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Office of Children's Ombudsman Staff

Ryan Speidel:

Ryan Speidel is currently the acting Director to the Office of Children's Ombudsman (OCO) after being appointed on March 27, 2023, by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Prior to being appointed acting Director, Ryan has served as Deputy Director within the OCO since 2019. As the OCO's Deputy Director, Ryan rewrote the OCO's policy and procedure manual, managed the OCO's development of a new complaint management system and aided the Ombudsman with a restructuring of the OCO.

Ryan Speidel has nearly two decades of public service in law enforcement, the regulatory field, and leadership. He has served for the City of Jackson, the Michigan Department of State, the Office of Inspector General, the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and the Office of Children's Ombudsman. Ryan earned his bachelor's degree in sociology with a minor in criminology and criminal justice from Eastern Michigan University. Ryan is also a graduate of the 72nd Mid-Michigan Police Academy. Ryan served with the City of Jackson Police Department for approximately eight and a half years as a Police Officer, Narcotics Detective and Patrol Sergeant. He has experience as a Regulation Agent with the Michigan Department of State and as an Assistant Inspector General with the Office of Inspector General (OIG). After his time with the OIG Ryan was the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) Chief Investigator and Compliance Section Manager. At MCOLES Ryan was the sole individual responsible for the Commission's investigations, administrated the Michigan Public Safety Officer Benefit, Private University Security Force license, the Private Security Police license, and managed MCOLES' statutory oversight of Michigan's twenty police academies. Because of his professional experiences prior to the OCO Ryan has had direct involvement and oversight of countless criminal, civil and administrative law investigations.

In his role as the acting Children's Ombudsman, Ryan will help improve Michigan's child welfare system through independently investigating complaints, advocating for children, and recommending changes to improve law, policy, and practice for the benefit of current and future generations.

Erin House: 

Erin joined the Office of Children’s Ombudsman in September 2022 as the Chief Investigator.  Erin earned her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a juris doctor from the University of Toledo College of Law. Erin has been a council member of the State Bar of Michigan Children’s Law Section since 2010.

Erin has 19 years of legal experience working in Michigan’s child welfare system from a variety of perspectives: private legal practice, policy development, court improvement, and legislative. Immediately preceding work at the OCO, Erin was a Court Analyst at in the Child Welfare Services Division of the Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office.  


Kenyatta Lewis:

Kenyatta Lewis serves as the Manager of the Public Education and Intake Unit. Kenyatta is responsible for management of day-to-day operations of the PEI Unit, is responsible for three intake analysts’ direct reports, and serves as the OCO’s equity and inclusion officer and is the OCO’s point of contact for data mining.

Kenyatta brings a wealth of knowledge to the OCO. She has a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in social work. During her nearly two decades of experience in child welfare investigations and child welfare investigation management, Kenyatta held positions in Child protective services (CPS) supervision, CPS program management, foster care supervision, foster care program management and funding supervision. Kenyatta also has experience with adult foster care licensing investigations. Additionally, Kenyatta aided MDHHS in information technology development and testing of the department’s SWSS and MiSACWIS applications, in addition to contributing to the development of several programs as it relates to the MDHHS’ consent decree with the federal government.

Darshella Pierce:

Darshella Pierce came to the Office of Children's Ombudsman (OCO) in 2022 as the Senior Executive Management Assistant (SEMA) to Suzanna Shkreli. Before joining the OCO, Darshella worked at the Michigan Department of State (MDOS) for twenty-seven years.

Darshella currently serves as the OCO SEMA. 

Paula Cunningham:

Paula is an investigator for the Office of Children's Ombudsman (OCO) and has been working in Child Welfare programs since 1993. Paula graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in psychology. Prior to her work as an Investigator with the OCO she supervised children's protective services and foster care after having been an adoption specialist, foster care case manager and Child Protective Services investigator. Her strong accomplishments as a supervisor were in leading staff toward completion of management objectives by providing direction in the development of initiatives that focused on timely permanency for children and ensuring their safety.

Paula has served on various task forces such as the Mayors task force in Detroit, Liaison to the Bureau of Substance Abuse, Foster care Review Board member, and presenter for the State Court Administrative Office Child Welfare Issues Conference.

Paula's current experience includes conducting complex and sensitive investigations into the actions of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and private child placing agencies concerning children involved in children's protective services, foster care, adoptions and juvenile justice and upon completion of the investigation make recommendations to DHHS, the legislature, and the Governor regarding changes in law and policy to improve the child welfare system and to advocate for children.

Paula is a resident of Dearborn and works predominantly in her Detroit office at Cadillac Place, while occasionally attending meetings with her colleagues in the Lansing office.

Paula currently serves as an OCO Investigator.


Michelle Brandel:

Michelle Brandel came to the Office of Children's Ombudsman (OCO) in 2017 as the Intake and Communications Coordinator. Michelle graduated with a bachelor's in social work from the University of Michigan-Flint. Prior to coming to the OCO, Michelle worked as a Children's Protective Services worker in Shiawassee County as well as Charlevoix and Emmet Counties. Michelle assisted in the training of new employees within these county offices. Michelle was also previously a Licensing Worker and Case Aide.

Michelle spent years at the OCO handling new complaints, conducting preliminary investigations on child deaths and complaints from the public as well as providing information to the public on the child welfare system policies and procedures. Since coming to the OCO, Michelle has helped create and implement new intake policies and procedures to help the OCO work more efficiently. Michelle has been involved in the development of the OCO's new case management system, yearly production of the OCO annual report and the ongoing updates to the OCO website. Because of Michelle's hard work, dedication and expertise, Michelle was promoted to the OCO's lead Intake and Communications Coordinator and was the recognized resource for intake and communications at the OCO.

Michelle currently serves as an OCO investigator.

Christopher Kilmer:

Chris Kilmer as over 20 years of experience in the human service field.  Chris spent nearly seven years serving as a police officer for the City of Jackson before moving into the non-profit field.  Chris worked for the Community Action Agency (CAA) of Jackson, Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties as both a Grant Manager and Program Director.  After his time with CAA, Chris was the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in Jackson County before transitioning to the State of Michigan.  With the State, Chris has been a CPS worker, Foster Care Education Planer, CPS Trainer and Training Manager.  Chris is now an Investigator with the Office of Children's Ombudsman and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Ferris State University and Master of Arts degree in Counseling from Spring Arbor University.

Chris currently serves as an OCO Investigator.

Tiffany Jackson:

Tiffany has more than 25 years of experience in Child Welfare with 17 ½ years concentrated in Children and Family Services.  Tiffany worked as an Independent Living Specialist in Adult Services, Children's Protective Services Specialist, Children's Placement Specialist, Certification/Recruitment and Training Specialist (for DHS and a private agency) and a Children's Foster Care Specialist.  Her career with the Office of Children's Ombudsman started in October 2010.

As an Independent Living Specialist Tiffany was responsible for completing case intakes, completing assessments for individuals to determine eligibility for Home Help Services & use of the Adult Services Comprehensive Assessment Program (ASCAP) to write reports and determine financial eligibility for providers.  As a Children's Protective Services Worker her responsibilities included investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect of court wards in licensed and unlicensed placements and institutional settings as well as in parental homes.  As a Children's Placement Specialist Tiffany was responsible for obtaining the least restrictive placement for children who were being removed from their homes or being replaced from their current placement.  As a Certification/Recruitment & Foster Home Training Specialist Tiffany was responsible for training current and prospective Foster/Adoptive/Relative Providers in the agency and State of Michigan Licensing guidelines ensuring Foster Home contract compliance and investigating complaints of non-compliance with agency and State guidelines.  As a Foster Care Worker, she was responsible for providing reunification services to families for reunification, permanency planning and adoption.

Tiffany currently serves as an OCO Investigator.

Scott Clements:

Scott joined the OCO as an investigator in 2015. He is a licensed social worker who has nearly 20 years of experience in child welfare. Prior to joining the OCO, Mr. Clements spent almost ten years at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, where he worked to help locate families for children who'd been in foster care for extensive periods of time and conducted field investigations into allegations of child abuse and neglect. Before this, he provided therapeutic services to children who had been sexually abused and their families. Scott has also worked for a private agency foster care program providing counseling services to families whose children had just been returned home from foster care and casework services to children in foster care, their families, relative caregivers and foster parents.

Scott is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he was the recipient of a child welfare fellowship and earned a master's degree in social work. He also has a bachelor's degree in law and society from Michigan State University and has been qualified as an expert witness in child welfare.

Scott currently serves as an OCO Investigator.


Jessica Carls:

Jessica Carls serves as our Intake Technician.  Jessica is responsible for answering incoming calls to the office and creating intakes.  Prior to coming to the OCO, Jessica worked as a paralegal for over 8 years and then served as a victim advocate for the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office for 12 years.  In her role as an advocate, Jessica worked directly with children who were victims of child abuse and neglect, as well as their parents.  Through this work she developed an understanding of the child welfare system and worked with protective service workers. 

Jessica has a Bachelor of Science degree in Legal Studies and Criminal Justice from Grand Valley State University and has previously been a volunteer with the MDHHS Mass Violence Response Team and CASA.

Jessica current serves as the OCO Intake Technician. 

Rebecca Taylor:

Becky Taylor came to the Office of Children's Ombudsman (OCO) in May of 2019 as the Senior Executive Management Assistant (SEMA) to the prior Ombudsman, Lisa McCormick. Prior to joining the OCO, Becky worked at the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office as the administrative assistant for the Chief Assistant Prosecutor for ten years. Becky has experience working as a judicial assistant in the circuit court, judicial assistant, deputy clerk and court recorder in district court, as well as managing a law firm.  

Since coming to the OCO, Becky has assisted in creating changes to the OCO communication procedures to ensure our office is efficient and assessable to the public.

In October of 2021 Becky was promoted to Analyst in the OCO’s Public Education and Intake Unit. As an analyst, she speaks with the public, takes new complaints, and conducts preliminary investigations on complainant and death cases.

Becky currently serves as an OCO Intake Analyst.

Roger Smith:

Roger Smith has 10 years of experience with the State of Michigan, working as a Juvenile Justice Worker, Children’s Protective Services Investigator and a Foster Care Case Manager in Livingston and Ingham Counties. These positions involved the investigation of possible abuse and neglect of children, the placement of children in appropriate home or residential facilities, and the oversight of the therapeutic and educational services required to meet each child’s needs while under the care of the State of Michigan. In addition to the investigation and case management responsibilities of these positions, Roger was also very actively involved in the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative, the Safe Sleep initiatives in Ingham County, and Human Trafficking Work Group from the Grand Rapids area.

Roger also has experience at Office of Inspector General at the State of Michigan, where he investigated Medicaid health care providers and oversaw the program integrity efforts of 14 dental and behavioral health managed care organizations. Prior to working for the State of Michigan, Roger was a lead staff at St. Vincent’s Home for Children in Lansing, MI. Roger has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Michigan State University, a Juris Doctorate from Thomas M. Cooley Law School and is a member of the State Bar of Michigan since 2008.

Roger currently serves as an OCO Intake Lead Analyst.