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 Ombuds professional is an official appointed to investigate individuals' complaints against inefficient or inequitable administration.
- Is organizationally independent of the programs under its review.
- Reports regularly to the ODHS Director and Office of the Governor on patterns and trends of complaints.
- Assists thousands of individuals and families throughout Oregon every year, including anyone experiencing a problem with or seeking information about programs or services provided by ODHS.
- Includes the ODHS Ombuds program, the Foster Care Ombudsman, civil rights and discrimination investigations, and oversight of the agency's formal complaint process.
ODHS Ombuds Program
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.
Foster Care Ombuds
The Foster Care Ombuds operates the Youth, Empowerment, and Safety line (855-840-6036) that is available to any ODHS foster child at all times for the purpose of enabling the foster child to make complaints and assert grievances about their care, safety or well-being.
Civil Rights and Discrimination
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.
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.
- 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 complaint about poor customer service or 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 Customer Complaint or Report of Discrimination form (below), then:
Customer Complaint or Report of Discrimination form
Client Comment form
GAO coordinates and manages the 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.
Administrator and Human Services Ombudsperson: Bailey Weissenfels
ODHS 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