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Auditors fault state social service background checks

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POSTED March 14, 2017 7:16 p.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — California does a poor job of screening social services workers and sometimes allows people with arrests or convictions to work in facilities that care for children, adults and seniors, state auditors said Tuesday, though they offered no examples of harm resulting from the lapses.
The state Department of Justice stopped providing complete criminal histories last year and the information it does provide is often tardy, auditors found.
The state Department of Social Services, meanwhile, does not review all required criminal histories before it grants exemptions allowing people to work in licensed facilities. The department also granted exemptions allowing more than 40 people to get licenses between 2013 and last year despite being convicted of identity theft, pimping, pandering or certain sex crimes.
Auditors also faulted Social Services and four other departments within the California Health and Human Services Agency for not sharing critical information with each other.
As a result, “Social Services does not receive all of the information it needs to protect vulnerable clients,” auditors said.
Portions of the report “are somewhat disturbing,” said Bob Alvarez, a spokesman for Democratic Sen. Kathleen Galgiani of Stockton, who sought the audit. He said Galgiani may seek changes in state law as the auditors recommended.
Among other things, auditors said lawmakers should add to the list of crimes that keep individuals from obtaining a state license.
Auditors found one case where the justice department did not disclose that an applicant seeking a license had committed assault with intent to murder as a minor.
All told, auditors found six times in 2014 and 2015 where justice officials did not notify the department of convictions, though department officials found out in other ways. Two of those convictions — for child abuse and for inflicting pain on an elderly or dependent adult — were enough to disqualify the applicant from getting a license.
A pending bill, SB420, by Democratic state Sen. William Monning, of Carmel, would require justice officials to disclose more information.
Meanwhile, the social services department did not properly review background information on those seeking state licenses in 17 of the 18 cases that auditors reviewed, sometimes ignoring convictions for relatively minor crimes.
The social services department “will continue to improve processes to ensure that individuals caring for adults and children are properly cleared,” said spokesman Michael Weston, adding that “much of this work is already underway.”
Justice department officials did not immediately comment Tuesday, but told auditors that state law must be changed before they can provide more information.

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