The Office of the Ombudsman (OOTO)

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The Office of the Ombudsman: A youth advocacy office

The Office of the Ombudsman (OOTO) is part of the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). The role of OOTO is to help protect the legal rights of youth who reside at certain sites. These sites include the following:

What does OOTO do?

OOTO is a connection between youth and their placement administration, families, attorneys, and other offices within OCFS. The ombudsmen visit the sites regularly to counsel youth, take verbal reports, and provide recommendations to sites. The ombudsmen also take reports from youth, family members, attorneys, site staff, and other concerned parties who contact OOTO through phone calls, letters, or email.

Executive Law § 523 and 9 NYCRR 177 generally set out OOTO’s role.

Who are the ombudsmen?

The ombudsmen specialize in juvenile justice and youth rights; some ombudsmen are attorneys. OOTO has a director who is also an attorney with experience in juvenile justice and reports directly to the OCFS commissioner.

Are the ombudsmen advocates for all youth who reside in residential placement?

No. OOTO only works with two types of youth: those who have been adjudicated by Family Court or Criminal Court and reside at various sites, or those who are pending disposition in county detention facilities. OOTO does not handle youth who have been placed by a county (exception: youth in the Close to Home initiative), foster care cases, or youth placed with the NYS Office of Mental Health, NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), or NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities.

Will an ombudsman represent a youth in court?

No. OOTO is not a law firm, and the ombudsmen are not the attorneys for or legal representatives of a youth in court proceedings. The ombudsmen can contact a youth’s attorney or law guardian on behalf of a youth and can help connect a youth to free or low-cost legal services.