Sec. 531.993: Duties of Ombudsman

(a) The ombudsman serves as a neutral party in assisting:

(1) children and youth in the conservatorship of the department with complaints regarding issues within the authority of the department or another health and human services agency; and

(2) persons with a complaint against the department regarding case-specific activities of the programs of the department, including adult protective services, child protective services, child-care licensing, and statewide intake.

(b) The ombudsman shall:

(1) develop and implement statewide procedures to:

(A) receive complaints from children and youth in the conservatorship of the department and other persons with a complaint against the department;

(B) review complaints filed with the ombudsman and take appropriate action, including:

(i) conducting an investigation into individual complaints that allege violations of department or agency procedure or policy or other violations; and

(ii) referring to department or agency management for resolution any trends or systemic issues identified in complaints;

(C) provide any necessary assistance to children and youth in the conservatorship of the department in making complaints and reporting allegations of abuse or neglect to the department;

(D) maintain the confidentiality of:

(i) the ombudsman's communications and records;

(ii) records of another person that have been provided to the ombudsman; and

(iii) communications of another person with the ombudsman; and

(E) ensure that the department and any person or a child or youth in the conservatorship of the department who files a complaint with the ombudsman are informed of the results of the ombudsman's investigation of the complaint, including whether the ombudsman was able to substantiate the person's, child's, or youth's complaint;

(2) collaborate with the department to develop and implement an annual outreach plan to promote awareness of the ombudsman among the public, children and youth in the conservatorship of the department, family members and caretakers of those children, and facilities licensed by the department and that includes:

(A) how the office may be contacted;

(B) the purpose of the office; and

(C) the services the office provides;

(3) issue and file with the department and any applicable health and human services agency a report that contains the ombudsman's final determination regarding a complaint and any recommended corrective actions to be taken as a result of the complaint;

(4) establish a secure form of communication with any individual who files a complaint with the ombudsman;

(5) collaborate with the department to identify consequences for any retaliatory action related to a complaint filed with the ombudsman, in accordance with Section 40.0041(g), Human Resources Code; and

(6) monitor and evaluate the department's corrective actions taken in response to a recommendation by the ombudsman.

(c) The ombudsman's final determination in a report described by Subsection (b)(3) must include a determination of whether there was wrongdoing or negligence by the department or an agent of the department or whether the complaint was frivolous and without merit. If the ombudsman determines there was wrongdoing or negligence, the ombudsman shall recommend corrective actions to be taken by the department.

(d) The ombudsman may attend any judicial proceeding related to a complaint filed with the office.

Amendments to this section made by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 906 (S.B. 213), take effect on September 1, 2017, but only if a specific appropriation is provided as described by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 906 (S.B. 213), Sec. 12, which states: This Act takes effect only if a specific appropriation for the implementation of the Act is provided in a general appropriations act of the 85th Legislature.

Comments

See note following this section.

Added by Acts 2015, 84th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1168 (S.B. 830), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2015.

Amended by:

Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 906 (S.B. 213), Sec. 6, eff. September 1, 2017.