The Department of Child Safety (DCS) and the Ombudsman Office
Various statutes in Arizona Revised Statutes Titles 8 and 41 require the Department of Child Safety to work with the Ombudsman-Citizens’ Aide Office. When DCS takes a child, the Temporary Custody Notice or Notice of Duty to Inform is distributed and it informs families that ombudsman services are available to the parents, guardians, and others involved in child safety cases.
If you become involved with DCS, we highly recommend you seek to understand their mission and the laws that guide them at your first opportunity. The quickest way to find complete and accurate information about DCS is to visit their web site at https://dcs.az.gov. Public libraries have Internet connections if you do not have direct access. Time spent acquainting yourself with DCS is very advisable. Knowledge of the system can provide guidance and inform you of your rights.
Should a dispute with DCS arise, families and other involved parties should attempt to work with the agency first. If you are unable to resolve the concern internally with DCS, then you may contact the Ombudsman Office. The Ombudsman Office is independent and not in the chain of command of DCS. The Ombudsman Office can review DCS files and administrative actions to determine whether they are fair and according to law. The Ombudsman Office cannot review orders by judges or action/inaction by attorneys because they do not have jurisdiction over either. DCS dependency cases are heard in county juvenile courts (Superior Court). The Arizona Supreme Court has a helpful web site regarding general dependency information. It is at azcourts.gov/improve/Resources.aspx. Maricopa County has a good description of court and dependency processes. It is found at maricopa.gov/opa/depcp.aspx.
If you have a dispute with DCS, follow the following steps:
Step 1: Attempt to Resolve Disputes with the DCS Case Manager
Resolve a Complaint or Disagreement with Department of Child Safety (DCS) via their internal processes:
Disagreements sometimes arise during the course of Department of Child Safety (DCS) interventions. The department has ways to address these disagreements and wants you to know about them. If parties develop concerns about a DCS case, they should first attempt to address their issues and complaints directly with their Department of Child Safety (DCS) case manager. We recommend initial contact be by phone and that you are self-controlled in your remarks. We further recommend you do not leave an excessive number of voice messages. One or two should work. If there is no response in a couple of days, then we recommend changing to written communication via email or letter. Keep a copy of your correspondence.
If step 1 fails, proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Elevate concern to DCS Supervisor
If their attempt to resolve their concerns with the case manager fails, then they may proceed to DCS supervisors or management. Follow a similar course of action in attempting to speak to the case manager’s supervisor.
If step 2, fails, proceed to step 3.
Step 3: DCS also has a Family Advocate Office, a grievance process and a Foster Parent/Adoptive Liaison to assist the public with complaints.
Department of Child Safety (DCS) Family Advocate (1-877-527-0765 or 602-364-0777) receives and responds to complaints made by persons who have an open or closed Department of Child Safety (DCS) case, as well as their family members or interested parties. An affected individual may express dissatisfaction about services, actions or lack of actions or manner of treatment by the Department of Child Safety staff. The Family Advocate will mail, upon request, a Client Grievance form to the complainant. The Family Advocate will provide directions/clarification on filling out the form. Once the grievance form is submitted, the Family Advocate then reviews the matter, assigns the grievance to the appropriate management staff and to meet with the individual and attempt to resolve the complaint.
For callers seeking information about other state agencies, Family Court and child custody cases, the Family Advocate will attempt to provide telephone numbers to the appropriate service or agency. The Family Advocate cannot answer questions or provide specific information about other agency’s programs. The Family Advocate is available Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-877-527-0765 or 602-364-0777.
- The Family Advocate does not provide legal advice.
- The Family Advocate does not reveal confidential case information.
Client Complaints (Grievances)
A complaint (or grievance) is another way for individuals to express dissatisfaction about services, actions (or lack of actions) or manner of treatment by the Department of Child Safety staff. Issues currently being heard in court or previously decided in court may not be grieved. The DCS grievance goal is to address disagreements at the lowest possible level among the people most familiar with the situation. All DCS grievances are received and reviewed by the Family Advocate to ensure they are complete, contain issues eligible for the grievance process, and assigned to the appropriate management staff for response. A level one grievance may be downloaded off the DCS web site or obtained from any DCS office. A complainant should submit an original signed and dated level one grievance to the address listed on the form to ensure proper receipt and tracking. It can be found here. The Assistant Program Manager responsible for the office in which the case is being managed is required to contact the individual and offer a face to face meeting to discuss the grievance. If one is not satisfied with the outcome of the Level 1 response, they may choose to elevate the problem to the Level 2 grievance process. They would submit the original signed and dated Level 2 grievance within 30 days of receipt of the Level 1 response to the address on the form. They will be contacted by the Family Advocate and offered a meeting with Regional Program Management. If the complainant objects to the second response, they may submit an original signed and dated Level 3 grievance to the address on the form and their grievance will be reviewed by upper management for final determination.
There are certain subjects that the Client Grievance Process does NOT deal with:
- Challenges to findings of a DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SAFETY (DCS) investigation
- Mediation outcomes
- Issues previously grieved with no new circumstances
- Court orders and/or information provided to the court
- Results of an evaluation (psychological, psychiatric, substance abuse)
- Removal of children from a parent, guardian or custodian
- Denial of revocation of a license or certification
- Issues of contract providers if Procurement Code applies
If the complaint has to do with one of the issues listed above, a person should NOT start the Client Grievance Process. Contact the Family Advocacy Office at 1-877-527-0765 or 602-364-0777 if you need additional guidance.
Foster Care and Adoptive Family Liaison
The Resource Family Liaison provides program-specific information to interested parties regarding foster care. If individuals have concerns or issues pertaining to foster parent licensure, adoption certification, home recruitment, or other matters related to foster care, the Resource Family Liaison may help. For more information, please contact Resource Family Advocate, 1789 W. Jefferson Ave., SC 940A, Phoenix, Arizona 85007, (602) 542-0210, FAX (602) 542-3330.
Step 4: A complainant may gather the material they accumulated in steps 1-3 and file a complaint with the Ombudsman Office.