Michigan Office Children’s Ombudsman renamed the Office of the Child Advocate

On December 12, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill (SB) 432 into law. The legislation changes the name of the Michigan Office of Children’s Ombudsman to the Office of the Child Advocate.

According to Ryan Speidel, director of the Office of the Child Advocate, the name change more closely aligns with the mission and goal of the office.

“Updating our name to Office of the Child Advocate better reflects our core mission, which is to support and speak on behalf of children with the aim of improving Michigan’s child welfare system,” Speidel said. “I’m grateful to Gov. Whitmer and legislators on both sides of the aisle for supporting this legislation and championing our efforts to advocate for children throughout the state.”

The Office of the Child Advocate was originally established by the Michigan Legislature in 1994 as the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman to bring greater accountability to Michigan’s child welfare system. By law, the Office of the Child Advocate is an independent state agency with primary responsibility to receive and investigate complaints concerning children who, for reasons of abuse or neglect, are under the supervision of the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS) or its private contracted agencies.

In addition to addressing complaints, the Office of the Child Advocate makes recommendations to the governor, the Legislature, and MDHHS for changes in child welfare laws, rules, and policies to ultimately improve outcomes for children.

SB 432 expands the responsibilities of the Office of the Child Advocate to include the review and investigation of administrative actions at detention facilities providing juvenile justice services. The Office of the Child Advocate is also charged with reviewing any child death that occurs in a juvenile detention facility and providing its findings and recommendations to facilities and policymakers.

“Even though our name has changed, our efforts to make a positive impact on the state’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems will remain unchanged,” Speidel said.

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