About DHS

The Governor’s Advocacy Office (GAO) is an ombudsman office to help affected parties work through questions, concerns, or complaints related to Department of Human Services (DHS) services or action. An ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate individuals' complaints against inefficient or inequitable administration.

This GAO is organizationally independent of the programs under its review and reports regularly to the DHS Director and Office of the Governor on patterns and trends of complaints.

The GAO includes the DHS Ombudsman program, the Foster Care Ombudsman, Civil Rights and discrimination investigations and oversight the agency’s formal complaint process. 

  • The DHS Ombudsman program will objectively evaluate and work to resolve issues and concerns presented by individuals who contact this office. These may include, but are not limited to concerns, complaints or questions involving DHS' role in investigating child abuse and neglect, foster parent issues, adult and elder abuse or neglect, access to DHS public assistance programs, customer service matters, resources for individual and family support services or treatment programs, including services for individuals with physical, mental or developmental disabilities. The DHS Ombudsman program also includes the responsibilities of the statutory Children's Advocate which specifically responds to concerns regarding child abuse and neglect, child protective services, and issues relevant to individual child welfare cases or general program practices.
  • The Foster Care Ombudsman operates the Youth, Empowerment, and Safety line (855-840-6036) that is available to any DHS foster child at all times for the purposes of enabling the foster child to make complaints and assert grievances regarding the foster child’s care, safety or well-being.
  • The DHS Client Complaint and Report of Discrimination process includes screening, coordination, oversight and tracking formal complaints and reports of discrimination, including civil rights investigations. 

The Governor's Advocacy Office assists thousands of individuals and families throughout Oregon every year, including any individual experiencing a problem with or seeking information about programs or services provided by DHS.

GAO Process

A case with the GAO will generally include of the following steps:

  • response to questions, concerns, or complaints,
  • referrals to resources for concerns that are outside of DHS’ control,
  • investigation and research of issues to determine whether program staff have followed DHS policies and procedures,
  • Complete data entry in order to identify patterns and trends of complaints and training needs, and 
  • recommendations of modifications to policy and procedures when findings determine that an existing policy has an unintended or adverse impact on clients.

Limits to the role of GAO

  • GAO may only review the actions of DHS programs and service providers.
  • GAO must adhere to Oregon statutes, administrative rules, department and program policies without exception, including our responsibility as mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect.
  • GAO cannot review or overturn final orders on administrative hearings or court decisions.

Client Civil Rights and Formal Complaints

""​ What to do if you want to file a customer service complaint or report of unfair treatment: 

Any DHS client or customer who believes they received poor customer service or were treated in a discriminatory manner may file a formal complaint. Follow the instructions on the form to complete the DHS Client Complaint and Report of Discrimination form (see below), then:

GAO coordinates and manages this complaint process. When a report of discrimination is received, GAO will either independently investigate the matter or refer the case to the appropriate government authority for investigation.

Customer Complaint or Report of Discrimination forms

Client Comment forms

Follow instructions on each form for completing and submitting the forms to any DHS office or the Governor's Advocacy Office.

Limitations

  • GAO jurisdiction is only over DHS programs and services.
  • GAO must adhere to Oregon statutes, administrative rules, department and program policies without exception.
  • GAO cannot overturn final orders on administrative hearings or court decisions.

Client Civil Rights and Formal Complaints

What to do if you want to file a customer service complaint or report of unfair treatment: 

Any DHS client or customer who believes they received poor customer service or were treated in a discriminatory manner may file a formal complaint. Follow the instructions on the form to complete the DHS Client Complaint and Report of Discrimination form (see below), then:

GAO coordinates and manages this complaint process. When a report of discrimination is received, GAO will either independently investigate the matter or refer the case to the appropriate government authority for investigation.

Customer Complaint or Report of Discrimination forms

Client Comment forms

Follow instructions on each form for completing and submitting the forms to any DHS office or the DHS Governor's Advocacy Office.

The GAO team

Administrator and Children’s Ombudsman: Zachary Gehringer

DHS Ombudsman Program:

  • Jody Aiello
  • Berenise Delgado
  • Martha Gaugh
  • Liz Rogers
  • Leslie Sabatini
  • Bailey Weissenfels

Foster Care Ombudsman: Darin Mancuso

Civil Rights, ADA and Formal Complaint Coordinator: Jason Wenig

Intake and Administrative Support: Wendy Leedle 

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Contacts

Governor's Advocacy Office, DHS Ombudsman Program, Foster Care Ombudsman  

Phone: (503) 945-6904
Toll-free: 1-800-442-5238
TTY number: 711
Email : dhs.info@state.or.us
Fax number: (503) 378-6532 

Foster Care Hotline:1-855-840-6036 
 

"" File a complaint

Any DHS client or customer who believes they received poor customer service or were treated in a discriminatory manner may file a complaint with the Governor's Advocacy Office.