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Introduced Version Senate Bill 52 History

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Senate Bill No. 52

(By Senator Boley)

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[Introduced February 9, 2005; referred to the Committee

on Health and Human Resources; and then to the Committee on the Judiciary.]

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A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §49-6F-1 and §49-6F-2, all relating to creating the Office of Child Protection Ombudsman; authorizing the Ombudsman to hire assistants; providing the Ombudsman investigate and monitor the Department of Health and Human Resources' Division of Child Protective Services to determine if it complies with federal guidelines; requiring the Ombudsman to investigate complaints against circuit and family law judges concerning alleged failures to adequately protect children; setting forth powers and duties of the Ombudsman; and requiring the Ombudsman, upon taking office, to propose legislative rules designed to implement the provisions of the article.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §49-6F-1 and §49-6F-2, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 6F. OFFICE OF CHILD PROTECTION OMBUDSMAN.
§49-6F-1. Office of Child Protection Ombudsman created to monitor child protective services and members of judiciary; office to be independent.

(a) There is hereby created the Office of Ombudsman which shall investigate the administrative acts of the department related to services rendered in child abuse and neglect cases. The ombudsman shall be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates. The ombudsman may appoint an adequate number of assistants to properly perform the duties of his or her office. The total compensation of the assistants shall be within the limits of the amounts appropriated by the Legislature for personal services. All assistants serve at the pleasure of the ombudsman and they shall perform the duties required by the ombudsman.
(b) The Office of the Ombudsman shall be independent of the Department of Health and Human Resources.
§49-6F-2. Specific duties and authority of child protection ombudsman.

(a) The duties of the ombudsman includes:
(1) To monitor and investigate the performance of child protective services rendered by the department, particularly whether the performance complies with the requirements of the Adoption and Safe Family Act;
(2) To accept and investigate complaints against circuit or family court judges involving allegations that the judges have failed in their legal duties towards abused or neglected children;
(3) To intervene in pending litigation involving abused or neglected children in order to insure circuit or family court judges comply with legal requirements related to abused or neglected children, and to appeal judicial acts or orders to the State Supreme Court of Appeals in the event the acts or orders appear not to be in compliance with applicable legal requirements;
(4) To report to the Legislature and to the Governor annually, concerning the state of the department and the state of the judiciary relative to each entity's specific duties in child abuse and neglect cases;
(5) To act as a neutral and nonadversarial arbiter in disputes between citizens and the Department's Division of Child Protective Services;
(6) To hold citizen's confidences when citizens make complaints against the Department's Division of Child Protective Services or circuit or family court judges;
(7) To make recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor for legislative or administrative changes designed to improve the Department's performance in responding to child abuse and neglect cases as well as the judiciary's role in the protection of children from child abuse and child neglect;
(8) To remain knowledgeable and informed regarding current law, changes in the law and trends in the law vis a vis child abuse and child neglect and to answer queries from the public regarding same;
(9) To remain knowledgeable and informed concerning the department's administrative practices, procedures and policies as they relate to the protection of children;
(10) To file legal actions, including, but not limited to, actions in mandamus, prohibition, or declaratory judgement actions, that seek to require governmental officials to perform necessary activities to adequately serve and protect children or to prohibit those officials from engaging in actions that are counterproductive to the protection and welfare of children; and
(11) To do all necessary activities intended to improve the Department's Child Protective Services Division.
(b) Upon enactment of this article, the ombudsman shall propose legislative rules in accordance with article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code designed to implement the provisions of this article.




NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to create the Office of Child Protection Ombudsman. The bill, additionally, authorizes the ombudsman to hire assistants; requires the ombudsman to investigate and monitor the Department of Health and Human Resources Division of Child Protective Services to determine if it complies with federal guidelines; requires the ombudsman to investigate complaints against circuit and family law judges concerning alleged failures to adequately protect children; sets forth powers and duties of the ombudsman; and, requires the ombudsman, upon taking office, to propose legislative rules designed to implement the provisions of the article.


This article is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.
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