Ward 1 Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau is leading an effort of her council members to reinstate an office that Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget would do away with. Calling the decision “reckless” in a press release, Nadeau is demanding that the Ombudsperson for Children be recognized as a necessary position in DC. She says, “Mayor Bowser disregarded the law when she unilaterally eliminated a District agency.” the statement continues, “This reckless decision to relitigate a battle the Mayor lost when the Council unanimously passed the law creating the Ombudsperson puts children at risk and takes all the guardrails off a child welfare system emerging from three decades of necessary federal court oversight.”
Nadeau continued, “I will work with my colleagues to defeat this vindictive abdication of the Executive’s responsibility to protect the District’s children and restore 100 percent of the Ombudsperson’s funding.
Mayor Bowser ’s decision to defund the ombudsperson to oversee the city’s child welfare agency, was met with some upset. Judith Sandalow, the director of the Children’s Law Center, releasee a statement explaining, “We’re shocked and saddened to see the erasure of the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children not only in the mayor’s proposed budget but in the current year’s budget as well. The funding needed is pennies compared to D.C.’s $19.5 billion budget – but its impact would be huge for the thousands of D.C. children and families involved in the foster care system,” The council-approved Office of the Ombudsperson for Children Establishment Amendment Act passed unanimously last year. The Act created a new agency to oversee child welfare in the District by enacting measures to better coordinate between agencies. The agency would also investigate systemic concerns related to children involved in the Child and Family Services Agency, and advocate for families who are in the system who have complaints. Bowser was not supportive of the creation of a specific office to perform these roles, and she vetoed the bill. The Council overrode that veto by a 12-1 vote. Council funded the Office at $935,000 a year on a recurring basis.
The budget review process begins this week, but the final vote on the 2023 spending plan won’t happen until the end of May.