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Office of the Child Advocate
Office of the Child Advocate
About the Office of the Child Advocate
On December 12, 2023, Public Act 303 of 2023 changed the name of the Office of Children’s Ombudsman to Office of the Child Advocate (OCA). Our core mission remains unchanged, which is to support and speak on behalf of children with the aim of improving Michigan’s child welfare system. The OCA remains an independent state agency with primary responsibility to receive and investigate complaints concerning the administrative actions of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and contracted agencies providing Child Protective Services, Foster Care, Adoption, and state, county, court, or privately owned/operated residential facilities providing Juvenile Justice services. In addition to addressing complaints, the Office of the Child Advocate makes recommendations to the Governor, the Legislature, and MDHHS for changes in child welfare laws, rules, and policies to ultimately improve outcomes for children.
The OCA is in the process of expanding services to handle the needs of individuals seeking assistance with their Juvenile Justice complaints. The OCA will begin accepting Juvenile Justice complaints during the second half of 2024.
- The OCA is housed in the Department of Technology, Management and Budget as an independent agency.
- Empowerment through knowledge: If you have general questions about the child welfare system in Michigan, we may be able to assist you in providing insight.
- If you believe that your experience with Michigan's child welfare system (child protective services, foster care, adoption and/or juvenile justice) can highlight a system wide issue or deficiency or can be used as a case sample to improve the child welfare system as a whole, please contact our office or file an online complaint.
The OCA may be able to use your experience to highlight areas where the Child Advocate can make recommendations for change to improve the child welfare system.
What does the Office of the Child Advocate do?
When a complaint is filed with the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), the Child Advocate's staff can conduct an investigation into Children's Protective Services (CPS), Foster Care, Adoption Services and/or Juvenile Justice when children are involved with these programs.
All complaints go through a preliminary investigation process where the Child Advocate determines if a full investigation is warranted and if so, an independent investigation into the complaint is conducted.
The OCA also conducts investigations regarding child death cases when there was an active CPS investigation, open services case, a rejected CPS complaint, open foster care case or closed foster care case in the previous two years. The OCA also must investigate any death of a foster child, unless the death resulted from natural causes and there were no prior CPS or licensing complaints concerning the foster home.
After an investigation is completed, the Child Advocate may present any relevant recommendations to the Governor, Legislature and the MDHHS Director if the Child Advocate believes that the results will improve Michigan's child welfare system.
The OCA is also here to provide information for families involved in Michigan's child welfare system. The OCA intake staff can provide insight on the system's processes and connect a caller with the appropriate resource.
What Should I Do Before Calling?
Try to resolve the matter with MDHHS or the child-placing agency handling your case by starting with the caseworker. If that does not resolve matters, contact the worker's supervisor, program manager or agency director. If you haven't attempted this, the OCA will direct you to do so. Please understand that MDHHS is prohibited by law from talking about cases in some instances. Be prepared and have all relevant information ready. Keep notes of who you talked to and when. You may be asked to provide these upon filing a complaint with the OCA.
The OCA has no legal authority to investigate complaints that exclusively involve:
- Employee issues (rude behavior, poor communication)
- Complaints against a court, Judges, attorneys and law enforcement agencies
- Friend of the Court issues (custody, parenting time, child support)
- School problems
- Court orders
- Adult Protective Services
- Individuals making false CPS complaints
Safe Sleep Awareness
Infant Safe Sleep Awareness and education plays an important role in preventing sleep-related infant deaths. Most people think this would never happen to them, but the sad reality is that a baby dies nearly every other day in Michigan and these deaths are overwhelmingly preventable.
To keep babies 0-12 months of age safe, while sleeping at night and during naps, follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines:
- Place baby on back, in a crib, bassinet or pack n' play for every sleep time.
- Use a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet.
- Keep baby's sleep space clutter free - no pillows, blankets or toys.
- Avoid covering baby's head or overheating. Instead of a blanket, consider using a sleep sack, wearable blanket or footed sleeper to keep baby warm.
- Remind everyone who cares for baby, including babysitters and family members, how to keep baby safe while sleeping.
- Keep baby in a smoke-free environment.
- Support breastfeeding and immunizations.
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The Healthy Michigan Plan provides health care benefits to Michigan residents at a low cost so that more people can have health care coverage. Individuals are eligible for the Healthy Michigan Plan if they meet specific requirements: