Auditor Of Public Accounts
Audit compares sex offender/child care home addresses, prompts state to adopt new policies
FRANKFORT, KY. (9-30-10) State Auditor Crit Luallen today released a performance audit that compared the addresses of registered sex offenders to the addresses of state-regulated child care facilities or homes, resulting in 30 matches.
At the time of the audit’s completion, initial state agency follow-up had confirmed that sex offenders resided in 12 of the 30 homes – with the remaining 18 offenders either not living at the addresses or their residency status could not be determined by the state.
Upon receipt of the draft audit and discussions with auditor’s office staff, cabinet management initiated additional reviews to determine whether children were at risk. The cabinet’s response details those steps and subsequent actions taken.
The audit contains four findings and offers specific recommendations to strengthen the screening and monitoring process of homes and facilities by the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS), which is housed in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and calls for the department to perform annual comparisons between the sex offender database and its homes and facilities.
“Any time the state is charged with the placement and protection of our most vulnerable citizens, in this case children, every step possible should be taken to guarantee they are secure,” Luallen said. “Our audit offers numerous recommendations to strengthen the monitoring process. We are encouraged by the steps the department has already taken.”
The audit found the department’s initial review process was deficient in determining if a sex offender resided at a specific address. The state used food stamp or driver’s license records instead of making home visits in every case but one.
The audit calls for stronger controls, such as mandatory home visits, by the state in cases where paperwork cannot determine if a sex offender lives at an address.
The department’s response to the audit indicates it will use the data match process and that corrective actions have been taken, including home visits to all addresses matched in the audit.
“The use of the sex offender registry will be a powerful additional aid to our staff to assure that sex offenders’ whereabouts are known to assure that children are being cared for in safe settings,” writes Patricia Wilson, department commissioner, in her 8-page response to the audit.
The audit was performed by Luallen’s office to determine whether sex offender data should be used in the state’s screening process of child care providers and facilities, as well as foster homes and relative caregivers and whether sex offenders are violating residency restrictions.
In preparing for the audit, the auditor’s office reviewed two similar audits conducted by the California and Wisconsin auditors.
During the audit, the auditor’s office requested address information from DCBS for its numerous child care facilities and compared the information to addresses on the Kentucky Sex Offender Registry, maintained by the Kentucky State Police (KSP).
Auditors also used information from the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), which occasionally places committed and probated juveniles in foster homes. (There were no matches between registered sex offenders and the DJJ foster homes.)
Auditors compared addresses two different times, once in 2009 and once in 2010, each time immediately contacting DCBS with all matches.
Once DCBS gave the auditor’s office the results of its investigation, auditors provided KSP with a list of the sex offenders whose residency could not be determined by DCBS and of those offenders who DCBS determined to not be living at the addresses.
Kinship Care Program
Auditors matched 16 homes in the Kinship Care Program, a program where family members or relatives by blood, marriage, or adoption must meet the eligibility criteria to be willing to obtain temporary custody.
The follow-up investigation conducted by DCBS confirmed that registered sex offenders were residing in seven of the 16 homes. For the remaining nine homes, the DCBS review indicated either there was no sex offender in the home or the procedures used by the department could not determine the sex offender’s residency.
According to DCBS staff, the agency’s investigation process primarily included a review of case files within various DCBS databases and a review of the addresses provided by the offender for food stamp, driver’s license or vehicle registration purposes. In some cases, DCBS central office staff contacted field staff for further information.
The audit found that DCBS did not contact homes or conduct site visits regarding the other nine matches.
According to the audit, the department explained its initial review approach by saying that Kentucky law does not mandate that it take action with respect to these homes. Further review would only occur if there was a specific allegation of abuse or neglect, as in the case with any other private home.
The audit, however, notes that the regulations pertaining to the Kinship Care program indicate that the department does retain the authority to determine the homes continuing eligibility for the program, as well as the financial assistance provided by the program.
The relative caregiver under this program could earn up to $300 per child a month from the state.
According to the department’s response in the audit, subsequent review by the department of the 16 matches made by the auditor’s office found that “in six of the cases, the child and the offender did not live in the same household. In another eight cases, the offender received mail at the listed address but lived elsewhere. In the two cases where the offender and the children were living in the same household, subsequent action has been taken.”
A comparison of the addresses of foster homes, adoptive homes prior to finalization and independent living residences resulted in six address matches.
The initial follow-up by DCBS confirmed that two foster homes included in the six address matches had sex offenders living in the homes.
Under this classification of child care providers, there are non-residential sites where four or more children are provided care or where 13 or more children are provided care in a designated space separate from a primary residency.
There are also dwellings in which seven to 12 children are cared for in the provider’s home or dwellings in which the provider cares for six or fewer children unrelated to the provider in the provider’s home.
One of the sex offenders was a juvenile offender living in a foster home where no foster children were living. DCBS did contact the contracted private placement agency to advise them of the residence of the juvenile offender, but neither DCBS nor the private placement agency overseeing the home was aware of the offender’s residency in the home until the department was informed through the address match procedure.
According to DCBS, it is not a violation of the foster care program for the juvenile offender to be living in a foster home where no foster children have been placed; therefore, no action was taken to revoke the certification of the foster home.
For the second matched foster home, the adult sex offender was not residing in the home at the time of the DCBS investigation but it was confirmed that he had been living there previously.
While no abuse was alleged, DCBS staff conducted an interview to determine if there was any risk of sexual harm. DCBS staff determined that there was no indication that sexual abuse had occurred and reported the private placement agency removed the child and close the foster home.
The audit found for the remaining four matches, the DCBS investigation either indicated that there was no sex offender in the home or the procedures used by DCBS could not determine the sex offender’s residency.
The audit found DCBS took no action on the other four homes. DCBS did not investigate these matches further, such as site visits to the home, to clarify the true household composition.
According to the department’s response to the audit, subsequent action by the department regarding the six matches made by the auditor’s office included closing the two foster homes where addresses were matched and confirming that sex offenders did not reside at the other two addresses.
The registered child care program establishes specific safety criteria for an in-home child care provider. Registration in the program allows the provider to receive funds from families participating in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). This is a child care subsidy program for families that meet low income standards or other qualifying events.
The audit matched eight sex offender addresses with registered child care homes. The follow-up investigation by DCBS revealed that one registered child care home had a sex offender living at the residence.
The confirmation of a sex offender residency by DCBS was determined by staff using the driver’s license address reported by the sex offender to confirm that the address match was correct. The registration for this child care provider was revoked.
A further review by KSP revealed that two more of the matched registered child care homes also had registered sex offenders living in those homes. This resulted in a total of three confirmations that a sex offender was living in registered child care homes from the eight address matches.
In the two matches by KSP, DCBS stated that it would be revoking one of the home’s registration. In the second case, DCBS documents showed that the home did not care for CCAP subsidized children so the agency closed the registration of the home from the registered child care program. (This action is different than revocation and is a way to remove the provider from the program without penalty.)
The audit found the DCBS investigation did not determine if any sex offenders lived in the other five registered child care homes that matched the addresses of registered sex offenders.
According to the department’s response to the audit, subsequent action by the department regarding the five matches that initially couldn’t be confirmed included finding a data error by the department on two of the homes; discovering two homes were not caring for children at the time of the address match; and concluding that the offender in the remaining match had been on probation during the data match period and is again incarcerated.
The audit recommends that DCBS perform the address comparison during any application process and on an annual basis. If any address matches are found, the department should investigate to determine if the sex offender is living in the home.
The audit recommends that investigation procedures should be comprehensive to ensure children living or receiving services at the home are not at risk. “This may include data searches and reviews of case files, but should also include site visits or direct contact with the homes when the results are inconclusive,” according to the audit.
If a sex offender is confirmed to be living in a home, the audit makes numerous recommendations to the department depending on the stage of the application process or in what type of child care facility the match is found.
For all programs where a sex offender has been confirmed to be living in the home, a “Risk of Sexual Harm Assessment” should be conducted to determine if potential sexual abuse has occurred, according to the audit.
If the investigation of address matches cannot confirm that a sex offender lives in the home, DCBS staff should contact the criminal identification and records branch within the KSP for investigation of non-compliance by the sex offender.
Because the auditor’s office had difficulty with DCBS’s data, the audit recommends the department should ensure that the physical addresses of state-regulated homes or facilities are recorded in the designated location within the department’s databases.
The department’s response details its willingness to implement the recommendations and progress that has been made to date.
A complete copy of the report, along with DCBS’s response to the audit, can be found at www.auditor.ky.gov.