OCA Mission Statement:
The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) provides independent oversight of state services for children in order to ensure that children receive appropriate, timely and quality services, with a particular focus on ensuring that the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable and at-risk children have the opportunity to thrive. Through collaboration with public and private stakeholders, the OCA identifies gaps in state services and recommends improvements in policy and practice. The OCA also serves as a resource for families who are receiving, or are eligible to receive, services from the Commonwealth.
Anyone with concerns about a child or youth receiving services from a state agency can contact the OCA. Our staff try to help people resolve their problems directly with the agency and identify appropriate resources. The OCA has a special responsibility toward children in foster care. Our office responds to calls from children and youth in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and tries to help them with problems related to their care.
Critical Incident Reports
When a child receiving services from a state agency organized under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services dies or is seriously injured, the agency involved is required to report the critical incident to the OCA. OCA staff carefully review each critical incident report and, in many instances, follow up with the agency to learn from the situation and promote accountability.
Reports of Abuse and Neglect in Out-of-Home Settings
The OCA receives reports that have been investigated and supported by DCF regarding abuse and neglect of children in out-of-home settings connected to certain state agencies. These settings include licensed preschool and day care, foster care, group homes, residential treatment programs, elementary and secondary schools, and youth correctional facilities. OCA staff review every report to identify trends that relate to treatment of children in out-of-home settings and obtain more information from agencies when needed.
Connecting the Dots for Children and Families
Hearing from callers and reviewing reports, as described above, help the OCA to identify trends and opportunities for system improvements. In addition, OCA staff review laws, policies, and procedures, and participate on many boards and councils concerning the delivery of services to children and families. OCA staff use all this information to provide recommendations for improving the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.