OLYMPIA, Wash. - In a letter to the director of the state Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds (OFCO), Gov. Jay Inslee called on the organization to review the Department of Children, Youth and Families’ (DCYF) handling of Oakley Carlson’s case.
OFCO investigates complaints about agency actions or inaction that involve any child at risk of abuse, neglect, or other harm; a child or parent involved with child protection or child welfare services and the welfare of children in state care, according to their website. They are a separate agency from DCYF.
Inslee’s letter, which was written in May but only now just made public, comes after pressure from advocates in Grays Harbor County demanding answers on what was or wasn’t done by DCYF to make sure Oakley was okay after she was returned to her biological parents.
5-year-old Oakley Carlson was declared missing in December 2021. She was placed into foster care when she was just seven months old and was returned to the custody of her biological parents in 2019.
However, her parents, Andrew Carlson and Jordan Bowers, had no explanation for her whereabouts and said the last time they saw Oakley was on Nov. 30, 2021.
Neither of them have cooperated in the investigation into finding her.
Since then, community members and advocates have raised the questions on whether there were missteps or shortfalls in Oakley’s placement and care, and whether the system tasked with keeping her safe, failed.
In his letter to Patrick Dowd, the Ombuds director at OFCO, Inslee wrote: "I believe it is prudent and appropriate to request an examination of the agency's [DCYF] handling of this case, whether to affirm that DCYF followed all proper protocols and policies, or to identify whether agency actions may have contributed to her disappearance."
On Sept. 7, OFCO wrote a letter in response to the governor’s request, highlighting their findings.
In the letter, OFCO said: "When conducting investigations. The OFCO has full access to the DCYF’s case management system and all relevant information, records or documents in the possession or control of the Department."
OFCO found that "the Department’s actions and conduct in this case were consistent with laws, policies, and court orders." OFCO did say that the investigation identified areas of improvement, specifically "to preserve and strengthen the parent-child bond when a child is removed from the home."
"Obviously, we are all concerned about that case, so I wanted to find out if there is anything amiss that had not been done correctly and according to this letter, it came back and reported that the department had acted in compliance with existing rules and regulations. It doesn't mean that we are still not concerned about the case but I’m pleased that we got that back," Inslee said at the news conference when asked about the letter.
Read the full letter and findings below:
Jamie Jo Hiles, Oakley’s foster mother who had her from infancy to age three, did not echo the governor’s sentiments.
She said she was outraged and had talked to Dowd, telling him that she called Child Protective Services twice regarding Oakley and her biological parents. She believes nobody followed up to check on Oakley or her siblings.
"Show integrity and transparency and release the investigation in full that proves no wrongdoing on behalf of not only DCYF, but Washington state as well. If that can’t be done, then I am AGAIN requesting an outside agency review of Oakley’s DCYF case that can be done with impartiality. We want justice for our little girl and to make sure that this tragedy never happens again," Hiles wrote in a statement to FOX 13 News.
Because Oakley has not been declared dead, DCYF does not have to release any information about her case.
If you have any information that could help law enforcement in locating Oakley or in finding out what happened to her,an $80,000 reward is being offered. Contact the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office at 1-360-533-8765 or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST. If you’d like to speak to a detective directly, please contact Detective Sgt. Paul Logan at 360-964-1729 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE COVERAGE ON OAKLEY CARLSON:
- Missing 5-year-old's sister says Oakley Carlson 'is no more,' was told by mother not to speak of her
- Where is Oakley Carlson? Search amps up for missing 5-year-old as parents remain uncooperative
- Did the system fail Oakley Carlson? 5-year-old Washington girl remains missing
- Missing 5-year-old's parents charged with abandonment of different child in their care