(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Governor Mike DeWine today announced the selection of two individuals to lead the Youth and Family Ombudsmen Office. Jenny R. Stotts will serve as the first-ever Youth Ombudsman, while Jennifer A. Sheriff will serve as the first-ever Family Ombudsman. The office, a recommendation included in the Children’s Services Transformation Advisory Council’s Final Report, will be housed in the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and is set to open May 31, 2022.
“Members of the Children Services Transformation Advisory Council heard over and over again from foster youth, former foster youth, and families that separate, independent ombudsmen were needed to listen, investigate, and find solutions when there are concerns,” Governor DeWine said. “I am proud that we are enacting this recommendation, and I am confident that this new office, combined with other council recommendations, will help Ohio better serve kids and their families.”
On February 28, 2022, Governor Mike DeWine signed Amended House Bill 4 into law, creating the Youth and Family Ombudsmen Office. The office, which consists of both a Youth Ombudsman and a Family Ombudsman, will ensure the independent and impartial review of youth, family, and community complaints and concerns, while attempting to resolve the issues.
Prior to accepting the Youth Ombudsman position, Stotts served as the Executive Director of the Athens County Court Appointed Special Advocates/Guardian Ad Litem (CASA/GAL) Program and the Regional Coordinator of CASA in Southeast Ohio. Her professional experiences include direct practice in child protective services as a caseworker and forensic interviewer. Stotts also served in workforce preparation as part of the University Partnership Title IV-E Child Welfare Training Program (UPP). Stotts is a licensed social worker.
Family Ombudsman Sheriff most recently served as the Lucas County Child Protection Ombudsman. After graduating from law school in 2008, she spent the next eight years prosecuting criminal cases with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Beginning in 2016, she managed a challenging child abuse and neglect caseload as an Assistant Attorney General representing the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
“Having been a foster parent, I know the value in an office dedicated to helping both youth and families,” said ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder. “The Youth and Family Ombudsmen Office, and our recently published bills of rights for foster youth and resource caregivers, are examples of how we can empower families and make the system easier to navigate.”
Damschroder also announced that in addition to the appointment of the Ombudsmen, Rachel Selby has been selected to serve as State Liaison for the office. In her role, she will serve as a liaison between the office and its stakeholders to grow awareness about its services. Selby has a Masters of Humanities and most recently served as Philanthropy Officer for Dayton Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Governor DeWine created the Children Services Transformation Advisory Council in late 2019 to hear directly from those who have experienced the children’s services system first-hand and make recommendations to help children’s services better meet the needs of the families they serve. Following 10 field hearings, the council issued their final report that included 37 recommendations. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has fully implemented or has made significant progress in implementing 36 of the recommendations to ensure lasting change for Ohio’s children and families.