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State falls short in checking criminal histories of workers in child care and senior facilities, audit finds

 (John Moore / Getty Images)
(John Moore / Getty Images)

Workers in state-licensed care facilities for children and the elderly are not undergoing sufficient screening of criminal histories to protect their vulnerable clients, a state audit concluded Tuesday.

The state Department of Social Services licenses and oversees 70,000 community care facilities, including child care facilities, foster family homes and care facilities for seniors.

“This report concludes that Social Services does not receive all of the information it needs to protect vulnerable clients,” State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature.

The audit found that the state Department of Justice last year stopped providing sentencing information to the Social Services Department concluding that state law does not explicitly require it to share that information. In addition, the Justice Department did not forward information about certain convictions because it believed it was not authorized to share that information, the audit found.

“However, this information is valuable for Social Services in deciding whether to allow an individual with a criminal history to be present in a licensed facility,” the audit found.

While some criminal convictions disqualify applicants from working in care facilities, the law allows Social Services to grant exemptions for other, similar convictions so the applicant can be employed in the facilities.

For example, while some rape convictions are disqualifying, an applicant can be granted an exemption by the state to work in a facility if the charge was rape of a spouse.

Exemptions are also possible in some incidents of pimping and identity theft. Auditors questioned 40 such exemptions granted to people who were arrested for or convicted of those crimes.

“One of these 40 individuals was convicted of identity theft, yet the [state agency] allowed her to be certified as an administrator of a residential care facility for the elderly,” the audit said. “Allowing an individual with this type of history to be present in a facility that cares for the elderly could present a risk to the facility’s clients.”

Auditors recommended that the Legislature expand the list of crimes that make an applicant ineligible for exemptions and require that the Department of Social Services review California and out‑of‑state criminal histories before granting an individual access to a licensed facility.

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