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Filing a Complaint

Any individual may submit a complaint to the OCO, including children and youth who are or were in foster care. You cannot be penalized by any child-serving or child placing agency for filing a complaint with the OCO. If we cannot investigate your complaint, we may provide you with resources or information that may help you resolve your concern.

What happens when a complaint is submitted?

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1. Preliminary Assessment

When we receive a complaint, we conduct a preliminary assessment to determine whether we can provide any assistance. For our assessment, we will do the following:

  • Review the complaint form
  • Interview the complainant
  • Review relevant child welfare information system records
  • Identify allegations meeting statutory criteria
  • Identify implicated laws, rules, and policies
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2.  Response

After our preliminary assessment, we will determine what action we can take, which can include any of the following:

  • Refer complainants to an appropriate agency for resolution of their concerns.
  • Provide information about other remedies that may be available to the complainant
  • Request assistance from the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS)
  • Monitor a case
  • Initiate a formal investigation
  • Decline taking further action because the complaint doesn’t meet our statutory criteria, can be resolved by another remedy, or other reason.
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3. Investigation

If we decide to initiate a formal investigation, we will do the following to determine whether the allegations in the complaint can be substantiated:

  • Interview relevant agency staff
  • Interview collaterals (other family members, service providers, law enforcement officers, etc.)
  • Conduct a full review of the agency’s records in the child welfare information system
  • Review documentation, including court records, law enforcement reports, relevant medical records, audio-visual recordings,
  • At the conclusion of our investigation, we will prepare a Report of Investigation summarizing our findings and recommendations for improving agency practices. The Report will be shared with:
statutory complainant
A statutory complainant is any one of the following individuals as listed in Virginia Code § 2.2-441:
  • the child,
  • a biological parent of the child,
  • a foster parent of the child,
  • an adoptive parent or prospective adoptive parent of the child,
  • a legally appointed guardian of the child,
  • a guardian ad litem for the child,
  • a relative of the child or any person with a legitimate interest as defined in Virginia Code § 20-124.1,
  • a Virginia legislator,
  • a mandated reporter of child abuse or neglect, and
  • an attorney for the child, a biological parent, a foster parent, adoptive parent, guardian of the child, or relative or person with a legitimate interest.
Statutory Criteria

Administrative act is:

  • Contrary to law, rule, or policy
  • Imposed without an adequate statement of reason
  • Based on irrelevant, immaterial, or erroneous grounds

Available Remedies

Have you sought other available remedies or ways to resolve your concern? Such remedies may include:

If none of these remedies are applicable to your situation, or if you have attempted to resolve your concern through any of these other remedies but still want the OCO to conduct an independent review, you may file your complaint below.

You can file a complaint using the online form below or download the form to either email it to complaints@oco.virginia.gov or mail it to:

Office of the Children’s Ombudsman
1111 East Broad Street, Suite B042
Richmond, VA 23219

File a Complaint Using the Online Form

(Information provided is subject to the confidentiality and disclosure provisions of Va. Code § 2.2-446.)
Instructions: If you have already attempted to resolve your complaint and you wish to file a complaint, please complete the form below or download the form to send it to the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman at the above address or by scanning it and sending it by e-mail to complaints@oco.virginia.gov. If you have an emergency regarding the safety of a child, contact the statewide child abuse reporting hotline at 1-800-552-7096 as the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman does not handle emergency situations.

Before proceeding, please confirm:

My complaint relates to a case involving a child who:

If there is an immediate safety risk, contact Child Protective Services: https://www.dss.virginia.gov/about/abuse.cgi