PHILADELPHIA, PA — Tracie Johnson has joined the City of Philadelphia to head the newly created Office of the Youth Ombudsperson (OYO), an office established by Executive Order 5-22 within the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). In this role, Johnson will work with leadership from various agencies and stakeholders including the Office of Children and Families, the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), including Community Behavioral Health, to provide additional oversight of the City of Philadelphia’s child welfare, juvenile justice, and behavioral health systems’ efforts with respect to youth who are in residential placements.
“Philadelphia youth deserve to be safe and to thrive, and I am confident that Tracie Johnson will bring valuable additional oversight and partnership to making this commitment real for every child,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I am grateful for all of the stakeholders, especially the Youth Residential Placement Task Force and many young people, whose dedication, leadership, and recommendations informed the creation of this new Office. Their vision is now truly a reality and I welcome the OYO’s contributions to the important work of protecting and supporting vulnerable children and youth.”
“Philadelphia’s youth deserve the best opportunities to grow in a safe environment, and I believe it is our collective responsibility to afford our kids that support,” said Tracie Johnson, Youth Ombudsperson. “It is an honor to be entrusted with responsibility of building out this newly created office, and I am excited to begin working with our City’s leaders, youth advocates, and directly impacted youth who have been in congregate care to ensure that our most vulnerable kids are afforded the best treatment and care while in placement.”
Prior to joining the OYO, Johnson served as a Staff Attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at Community Legal Services working to create career pathways for women and girls of color by helping them overcome legal barriers to employment and higher education. Johnson helped clear juvenile adult and criminal records and advocated to employers and schools.
A lifelong Philadelphian and advocate of youth justice, Johnson previously worked with Philadelphia VIP and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania to help low-income Philadelphians with critical civil legal needs achieve equal access to justice.
Johnson was awarded the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Public Interest Section Law Student Award in 2017. She is a graduate of Ursinus College and received her law degree from Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law and is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar.
“It is critical that youth who are placed in residential care and their families have a clear path to express their concerns and for their voices to be heard,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberly Ali. “We welcome this important role, and we look forward to working in partnership with Tracie Johnson to serve Philadelphia children, youth, and families.”
“The safety and support of youth and their families and caregivers is of paramount importance, particularly when they are in distress or are in need of treatment and services,” said DBHIDS Commissioner Dr. Jill Bowen. “We look forward to working with Tracie Johnson in her new role and in the development of the Office of the Youth Ombudsman.”
In November 2019 the Youth Residential Placement Task Force published a report to reduce residential placement and improve the safety and quality of placement. A Youth Ombudsperson was one of the task force’s recommendations.
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