Wednesday, December 6, 2000
Steamboat Springs If the state is doing criminal background checks on child-care providers and identifying that some are felons, Routt County Sheriff John Warner said local authorities should be notified.
Warner said Wednesday he will explore legal action to make sure it is happening.
The issue was raised after the Colorado Department of Human Resources recently released the results of an investigation of 694 child-care providers in Routt, Adams and Yuma counties.
The results showed that Colorado Bureau of Investigation background reports overlooked eight felons who were working as child-care providers in those counties.
With the CBI background checks, 33 people accumulating 80 felony charges were hired by child-care agencies between September 1999 and June 2000. Twenty-five of those people had 63 "serious" offenses, according to the study. All except one of the employees was either let go or the child-care agencies had gone out of business.
The exception was a man with an assault charge who lived in a house that provided child care, said Oxana Golden, director of Child Services for the state Department of Human Resources.
Warner was not notified of the investigation and found out about it through a television newscast Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, he received a call from a county resident who was worried that their child could be going to one of the agencies that hired a felon.
"Number one, they hadn't sent any of that information to the local districts," Warner said.
Secondly, Warner said a state statute requires any person who knows of or suspects a child being subjected to "circumstances or conditions which would reasonably result in abuse or neglect" to immediately report it to the county.
If a convicted felon is working in child care, Warner said those conditions could result in abuse or neglect. If the state does a background check and identifies such a circumstance, county authorities should be contacted, Warner said.
"My biggest concern right now is getting the information to make sure our kids are safe when they are with a child-care provider," Warner said.
Golden said the Department of Human Resources did not have the specifics on who the felons were and where they worked. Warner said he would like to know that to make sure the people are still not working in child care.
However, Golden insisted that information is not being withheld.
"I think there is some sort of misunderstanding," Golden said. "We haven't contacted the sheriff's department in the 15 years that we've been running background checks."
She said despite what was initially reported, the "investigation" was merely her department doing the required background checks through the CBI and then going a step further by checking the names with the state's judicial system database. The result was the eight additional people who had records, Golden said.
From there, just as with normal background checks, the state contacted the child-care agencies to inform them of an employee's felony record.
But Warner said if the state identifies someone with a felony record acting as a child-care provider in Routt County, Warner said he should be notified, according to the state statute.
The Department of Human Resources has no authority to act on the information it finds on background checks if it indicates a law has been broken, he added.
"What enforcement can they take? They should be notifying the proper authorities," Warner said. "The problem is no one has ever said, 'What do we do if we identify these people?'"
"I think (Warner is) right," said state Sen. Douglas Linkhart, D-Denver, who spearheaded the investigation in hopes of gaining legislative support for additional background checks.
"If they find anyone, he should be notified," Linkhart said.
Golden said she wasn't sure if Warner's premise was correct.
If a felon is applying for a job in child care, she said she didn't think a law would be broken. If the felon is working there already, it could be different, Golden said.
"If anything, why aren't they picking up the phone and calling us?" Warner asked. Warner said he will take his argument and information from the study to a local deputy district attorney to see if anything can legally be done to ensure notification of future background checks of child-care providers that uncovers felons working as child-care providers.
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