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State Ombudsman Programs

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2005
21 pages
In addition to defining the role of a State ombudsman for children, youth, and families and describing ombudsman programs, this report examines how various States fund and operate their State ombudsman offices.
"Ombudsman," a word derived from the Swedish word for agent or representative, denotes a trusted agent who attends to the interests or legal affairs of a particular group. Few States have an ombudsman who works only on juvenile justice issues, but many have ombudsman offices that address issues concerning youth in out-of-home placements, detained or incarcerated youth, and youth who remain under State supervision after being reunited with their families or re-entering the community from out-of-home placement. This report lists reasons for establishing an ombudsman program for children and youth in out-of-home placements, as well as activities an ombudsman may perform, such as addressing complaints from institutionalized juveniles, conducting investigations, and ensuring effective planning and postrelease implementation of aftercare services. In listing the necessary elements for an effective ombudsman program, the report mentions full independence from the agency in which the ombudsman operates, qualified staff, sufficient funding and resources, sufficient statutory authority, and ready access to sources of information in addition to subpoena power. Attributes of an ombudsman are also listed. Types of ombudsman programs are described under the general categories of private-sector and public-sector programs. Examples of how such ombudsman programs operate are presented for Tennessee, Connecticut, and Georgia. Also described are the funding schemes used by the ombudsman programs in Kentucky, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. The report concludes with information on organizational and other resources that can assist in establishing a State ombudsman office for children, youth, and families.

Date Published: February 1, 2005