Boro man appointed new child advocate

Agency is charged with monitoring state

Kevin M. RyanKevin M. Ryan

In an effort to reform the state of child welfare in New Jersey, Gov. James McGreevey last week appointed one of his top advisers to the new post of child advocate.

Kevin M. Ryan, of Fair Haven, a lifelong advocate for children’s rights and McGreevey’s deputy chief of operations, will be responsible for running the Office of the Child Advocate — one of a slew of reform proposals McGreevey made after 7-year-old Faheem Williams was found battered to death in a Newark basement in January.

"Over the past decade, two separate reports on the state of child welfare in New Jersey called for the creation of an independent entity to protect our children and operate outside the burden of a bureaucracy," McGreevey said in a press release. "But, despite strong economic times and these desperate recommendations, nothing was done. We are creating the Office of the Child Advocate, a strong independent watchdog, who will answer only to the needs of the children it serves."

The new office’s $2 million budget, which was appropriated in June, includes a staff of approximately 20 social workers and attorneys.

As he monitors the state’s Division of Youth and Family Services, Ryan will be responsible for running a 24-hour toll-free complaint hotline, while possessing the power to subpoena records, investigate complaints, and sue the state on behalf of children’s rights.

Ryan, who will make an annual salary of $126,500, is authorized to review, monitor or evaluate all state agencies and service providers, and respond to allegations of child abuse and neglect.

According to the bill, the child advocate also is authorized to conduct on-site inspections and review the operations of foster homes, group homes, residential treatment facilities, or other programs that serve children.

"I thank the governor for his trust," Ryan said. "I plan to get to work quickly to focus on the needs of our most vulnerable children."

Ryan, an attorney and father of five, played a key role in the settling of children’s rights earlier this year and has a long history in child advocacy. He was an advocate for children and youth at the Covenant House for roughly nine years, co-authored the New Jersey Homeless Act in 1999, and in 2000 wrote the law that gives health insurance coverage to children aging out of foster care.