Louisiana’s children need a Child Ombudsman.
The word ombuds means “representative”. In the U.S., states use several variations of the word as titles of officials who assist children in receiving what they need from state agencies: child ombuds, child ombudsman, child ombudsperson, child advocate.
All states have an Ombuds for the Elderly, and 86% of states have an Ombuds for Children.
Louisiana does not have an Ombuds Office for Children.
Q: What do the four U.S. states ranked worst for child well-being in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2021 Kids Count Databook lack in common?
A: The four states ranked worst do not have an Office of Child Ombudsman. (Yes, Louisiana is among the last in 2021 with a 32 year average rank of 49th. Creating an Office of Child Ombuds would be a small but significant step for Louisiana’s Legislature to take on behalf of our children.)
Ombuds for Children assist children and their parents or guardians to resolve concerns about their interactions with state agencies and when their needs are not being met according to state policy and regulations. (Ombuds also do more, which I will point out below, to keep legislators and the public informed about the state of children’s affairs.)
Federal laws require states to have Ombuds for the Elderly. However, no federal law requires a state to have an Ombuds for Children. Consequently, each state government determines for itself if it wishes to “listen” to children and parents and provide recourse when state services are not up to par. Louisiana, with more than 1,090,000 children (and just as many reasons to listen), has not created an Office of Child Ombuds.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, an Office of Child Ombuds performs the following functions:
- Handle and investigate complaints from citizens and families related to government services for children and families – this may include child protective services, foster care, adoption and juvenile justice services.
- Provide a system accountability mechanism by recommending system-wide improvements to benefit children and families – often in the form of annual reports to the Legislature, Governor and public.
- Protect the interests and rights of children and families – both individually and system-wide.
- Monitor programs, placements and departments responsible for providing children’s services – which may include inspecting state facilities and institutions.
The links below provide additional information about the value an Office of Child Ombudsman brings to a state.