GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When a child who had contact with Children’s Protective Services dies, state law requires that an independent watchdog review CPS’s actions leading up to the death.
The Office of Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) is tasked with determining whether CPS caseworkers followed law and policy or could have intervened differently to better protect the child.
The OCO also investigates complaints submitted by the public regarding Michigan’s child welfare system and its treatment of children who’ve been abused or neglected.
However, the findings of the Ombudsman are non-public with very few exceptions.
State Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, wants to change that.
His bill, House Bill 5248, would require the Ombudsman to post on its website the findings of its investigations, recommendations on how to fix any systemic problems, and CPS’s responses to them.
“It makes sense that there’s an independent office of government that investigates child welfare complaints and investigates child deaths,” said Hall in an interview Friday with News 8.
“What doesn’t make sense though is that they cannot share that information to the public and the legislature in a way that we can use it and do something with it to create positive change.”
Hall thinks shining light on Children’s Protective Services is the best way to hold it accountable.
“It will bring it into the light and make it transparent and get important information to decision-makers and the public that will lead hopefully to protecting children’s lives and reducing cases of neglect and abuse.”
Under Hall’s bill, the Ombudsman’s office would not release any information that could identify the child or family involved.
The Office of Children’s Ombudsman told News 8 Friday that it supports the bill.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, of which Children’s Protective Services is a part, also confirmed its support of the legislation.