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About the OCO

Mission Statement

Subsection A of Va. Code § 2.2-439 provides the mission of the OCO:

There is hereby created the Office of the Children's Ombudsman as a means of:

  • effecting changes in policy, procedure, and legislation; 
  • educating the public; 
  • investigating and reviewing actions of the Department, local departments, child-placing agencies, or child-caring institutions; and 
  • monitoring and ensuring compliance with relevant statutes, rules, and policies pertaining to child protective services and the placement, supervision, and treatment of, and improvement of delivery of care to, children in foster care and adoptive homes.

What Do We Do?

The OCO has statutory authority to receive complaints regarding cases involving children who (i) have been alleged to have been abused or neglected, (ii) are receiving child protective services, (iii) are in foster care, or (iv) are awaiting adoption. The OCO can investigate complaints alleging that an agency’s action was:

In addition, the OCO can:

  • Pursue all necessary action, including legal action, to protect the rights and welfare of children receiving child protective services, in foster care, or placed for adoption
  • Advocate for legislative changes to improve Virginia’s child welfare system
  • Review policies and procedures related to any child-serving agency’s involvement with a child and make recommendations for improvement

The OCO cannot address complaints related to:

  • Any court decision, court order, or the actions of judges or attorneys
  • Child custody, visitation, or child support cases
  • School issues or educational services
  • The actions of Law Enforcement Officers
  • Employment or personnel issues within an agency

Guiding Principles

The OCO is dedicated to engaging best practices in fulfilling its statutory responsibilities and to abiding by the following standards:

Independence – The OCO is to be free from interference in the legitimate performance of its duties and not subject to outside control, limitation, or influence allowing it to conduct its investigations, report its findings, and make its recommendations based solely on a review of the facts and law, in light of reason and fairness.

Impartiality – The OCO will receive and review each complaint and conduct its inquiries and investigations in an objective and fair manner free from bias and conflicts of interest, and treat all parties without favor or prejudice. This impartiality does not preclude the OCO from developing an interest in securing changes that are deemed necessary as a result of the process, nor from otherwise being an advocate on behalf of the constituency of children established by statute where the process demonstrates a need for it.

Confidentiality – The OCO shall maintain confidentiality of all information and records obtained in the performance of its duties and limit disclosure in accordance with applicable law.

In addition, the OCO recognizes and respects the primacy of the parent-child relationship as well as the good faith efforts and intent of child-serving and child-placing agencies to act in the best interests of children and strives to respect the proper balance between family preservation and child safety in performing its duties.

Staff

Eric Reynolds, Director

Eric Reynolds is the Director of the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman within the Office of the Governor. Previously, he served as staff attorney for the Court Improvement Program in the Office of the Executive Secretary for the Supreme Court of Virginia and was an Assistant Attorney General with the Virginia Office of the Attorney General in Richmond, representing and advising the Virginia Department of Social Services, the State Executive Council for Children’s Services and the Office of Children’s Services, the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services, and the Department of Medical Assistance Services.  Prior to working for the state, he was in private practice, focusing on family law and serving as a court-appointed guardian ad litem for children and as counsel for parents in child custody and child welfare cases in the Metro-Richmond area. He is a graduate of the University of Richmond School of Law.

Jane Lissenden, Policy Analyst

Jane Lissenden is the Policy Analyst for the Office of the Children's Ombudsman within the Office of the Governor. Prior to this role, she served for 15 years as Training Coordinator with the Court Improvement Program in the Office of the Executive Secretary at the Supreme Court of Virginia. Jane is a graduate of James Madison University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration and a minor in Criminal Justice.

Destiny K. Allen, Investigations Analyst

Destiny Allen is an Investigations Analyst of the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman within the Office of the Governor. Prior to this role, Destiny served as a School Social Worker for Chesterfield County Public Schools where she worked closely with students and their families, school personnel, and community partners to meet students' academic needs, issues or concerns. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia's College at Wise, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology, and a minor in Administration of Justice. Destiny earned her Master of Social Work degree, with a concentration in Administration, Planning, and Policy from Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Social Work.

Daniela SanzeteneaInvestigations Analyst

Daniela Sanzetenea is an Investigations Analyst for the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman within the Office of the Governor. Prior to this role, she served as a Bilingual Family Services Specialist as a foster care worker for a local department of social services where she supported, advocated for, and collaborated with English and Spanish speaking children and families. She is a graduate of George Mason University, with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She also earned her Master of Social Work degree with a concentration in Administration, Planning, and Policy from Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Social Work.