Gov. Rick Snyder today announced he is appointing Orlene Hawks, Director of the Office of Children's Ombudsman, as the leader of a team that will conduct an operational review and improvement process at the Department of Health and Human Services' Child Protective Services program.
Last week, the state Auditor General issued an audit that found numerous deficiencies in the operation of the program. Gov. Snyder immediately tasked senior advisor Rich Baird with reviewing the audit and pulling together all necessary resources to address the audit, which the Governor referred to as "unacceptable."
"Child Protective Services needs to be a high-performing, accountability-driven unit because they are serving some of our state's most vulnerable residents," Snyder said. "I have instructed the team to move faster than people are used to seeing in government because the children of Michigan are counting on this program working well. I have full confidence in Orlene getting to the bottom of what is happening within this program and finding the most effective way to improve things quickly."
The Office of Children's Ombudsman is an independent oversight state agency that ensures greater accountability and transparency in Michigan's child welfare system. The OCO investigates complaints about children involved with Michigan's child welfare system and incidents of child deaths due to neglect or abuse issues.
Hawks will be taking a leave of absence from that office to work in the Executive Office and lead the new team.
Before joining the OCO, Ms. Hawks managed the Quality and Program Services section in the Michigan Department of Community Health, working with the Children's Special Health Care Services Division. She also previously managed the Child, Adolescent and Family Health Services section and directed the Office of Statutory and Legislative Compliance.
In addition to Hawks and Baird the "CPS Operation Excellence Team" will include:
Pat McDonnell, Office of Performance and Transition
Melissa Blair, CPS Supervisor, Allegan County
Ward Beauchamp, Department of Technology, Management and Budget
D/Lt. Jeremy Brewer, Michigan State Police
"I agree with Gov. Snyder's comments regarding the audit report. We must look for ways to be helpful and to assure we fix these issues as quickly as possible," Hawks said. "We need to listen to case workers' ideas and challenges, and be clear about policies and internal controls. Most importantly, individual accountability at all levels must be established. We have good people who want to effectively meet the needs of our most vulnerable children despite how hard their jobs are. I am pleased that Governor Snyder has appointed this team of professionals to mobilize the resources to achieve these objectives."