how to report a problem or file a complaint
The CRP does not investigate individual cases. Our role is to find the patterns that emerge from problems with many cases. If you feel your case has not been handled properly by OCS, your first step should be to seek a solution through OCS. If you have not already taken your complaint to your worker’s supervisor, we would strongly encourage you to do so. If your complaint is with your caseworker, the next person in the chain-of-command is their supervisor. If the supervisor does not handle the situation to your satisfaction, then ask for the Staff Manager, then the Children’s Services Manager; and finally the Field Administrator. OCS’ policy states that: It is the responsibility of division employees to work with individuals who are expressing concern regarding the division.
If you are not satisfied with the way your situation has been handled within the chain of command you have two options. You may file a grievance with OCS or you may contact the State of Alaska’s Ombudsman’s Office which investigates claims against any state agency. We would still like to hear about your issue so we can determine if your case is similar to other problem cases. Please email the details to us on our Contact page, but understand that we do not have the authority to affect your outcome in any way.
File a complaint about a specific case
Understanding OCS review mechanisms
There are a variety of mechanisms in place to periodically review one or more components of OCS. Each has a specific purpose, and some of them overlap. This variation depends on the statutory requirement, funding source, and availability of funds. This information is provided for your convenience. All these review mechanisms can broadly be classified in two ways: case-level vs. system level; and internal vs. external to OCS. Alaska CRP tries to avoid duplicating any of these efforts, and strives to complement them.
- Court (case level; external) – All cases where children are in legal custody of the state are under the purview of the court system. All proceedings in the case are periodically reviewed by the court, and all legal parties in the case should receive notices of proceedings at appropriate times. Any party may appeal to the court if they consider other parties are in violation of applicable laws and regulations, or are in disagreement with the court’s decisions. The court reviews each case at least once a year.
- Administrative Reviews (Chapter 3.1) (case level; internal) – These are reviews mandated by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1980, and are led by OCS staff, primarily intended to ensure progress on each case where the child is placed in an out-of-home setting. Each case is mandated to be reviewed at least once every six months.
- CASA and GAL (case level; external) – While these positions are more embedded into the child protection services system and appear to be part of it, they are intended to provide advocacy for the child, and thus review the proceedings to ensure the child’s interests are being met. CASA and GAL programs differ in various ways, but have very similar intent.
- OCS appeals process (Chapter 1.6) (case level; internal) – OCS has an internal appeals and grievance process that is accessible to stakeholders of a case. Many decisions on individual cases can be appealed through this process.
- Children’s Justice Act Task Force (system level, external) – Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act requires the Task Force to undertake a comprehensive review and evaluation of law, policy and the investigative, administrative and judicial handling of cases of child maltreatment and to make training and policy recommendations in three categories – handling of cases, potential new models and programs, and changes to laws and policies.
- Alaska Maternal Infant Mortality Review-Child Death Review. (case level, external) – MIMR-CDR is a non-mandated review team coordinated by the Section of Women’s Children’s and Family Health, within the Division of Public Health. They review all deaths (including those from child maltreatment) of children between birth and 14 years of age. Their reports cover deaths that occurred a couple of years prior to the year of review.
- Child Fatality Review Team (case level, external) – CFRT is a mandated function, led by the State Medical Examiner’s Office. Every unnatural death of a child (including those due to child maltreatment) is reviewed by this team.
- Child and Family Services Reviews (system level, external) – CFSRs are comprehensive federal reviews conducted by the Children’s Bureau of the entire state child protection system. Primary goal of this review is to ensure the state is meeting all federal requirements, determine what is actually happening to the children engaged with the CPS system, and assist states in achieving positive outcomes. The review is structured to assess the progress of the entire system on three sets of outcomes – safety, permanency, and wellbeing. A sample of cases from across the state are reviewed in addition to system components such as training and data management. These reviews take place approximately once every 5-7 years. Alaska’s next review (round 4) is expected to launch FY 2023.
- Ombudsman’s Office (case/system level, external) – This office has wide ranging scope on responding to complaints against OCS’ actions and decisions, and occasionally undertakes broad investigations of specific components of OCS operations. Approximately 15% of all investigations each year by this office are of OCS. Investigations result in recommendations, which are often accepted by OCS, but are not binding by law.