Section 5. (a) An executive agency shall inform the child advocate when a critical incident has occurred. The child advocate may conduct an investigation of the critical incident or may review an executive agency’s investigation of a critical incident. When the child advocate conducts his own investigation, he shall determine: (1) the factual circumstances surrounding the critical incident; (2) whether an agency’s activities or services provided to a child and his family were adequate and appropriate and in accordance with agency polices and state and federal law; and (3) whether the agency’s policies, regulations, training or delivery of services or state law can be improved.
(b) Before investigating any critical incident, the child advocate shall determine whether an executive or law enforcement agency is already conducting an investigation. If a law enforcement agency is conducting an investigation, the child advocate shall, when appropriate, defer to that agency or may conduct his own investigation. The child advocate shall coordinate efforts to minimize the impact on the child, family or employees of the agency involved, unless he determines such coordination would impede his investigation. If an executive agency is conducting an investigation, the child advocate may defer to that investigation or may conduct his own investigation. The child advocate may coordinate efforts to minimize the impact on the child, family or employees of the agency involved. In every instance, the child advocate shall notify the head of the relevant agency of his involvement before beginning any investigation.
(c) The child advocate shall receive complaints relative to the provision of services to children by an executive agency and shall review and monitor the complaints that reasonably cause him to believe that a child may be in need of assistance and to ensure that the complaint is resolved. If the complaint is not resolved by the relevant executive agency within a reasonable period of time in light of the circumstances, if the resolution is determined to be unsatisfactory to the child advocate, or if the complaint reasonably causes the child advocate to believe that a child may be in need of immediate assistance, he may conduct an investigation of the complaint.
(d) The child advocate shall receive complaints from children in the care of the commonwealth and assist such children in resolving problems and concerns associated with their placement, plans for life-long adult connections and independent living, and decisions regarding custody of persons aged between 18 and 22, including ensuring that relevant executive agencies have been alerted to the complaint and facilitating intra-agency cooperation, if appropriate. For the purposes of this section, the office shall develop procedures to ensure appropriate responses to the concerns of youth in foster care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
(e) The child advocate shall periodically review, report and make recommendations, as appropriate, with respect to system-wide improvements that may increase the effectiveness of the care and services provided to children and their families and suggested legislative and regulatory changes including, but not limited to, a review of the programs and procedures established by the department to provide and administer a comprehensive child welfare program under section 2 of chapter 18B.
(f) At the request of the governor, the child advocate shall perform oversight functions to ensure that agencies serving children are fulfilling their obligations in the most effective and efficient manner.
(g) The child advocate shall undertake activities designed to educate the public regarding the services of the office and of the mission of the executive agencies in providing services to children and families.
(h) The child advocate shall be authorized to apply for, and accept on behalf of the commonwealth, federal, local or private grants, bequests, gifts or contributions for the purpose of carrying out the functions of the office.