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May 29, 2008

 

DiNapoli: Improve Oversight of NYC Home Day Care Providers

Audit Finds Convicted Sex Offender Was Providing Day Care

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released today an audit finding that the City’s legally exempt home day care system was vulnerable to fraud and non-compliance with safety and health standards. The audit also determined that at least one convicted sex offender was collecting State funds to provide day care services to three children.

“Our children’s safety must come first,” DiNapoli said. “Finding a registered sex offender among day care providers is every parent’s nightmare. The new administration at Office of Children and Family Services is working with the City agencies to fix the oversight program. They’re taking the right steps toward protecting the children and ensuring access to safe, affordable day care.

“This is an important program; it must not be marred by poor oversight. Working families need to have the confidence that their children are being safely cared for. We’ll work with OCFS and the City to make sure that happens.”

Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Commissioner Gladys Carrión, Esq., who took office in January 2007, said “Quality child care is critical in the lives of our children and the overall health of the State; Comptroller DiNapoli’s recommendations will go a long way towards assuring that past abuses and failures will not be repeated under the current administration. Indeed, the Comptroller’s findings and continued support to OCFS provides the agency with the guidance necessary to assure that precious tax dollars allocated to support children and families in New York State are spent honestly and prudently – and that children are not at risk.”

In New York State, home day care providers that are not licensed or registered by the State operate under the legally exempt providers system. The State-subsidized program benefits low-income families or those that are on or transitioning from public assistance. In lieu of registration, these providers complete a form attesting to their fitness as providers, which parents then review and sign. Administration of Children’s Services (ACS) administers payments and enrollment for low-income families; Human Resources Administration (HRA) does enrollment for families on or coming off of public assistance. OCFS is responsible for monitoring the program.

Following concerns identified in a July 2004 Comptroller audit, OCFS in July 2006 required the use of enrollment agencies statewide to verify information submitted by the legally exempt providers, check providers against the State Sex Offender Registry, and conduct site inspections of 20 percent of the providers annually.

To date, city agencies have failed to contract with enrollment agencies in every borough but the Bronx.

In the absence of the mandated oversight, DiNapoli’s audit team randomly selected 50 legally exempt providers and it was unable to confirm that 14 of the 50 actually provided child day care services. The auditors, working with ACS, also determined that 34 of the 36 providers that were operating day care had one or more issues of non-compliance with health and safety requirements.

DiNapoli’s auditors also crosschecked the list of 35,276 providers enrolled in the legally exempt program as of Dec. 31, 2006 against the Sex Offender Registry and found two convicted offenders on the rolls. It was determined that one such offender was fraudulently enrolled, however the other, who had been convicted in 2000 of raping a 13-year-old girl, had actually provided day care services to three children.

DiNapoli’s audit included several recommendations, including:

  • OCFS, in conjunction with ACS, should expedite contracting with enrollment agencies in New York City;
  • ACS should verify the sex offender status of all new legally exempt providers prior to the approval of contracted enrollment agencies, and develop procedures for periodically checking the Registry for all legally exempt family providers;
  • ACS should develop a systematic approach to inspecting day care sites to ensure compliance with all safety and health regulations;
  • ACS and HRA, in consultation with OCFS, should investigate providers who have received payments under false pretenses and refer findings to law enforcement if appropriate; and,
  • ACS and HRA, in consultation with OCFS, should investigate providers that were not at home or did not grant auditors entry into their homes to determine whether they are providing the services they are being paid for.

OCFS agreed with the audit findings, and has already begun to implement DiNapoli’s recommendations.

Click here for a copy of the audit.

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