CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) – The Virginia Office of the Children’s Ombudsman officially launched this week after almost a year of development. Investigation, advocation, and education about the child welfare system and foster care is just part of the mission.
“When it comes to the child welfare system, we have the information we can point people to resources,” the director of the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman, Eric Reynolds said.
The office serves as a one stop shop for the child welfare system.
“To receive complaints or calls, or concerns from constituents who are involved in cases involving children, who may have been alleged to have been abused or neglected, who are receiving child protective services, or who are in foster care,” Reynolds said.
It was created by the Virginia general assembly in 2020, but took time to launch. The office has received 160 since their unofficial start in 2021, and 13 calls in the first 3 days after their launch. The first step is to investigate the complaint.
“Then being able to identify some areas of improvement for the local agency or the agency that was providing those services so that we could help them improve their practice in serving the children and families,” Reynolds said.
The Ombudsman works throughout the Commonwealth. Smaller agencies work directly with families. Community Attention Foster Families (CAFF) is one of those agencies, managing cases in Charlottesville, Albemarle, and Greene counties.
“We find families in our community that want to support these families that are going through a rough time. And that are in support of reunifying children and their families and then we train them so that they know how to work with the system,” CAFF’s Charlsie Stratton said.
Both agencies at the state and county level are looking to provide resources for giving children a safe and healthy upbringing.
“Our interest is making sure that the agencies are balancing that trying to strike that balance between child safety and family preservation,” Reynolds said.
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