes and records of who you spoke to, the dates, times and phone numbers and what you were told.
- Carefully read all information that is sent to you since there are often rules and deadlines that must be followed.
The OCO Does Not Investigate:
The OCO has no legal authority to investigate complaints that exclusively involve:
- Friend of the Court issues (custody, parenting time, child support)
- School problems
- Law enforcement
- Court orders
- Effects of Domestic Violence on Children
Studies suggest up to 10 million children are exposed to some form of domestic violence each year. This includes children seeing, hearing or observing the effects (bruises, broken bones, abrasions, etc.) of domestic violence.
- Access to CPS Information
CPS records are confidential, but certain individuals may obtain copies of CPS case files upon request.
- Safe Sleep Saves Lives
In Michigan, over 100 infants (under the age of 12 months) die due to unsafe sleep practices every year. Deaths resulting from unsafe sleep practices are completely preventable.