Dozens in CPS Have Criminal Records and CPS Standards for Hiring Can be Strict, or Minimal

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A special investigation by The Sacramento Bee, in which reporters cross-referenced the names of 969 employees of Sacramento County’s Child Protective Services (CPS) with court records and criminal complaints, found that at least 68 employees – 7 percent of the workforce – have criminal records in Sacramento County.

The employees’ crimes, which include drug possession, domestic violence and assault with a deadly weapon, are the types of crimes for which child protective services workers can remove a child from a home or order mandatory counseling for parents.

The agency has a policy of performing criminal background checks on prospective employees and is supposed to receive an alert from the state if a current employee is arrested.

According to documents obtained by the newspaper and posted on its website, the Bee’s investigation apparently prompted CPS Director Laurie Coulthard to issue two memos to agency staff members warning that their criminal histories and names could appear in the paper.

Neither Coulthard nor other county officials would comment on the Bee’s findings; nor would they discuss how people with criminal records could be working for the agency, given the county’s hiring policies.

“[CPS workers] exercise extraordinary power over children and families. Forcing them to adhere to the highest level of conduct seems legitimate to me,” William Grimm, senior attorney at the Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law, told the Bee.

In the second part of the special report, reporters uncovered a lack of uniformity in the way California’s county-based child welfare system screens employees for criminal histories.

According to the Bee, while an applicant for a CPS job in San Diego County would have to undergo both state and FBI background checks, other counties opt for more minimal screening that is proving inadequate in places like Sacramento.

The two stories are the latest in the Bee’s award-winning coverage of child protective services over the past year. March 22-23,