Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 2.2. Administration of Government
Chapter 4.4. Office of the Children's Ombudsman

§ 2.2-443. Victim of child abuse or child neglect; powers of Children's Ombudsman; child fatality cases; investigation.

A. The Ombudsman may do all of the following in relation to a child who may be a victim of child abuse or child neglect, including a child who may have died as a result of suspected child abuse or child neglect:

1. Upon the Ombudsman's own initiative or upon receipt of a complaint, investigate an administrative act that is alleged to be contrary to law or rule; contrary to any policy of the Department, a local department, or a child-placing agency; imposed without an adequate statement of reason; or based on irrelevant, immaterial, or erroneous grounds. The Ombudsman has sole discretion to determine if a complaint involves an administrative act.

2. Decide, in the Ombudsman's discretion, whether to investigate an administrative act.

3. Upon the Ombudsman's own initiative or upon receipt of a complaint and subject to an appropriation of funds, investigate an alleged violation of the rights of a foster parent.

4. Except as otherwise provided in this subdivision, access records and reports necessary to carry out the Ombudsman's powers and duties under this chapter to the same extent and in the same manner as provided to the Department. The Ombudsman shall be provided access to medical and mental health disorder records in the same manner as access is provided to the Department. The Ombudsman may request substance use disorder records if the Ombudsman obtains a valid consent or a court order under 42 C.F.R. Part 2. In the course of a child fatality investigation, the Ombudsman may access records from the court of jurisdiction, Attorney General, prosecuting attorney, or any attorney retained by the Department or local department and reports from a county child fatality review team to the same extent and in the same manner as provided to the Department or local department under state law.

5. Request a subpoena from a court requiring the production of a record or report necessary to carry out the Ombudsman's duties and powers, including a child fatality investigation. If the person to whom a subpoena is issued fails or refuses to produce the record or report, the Ombudsman may petition the court for enforcement of the subpoena.

6. Hold informal hearings and request that individuals appear before the Ombudsman and give testimony or produce documentary or other evidence that the Ombudsman considers relevant to a matter under investigation.

7. Make recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly concerning the need for child protective services, adoption, or foster care legislation, policy, or practice without prior review by other offices, departments, or agencies in the executive branch in order to facilitate rapid implementation of recommendations or for suggested improvements to the recommendations. No other office, department, or agency shall prohibit the release of an Ombudsman's recommendation to the Governor or the General Assembly.

B. The Ombudsman may investigate all child fatality cases that occurred or are alleged to have occurred due to child abuse or child neglect in the following situations:

1. A child died during an active child protective services investigation or open services case, or there was a valid or invalid child protective services complaint within 12 months immediately preceding the child's death.

2. A child died while in foster care, unless the death is determined to have resulted from natural causes and there were no prior child protective services or licensing complaints concerning the foster home.

3. A child was returned home from foster care and there is an active foster care case.

4. A foster care case involving the deceased child or sibling was closed within 24 months immediately preceding the child's death.

C. Subject to state appropriations, an investigation under subsection B shall be completed within 12 months after the Ombudsman opens a child fatality case for investigation.

D. The Ombudsman is subject to the same standards for safeguarding the confidentiality of information under this section and the same sanctions for unauthorized release of information as the Department.

2020, c. 1090.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.