About the Governor's Advocacy Office (GAO)
The GAO is the Ombuds office to help affected parties work through questions, concerns, or complaints related to Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) programs or services. An ombudsman, or Ombuds professional, is an official appointed to investigate individuals' complaints against inefficient or inequitable administration.
The GAO is organizationally independent of the programs under its review and reports regularly to the ODHS Director and Office of the Governor on patterns and trends of complaints.
The GAO includes the ODHS Ombuds program, the Foster Care Ombudsman, Civil Rights and discrimination investigations and oversight the agency's formal complaint process.
The ODHS Ombuds 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 ODHS' role in investigating child abuse and neglect, foster parent issues, adult and elder abuse or neglect, access to ODHS 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 ODHS Ombuds 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 ODHS 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 ODHS 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 ODHS.
A case with the GAO will generally include one or more of the following steps:
- response to questions, concerns, or complaints,
- referrals to resources for concerns that are outside of ODHS' control,
- investigation and research of issues to determine whether program staff have followed ODHS 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 demonstrate that an existing policy has an adverse impact on clients and others.
Limits to the role of GAO
- GAO may only review the actions of ODHS 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
How do I file a customer service complaint or report of unfair treatment?
Any ODHS 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 ODHS 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 ODHS office or the Governor's Advocacy Office.
The GAO team
Administrator and Human Services Ombudsperson
: Zachary GehringerODHS Ombuds Program:
- Jody Aiello
- Sarah Burwell
- Martha Gaugh
- Liz Rogers
- Leslie Sabatini
Foster Care Ombudsman: Darin Mancuso
Civil Rights, ADA and Formal Complaint Coordinator: Jason Wenig
Intake and Administrative Support: Wendy Leedle