The Michigan Senate today unanimously approved Rep. Andrea Schroeder’s plan allowing Children’s Ombudsman investigators to dedicate more resources to cases where child abuse is suspected.
The plan advancing through the Legislature also improves the investigation process by focusing on accountability and openness.
“These reforms are about improving protective services and delivering justice for vulnerable children when they need help the most,” said Schroeder, of Oakland County’s Independence Township. “The state has come up short in these areas in past years. We can and must do better, and this legislation is an important step in the right direction.”
The legislation is sparked in part by an April 2019 audit which found the Children’s Ombudsman office was not investigating a large percentage of child abuse cases because mandates related to child fatality cases were eating up too many of the agency’s resources. The legislative package introduced by Schroeder, along with Rep. Matt Hall of Marshall, would reclassify some child death cases so the agency can devote more resources to protecting Michigan’s children.
The legislation would allow the ombudsman’s office some discretion with regard to investigations in child death cases. A preliminary investigation would be mandated in all cases the ombudsman’s office becomes involved in, but the need for a full investigation would be decided on a case-by-case basis. . This would allow the ombudsman’s office to more quickly devote time and resources to other cases where abuse is expected.
The legislation also requires the ombudsman’s office to publicly release findings and suggestions related to a child abuse or death investigation – when appropriate and with confidential information redacted. Increased transparency will boost accountability while revealing trends and other information that could prompt other important reforms, Schroeder said.
The legislation – House Bills 5248 and 5249 – advance to the governor for consideration.
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