Calif. Social Services Slammed on Vetting

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Bureaucratic letdowns and interagency disorders have led to the California Department of Social Services staffing foster homes and senior care facilities without fully vetting candidates, a state audit revealed Tuesday.

The investigation found that the California Department of Justice stopped giving sentencing information to Social Services in 2016, because state law doesn’t require it. Additionally, California’s top law enforcement department doesn’t always give out timely or complete criminal history records during candidate background checks, the audit found.

State Auditor Elaine Howle says Social Services, which oversees 70,000 community care facilities, has resorted to hiring employees to take care of California’s “vulnerable clients” without conducting comprehensive background checks.

“This is, in part, because their interagency agreements lack specificity about when to share this information. As a result, Social Services cannot be assured that it receives the information its needs to protect vulnerable populations,” the audit concluded.

According to Howle, the state Department of Justice does not always relay criminal history information within the state-required 14-day period and creates major obstacles to Social Service’s hiring process. She says state courts and law enforcement agencies don’t always give the state justice department timely information either.

As a result, Social Services often ignores convictions for minor crimes and accepts applicants without having all the possible information at its disposal. Out of 18 background check case records reviewed by investigators, 17 were given or denied exemptions by Social Services without complete records.

Social Services granted exemptions for convictions such as theft, selling liquor to a minor and leaving a child under six years of age in a vehicle without supervision, according to the audit. In some cases, the agency couldn’t provide auditors with records relating to past exemption decisions.

“Without the documented reasons for its exemption decisions, the Caregiver Background Check Bureau cannot effectively defend these decisions,” the 95-page audit states.

Howle recommended the Legislature expand the list of crimes that can’t be exempted. She also directed lawmakers to pass legislation that requires the state Department of Justice to send Social Services complete criminal history reports.

The report recommended that Social Services update its interagency reporting agreements with other state departments regarding administrative actions taken against individuals applying for Social Services’ positions.