By Nick Drymalski
Hundreds of convicted criminals – including sexual predators, child abusers and even a murderer – were allowed to work as child day care providers in Michigan from October 2003 to March 2006, according to a report released by the state's Office of the Auditor General.
A second audit report, also released in July, found that the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) spent an estimated $231 million during the same period for child care that wasn't needed, requested, authorized or, in some cases, actually provided.
The audit of child care providers found that DHS authorized about 1,900 unsuitable workers – out of a total of 116,585 child day-care providers – to care for about 4,600 children under its Child Development and Care program. The program provides day care for children whose parents must work, attend school or get medical care.
Most of the 1,900 unsuitable providers were relatives, other adults living in the home with relatives, and in-home aides providing day care. These providers must be registered with the state. Larger, out-of-home day care operators must be licensed. Among the licensed facilities, only those that receive federal funds were included in the audit.
Many of the problems arose because the department did not screen applicants before accepting them, which resulted in 712 unsuitable providers being approved because they did not state on their applications that they had criminal records. In addition, the department did not perform mandated monthly criminal records checks to determine if the providers had been charged with new crimes.
The DHS didn't routinely check the state sex offender registry before hiring until 2007, which led to the hiring of 301 providers that had records of child abuse or neglect. Another 127 were accused of child abuse or neglect after they were approved.
Because of the severity of the problems, the state audit staff notified DHS as it found unsuitable workers, and the department immediately removed the workers.
DHS has agreed to implement all 14 recommendations made in the audit. State officials said they have corrected the problems over the past year, according to audit report.