2016 Arkansas Code
Title 16 - Practice, Procedure, and Courts
Subtitle 6 - Criminal Procedure Generally
Chapter 87 - Public Defenders
Subchapter 2 - -- Arkansas Public Defender Commission
§ 16-87-216. Juvenile Ombudsman Division
(a) For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) "Best interests of the juvenile" includes those actions and courses of action which:
(A) Keep the juvenile safe from physical, mental, or sexual abuse while in state custody;
(B) Are considerate of the court's recommendations and adhere to the juvenile's treatment plan; and
(C) Work toward rehabilitating the juvenile;
(2) "Division" means the Division of Youth Services of the Department of Human Services;
(3) "Executive director" means the Executive Director of the Arkansas Public Defender Commission; and
(4) "Juvenile" means any juvenile who has been committed to the custody of the Division of Youth Services pursuant to a disposition order of the juvenile division of circuit court.
(b) (1) It is the intent of the General Assembly to create a Juvenile Ombudsman Division of the Arkansas Public Defender Commission to provide for independent oversight of the Division of Youth Service's facilities and programs that are unlicensed or unaccredited.
(2) There shall be created within the Arkansas Public Defender Commission a juvenile ombudsman and assistant juvenile ombudsmen that shall be appointed by the executive director.
(3) The minimum qualifications for an ombudsman shall be as follows:
(A) A master's degree in:
(i) Social work;
(iii) Law; or
(iv) A related field;
(B) A bachelor's degree in:
(i) Social work;
(ii) Psychology; or
(iii) A related field; or
(C) Four (4) years' direct experience in programs serving juvenile offenders and their families.
(4) No waiver of the minimum qualifications in subdivision (b)(3) of this section shall be permitted.
(c) The powers and duties of the ombudsman shall be as follows:
(1) The ombudsman shall be given online access to all tracking systems maintained by the Division of Youth Services, including but not limited to the:
(A) Incident report tracking system and the disposition of incidents reported therein;
(B) Parent helpline tracking system; and
(C) Juvenile tracking system;
(2) The ombudsman may attend scheduled meetings or reviews of juvenile intake, program progress, or aftercare planning;
(3) The ombudsman shall be given access to any meeting or document that would be accessible to the general public through the Freedom of Information Act of 1967, § 25-19-101 et seq.;
(4) The ombudsman shall be given reasonable prior notice of all major activities of the Audit and Compliance Section of the Division of Youth Services and shall be permitted to accompany the monitor or monitoring team of the Division of Youth Services on any monitoring visit or audit;
(5) The ombudsman shall be subject to the same compliance with all procedures, policies, and laws regarding the confidentiality of juveniles committed to the Division of Youth Services as required by division employees;
(6) The ombudsman may initiate and maintain contact with any juvenile during the juvenile's custodial placement or while on aftercare status;
(7) The ombudsman shall be given access to the juveniles and to the juveniles' records and meetings of program progress and case planning at all the privately contracted facilities of the Division of Youth Services;
(8) (A) To identify instances where necessary services are not being provided with respect to the safety, health, education, and rehabilitation of the juvenile as identified in a treatment plan.
(B) When a problem is identified, the ombudsman shall notify the Director of the Division of Youth Services of the Department of Human Services or his or her designee, the juvenile court having jurisdiction, the juvenile's parents or guardian, and the juvenile's attorney or attorneys of the problem;
(9) To document a juvenile's questions, complaints, and concerns related to the juvenile's health, safety, education, and treatment and seek answers to those questions and address the complaints and concerns in an expedient manner;
(10) To request and review, as needed, all records on the history and treatment of the juvenile while in the custody of the Division of Youth Services or in aftercare, including related agency and court records;
(11) To make unannounced visits to the unlicensed or unaccredited facilities of the Division of Youth Services, whether state-run or privately operated, to assure the safety and well-being of the juveniles;
(12) Upon receipt of a complaint involving alleged child maltreatment, the ombudsman shall immediately report the alleged incident to the Child Abuse Hotline, the facility director, and the Director of the Division of Youth Services or his or her designee, who shall be responsible for ensuring the juvenile's safety;
(13) (A) To prepare annual reports on the overall functioning of the division's ability to provide for the safety, health, education, and rehabilitation of juveniles committed to the Division of Youth Services.
(B) The report shall be submitted to:
(i) The Director of the Department of Human Services and the Director of the Division of Youth Services;
(ii) The House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs;
(iii) The Senate Interim Committee on Children and Youth;
(iv) The judges of the juvenile divisions of circuit court; and
(v) The Governor;
(14) To prepare annual reports comparing the court's recommendations, the treatment plans of the Division of Youth Services, and the actual services provided; and
(15) The audit and compliance process of the Division of Youth Services to verify that each juvenile has unhampered access to a grievance process that addresses the juvenile's questions, complaints, and concerns in a timely manner in accordance with policy and procedure of the Division of Youth Services or applicable statute.
(d) The ombudsman shall have no authority to command or otherwise instruct any division employee or contracted agent of the Division of Youth Services regarding any aspect of programming or operations, nor may the ombudsman alter or countermand any instruction to, or participation by, juveniles that is consistent with the policy and procedure of the Division of Youth Services or otherwise part of the treatment plan, program, or operations associated with the agency.
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