The Penn State child sexual abuse scandal has raised awareness in the Commonwealth of the need to better protect our children, an issue that has been at the heart of State Senator LeAnna Washington’s policies. This week, Senator Washinton (D-Phila./Montgomery) introduced Senate Bill 1363 to create an Office of Children’s Ombudsman for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to support the interests and rights of children and families – both individually and system wide.
The Office of Children’s Ombudsman will be an independent advocate charged with investigating complaints concerning government services for children and families such as child protective services, foster care, adoption and juvenile justice services. It will probe violations of alleged administrative agencies’ mismanagement which directly or indirectly place a child in danger. It will also pursue legislative changes on behalf of children and make recommendations to the Governor, the General Assembly and the Supreme Court on child welfare issues.
“As a survivor of child abuse myself, I am appalled at the systematic failures that continue to persist in failing to protect the most vulnerable citizens,” Washington said. “Through the Office of Children’s Ombudsman, we can immediately start scrutinizing a backlog of abuses and begin examining long-term changes to improve our government agencies. We need to ensure that children who are victims have a way to be heard and that every child in Pennsylvania can live free from mistreatment.”
Approximately 29 states including New Jersey and Delaware have ombudsman or offices of the child advocate and a number of others are in the process of creating them. Most of these receive complaints regarding children and family services and assist the public with questions and issues about state agencies.
Senator LeAnna Washington represents the 4th District, which consists of parts of Montgomery County and the City of Philadelphia. Washington has served in the Senate for six years, since May 2005, when she won a special election. Prior to serving in the Pennsylvania Senate, she served from November 1993 to June 2005 in the PA House of Representatives, representing the 200th legislative district. Washington currently serves as Democratic Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee.
She also serves on the Democratic Policy Committee as the Deputy Chair, as well as the Community, Economics, and Recreational Development, Finance, State Government, Urban Affairs and Housing, and Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committees. Washington is also a member of the Children’s Trust Fund Board.
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