Background checks for day care employees called inadequate
"Children could be at risk" because procedures for criminal background checks on employees at new day care centers are inadequate, according to an audit of the state Department of Public Health.
The new report, issued Thursday by the state Auditors of Public Accounts, says procedures for investigating potential employees at existing day care centers seem to meet state law.
However, in the case of five day care centers licensed during the year of the audit, two opened even though three background checks were not completed.
"There are no policies and procedures regarding the criminal background check process," the audit said. "Without evaluating the results of background checks, children could be at risk."
"The Department of Public Health has had a good start, but when they're licensing new day care centers, we want to make sure they perform those criminal background checks," said John Geragosian, one of the two state auditors. "If you don't tie these things down, things can fall through the cracks."
In a phone interview, Geragosian said the audit goes back to 2009, adding that his office has disagreed with DPH officials, who listed background-check protocols that include the submission of fingerprints.
"Most programs have policies and questions on their employment application concerning convictions and child abuse histories, allowing for the immediate termination of a staff who falsifies information," the DPH said in response. "The Department of Public Health conducts the required criminal and abuse/neglect background checks to the extent possible within available appropriations."
Audit staff responded that their findings, among 17 released Thursday, focused on employment applicants for new day care facilities, not existing ones, to which the DPH referred.
"The Department of Public Health states that the day care center is notified when a state conviction or Department of Children and Families record is received," the audit says. "We found that, for three employees, no results were received three years after being requested. These were not discovered by the department, but through our review of the files. There is no statutory authority for the position that, as new staff is hired, employees can work with children before the results of the background check are received." Auditors also found potential abuse of sick-leave policy in the department, with a lack of medical certificates filed for two of 10 employees sampled in the audit who took in excess of five consecutive sick days.
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