Northam appoints Eric J. Reynolds as Virginia’s first children’s ombudsman
Gov. Ralph Northam announced this week the appointment of Eric J. Reynolds as Virginia’s first director of the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman.
The office was established by the General Assembly and approved by Northam during the 2020 legislative session to serve as a mechanism for reporting concerns about the treatment of children within Virginia’s foster care system.
“The role of the Children’s Ombudsman is to ensure every child in Virginia has a safe and permanent home,” Northam said. “Eric Reynolds is a compassionate leader with extensive experience working in our foster care system and with agencies that serve children—he is the right person for this important position.”
The office is an independent agency that is authorized to receive complaints and investigate and review actions of the Virginia Department of Social Services, local departments of social services, child-placing agencies, or child-caring institutions.
Prior to the creation of this office, the only way for families to file a complaint with a local department of social services was with the agency itself or with the Department of Social Services. It will also monitor and ensure compliance with relevant statutes, rules, and policies pertaining to child protective services and the placement, supervision, treatment, and delivery of care to children in foster care and adoptive homes.
The Children’s Ombudsman has the ability to advocate for legislation.
“I am honored to serve in this inaugural role,” said Reynolds. “I was drawn to this position because I know how much of an impact it can make. I look forward to working alongside the Department of Social Services to ensure that the needs of foster care children across Virginia are put first.”
“I was thrilled to champion this legislation creating the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman,” said Del. Chris Hurt. “The work of the Ombudsman will be a critical step forward in keeping the best interests of the child at the center as complicated decisions are made.”
Reynolds most recently served as staff attorney for Court Improvement Programs at the Virginia Supreme Court. Reynolds previously served as assistant attorney general in the Division of Health, Education, and Social Services at the Office of the Virginia Attorney General. He also served as legal counsel for the Department of Social Services, Office of Children’s Services, Department of Medical Assistance Service, and Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services. In this role, he provided analysis for agency programs and assisted in drafting proposed legislation and regulation.
As an attorney, Reynolds has represented both parents and children in child welfare cases and family law. Reynolds earned his law degree from the University of Richmond and his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York.
“The creation of this office is an important step in our ongoing work to strengthen Virginia’s foster care system,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “I am confident that Director Reynolds will build an office that improves outcomes and delivers results for children in foster care and their families.”