Northam Appoints Eric J. Reynolds as First Child Ombudsman in Virginia

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Governor Ralph Northam announced this week the appointment of Eric J. Reynolds as the first director of the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman in Virginia.

The office was established Approved by the General Assembly and Northam during the 2020 legislature to serve as a mechanism for reporting concerns about the treatment of children in the Virginia care system.

“The role of the child ombudsman is to ensure that every child in Virginia has a safe and permanent home,” said Northam. “Eric Reynolds is a compassionate leader with extensive experience working in our care system and with facilities that serve children – he is the right person for this important role.”

The office is an independent agency empowered to receive complaints and investigate and review actions by the Virginia Department of Social Services, local social services, child placement agencies, or childcare facilities.

Before the establishment of this office, the only option for families was to file a complaint with a local social welfare office, with the authority itself or with the welfare office. It will also monitor and ensure compliance with relevant laws, rules and guidelines regarding child protection services and the placement, monitoring, treatment and provision of care for children in foster and adoptive homes.

The child ombudsman has the opportunity to advocate laws.

“I’m honored to take on this inaugural role,” said Reynolds. “I was drawn to this position because I know how much influence it can have. I look forward to working with the Department of Social Services to ensure the needs of foster children across Virginia are paramount. “

“I was thrilled to campaign for this legislation to create the Office of the Child Ombudsman,” said Del. Chris Hurt. “The work of the Ombudsman will be a critical step forward in keeping the child’s best interests at center when complex decisions are made.”

Reynolds most recently served as an attorney for court reform programs at the Virginia Supreme Court. Reynolds previously served as assistant attorney general in the Department of Health, Education, and Human Services in the Virginia Attorney General’s office. He also served as legal advisor to the Department of Social Services, the Department of Child Services, the Department of Medical Care, and the Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services. In this role, he prepared analyzes for agency programs and helped draft legislative and regulatory proposals.

As a lawyer, Reynolds has represented both parents and children in child welfare cases and family law. Reynolds received his law degree from the University of Richmond and his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York.

“The establishment of this office is an important step in our ongoing work to strengthen the Virginia care system,” said Health and Human Resources Secretary Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “I am confident that Director Reynolds will build an office that will improve outcomes and deliver outcomes for foster children and their families.”



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