What does the OCO Do?
The OCO independently investigates complaints about children involved with Children’s Protective Services, Foster Care, Adoption Services and Juvenile Justice. The OCO will review cases and determine if an action or decision was made according to laws, rules and policies governing the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and private child placing-agencies.
The OCO will take all necessary action, including legal action, to protect the rights and welfare of a child.
The OCO 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 OCO 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.
The OCO makes recommendations to the Governor, Legislature and the DHHS Director to improve the child welfare system. The OCO provides education to the public about the child welfare laws and policies.
What Should I Do Before Calling?
Prior to calling the OCO, try to resolve the problem by contacting DHHS or the child-placing agency handling the case. Many times, this can resolve the issue. It is helpful to have all the relevant information ready prior to calling and to write down the problem and any questions you have. If the problem cannot be resolved with the caseworker, go up the chain of command from there to the worker’s supervisor, program manager and agency director. Keep notes and records of who you spoke to with dates, times and phone numbers along with what was said during the conversation. Make sure to read all information that is sent to you as there are often rules and deadlines that must be followed.
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
- Adult Protective Services
- Individuals making false CPS complaints