October 27th, 2011, 2:14 Teri Sforza, Register staff writer
California can — and must — do a better job of protecting the abused and neglected children who come into its care,concludes an alarming new report from the state auditor.
In its review of the state’s child welfare services system, it found more than 1,000 addresses in the Department of Justice’s Sex and Arson Registry matched the addresses of licensed homes in the child welfare services system.
The auditor alerted Social Services to this troubling bit of information in July, and officials found dozens of children living in homes where registered sex offenders lived or were present. Officials have removed children and ordered sex offenders out of homes.
Legal action has begun against eight licensees, and 36“immediate exclusion orders” — barring sex offenders and the like from licensed facilities — were issued, said auditorElaine M. Howle in the report.
Social Services simply wasn’t consulting the abuse database when issuing licenses, the auditor said. But not because it was unaware of its existence: The auditor had urged Social Services to avail itself of that database back in 2008. And did so again.
The auditor’s recommendations were:
- “To ensure that vulnerable individuals, including foster children, are safe from sex offenders, Social Services should complete a follow‑up on any remaining address matches our office provided in July 2011 and take appropriate actions, as well as relay information to Justice or local law enforcement for any sex offenders not in compliance with registration laws.
- “Social Services should conduct regular address comparisons using Justice’s sex offender registry and its Licensing Information System and CWS/CMS. If Social Services believes it needs additional resources to do so, it should justify and seek the appropriate level of funding.
- To provide sufficient oversight of county CWS agencies with delegated authority to license foster homes, Social Services should complete comprehensive reviews of these agencies’ licensing activities at least once every three years.
California’s system-wide child welfare budget from all sources — federal, state, and county funding — was about $5.5 billion in fiscal year 2010–11.
Child welfare services agencies received 480,000 allegations of maltreatment of children in 2010, and substantiated 87,000, the auditor said.
Another 57,000 children were in out‑of‑home placements as of January 2011 — a dramatic drop of more than40 percent from 10 years earlier.
But the percentage of children in foster care has increased dramatically, as have payments for foster care, some of which was hard to justify, according to the auditor.
More on that soon.