In wake of alarming audit, state to check whether child care workers are sex offenders

People who work in child care centers or live on the centers’ premises will be checked to see if they are registered sex offenders, the acting head of the state agency that oversees the centers said today.

Acting Early Education and Care Commissioner Thomas L. Weber commented in the wake of a state audit that found 119 matches between the addresses of registered sex offenders and the addresses of child care providers.

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State Auditor Suzanne Bump
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“We take the safety and security of children in the care of providers very seriously. It’s our highest priority. Any time we receive suggestions or findings related to safety, we’re going to treat those very seriously,” Weber said.

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“We’ll obviously work closely with [the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security] and the Sex Offender Registry Board to ensure that all those who are working with children and/or living with children are being reviewed for any safety concerns,” he said.

Auditor Suzanne Bump today unveiled the audit, which covered the period from July 2010 to September 2011, calling for the state to check whether those who work or live at child care sites are sex offenders, something 17 others states do, she said.

Bump also called for the state to continue to check for address matches. Weber said the address matching would also be done. “We’ll take advantage of all publicly available information,” he said.

“No parent who drops their child off at day care should have to worry about the safety of their son or daughter,” Bump said in a statement. “The presence of registered sex offenders in such proximity to groups of children is information parents, providers, and the EEC must have and act upon.”

The child care agency said in a response included in the audit report that its investigation had found that 16 of the address matches uncovered by Bump’s office were for programs that were closed, 39 were for workplaces or community college campuses where the sex offenders were either working or going to school, and 10 simply weren’t matches.

In 50 of the remaining cases, Weber said, the sex offender lived in the same building but not at the child care facility and operators were directed to “complete a safety plan” for the children.

In four cases, at four separate locations, Weber said, the investigation found that sex offenders were living in homes where family day care was provided. Those licenses were immediately revoked, he said.

The 119 offenders matched addresses with 75 child care locations, said auditor’s spokesman Christopher Thompson, meaning multiple offenders matched up, in some cases, to a single location. Weber said that could be explained, for example, by multiple offenders listing a community college campus.

After a thorough review of all 119 “individuals of concern,” Weber said, “we haven’t received any evidence of any wrongdoing. ... Should we have any information brought to our atention, we will take action and, if appropriate, report it to public safety officials.”

The audit matched the addresses of Level 2 and Level 3 offenders against the addresses of child care providers licensed by the agency. Weber said he had no information on how many of those with matching addresses were Level 3 offenders, those considered most likely to reoffend.

The audit also contained other findings critical of the agency, but Bump said the agency had already taken actions in response.

“While I know that EEC has the best intention to fulfill its mission, this audit shows that more can be done to protect young children,” said Bump. “Unfortunately, there is little margin of error as just one case can have dire consequences.”

Weber, the acting commissioner, has been on the job for only a little over two weeks. The commissioner of the department, Sherri Killins, resigned earlier this month after revelations that, while working at her nearly $200,000-per-year state job, she was enrolled in a superintendent training program in the town of Ware.