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IL PI's should jump on this - don't they do anything right in IL????

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  • suesarkis@aol.com
    Sex Offenders On Illinois Childcare Payroll, Investigation Finds First Posted: 8/30/11 02:23 PM ET Updated: 8/30/11 02:23 PM ET Sex offenders Cornelius
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 30, 2011
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      Sex Offenders On Illinois Childcare Payroll, Investigation Finds

      First Posted: 8/30/11 02:23 PM ET Updated: 8/30/11 02:23 PM ET

      Sex offenders Cornelius Osborne (left) and Darron Walker (right) were
      allegedly paid thousands by the state to babysit, the Chicago Tribune reported.

      Cornelius Osborne may not seem like baby-sitting material. He was
      convicted of raping two women. A succession of felonies, from robbery to failing
      to register as a sex offender, repeatedly sent him to prison, state records

      But over more than two years, the state paid Osborne nearly $5,000 to
      baby-sit two children, before his latest conviction — for dealing drugs — put
      him back behind bars.
      Osborne, of _Chicago_
      (http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/us/illinois/cook-county/chicago-PLGEO0100100501250000.topic) , wasn't the only sex offender
      paid by taxpayers to baby-sit, according to a Tribune investigation that
      found cases of convicted rapists, molesters and other violent felons given
      access to children over the past decade. The money comes from a $750
      million-a-year program that subsidizes child care for more than 150,000
      impoverished _Illinois_
      (http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/us/illinois-PLGEO100100500000000.topic) families.
      The state Department of Human Services poorly vetted baby sitters for years
      — and when a 2009 law forced better checks, it took nearly 18 months to
      start them, the newspaper's investigation of the Child Care Assistance
      Program found.
      Also, despite the reforms, the Tribune found that even now the state lacks
      safeguards to weed out baby sitters who watch children while living in the
      homes of sex offenders and other felons deemed too dangerous. Based on
      those findings, the state is vowing further reforms.
      It's nearly impossible to determine just how many of the illegal
      baby-sitting arrangements the state has allowed. The newspaper found no cases where
      children were harmed, although privacy laws shield data needed to do an
      in-depth study.
      Still, the Tribune's findings are frustrating to Sen. Matt Murphy,
      R-Palatine, who pushed for the reforms mandating better checks to weed out illegal
      "You're talking about not only the state sanctioning, but the state
      creating, an economic incentive for someone with a criminal record to be in a room
      with a kid," Murphy said. "That's frankly not a situation that I find
      Advocates such as Maria Whelan insist that the vast majority of baby
      sitters are aboveboard and that the 14-year-old federal-state program is key to
      helping parents work their way out of poverty. About half of the subsidies
      are in _Cook County_
      (http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/us/illinois/cook-county-PLGEO100100501000000.topic) , where they are administered by the
      nonprofit Illinois Action for Children run by Whelan.
      "This is a program that is absolutely essential if we are going to, with a
      straight face, tell families that if they work and if they continue to
      develop themselves, we can help them make a difference for their families," she
      Program administrators have gotten national recognition for weeding out
      parents who don't qualify for the subsidies. But records show they've
      struggled for years to weed out disqualified baby sitters, such as Osborne.
      The honor system
      All it took for Osborne was a 2004 application mailed with the help of his
      sister, whose two children he would be paid to watch in her Englewood
      She was able to pick the baby sitter, and she told the Tribune she didn't
      worry about her brother hurting the kids. But she did worry the state would
      "I thought he would be rejected," she said, "but they didn't. I never got a
      call. They never asked about it."
      They should have. The program has long barred those convicted of sex crimes
      and the most violent felonies. But Osborne wasn't spotted because of how
      the form was filled out. It asked him if he had been convicted of any crimes
      and, if so, which ones. His response showed "drug trafficking" — a crime
      that at the time didn't disqualify him.
      He didn't mention the prison stints for rape, robbery and kidnapping, which
      would have.
      And there's no record anyone checked further.
      At the time, the state trusted Osborne and tens of thousands of other
      applicants to be honest.
      The nonprofit's job was to forward the applicants' names to Human Services,
      which worked with the Department of Children and Family Services to screen
      them. But they checked only a database kept by state child-welfare
      caseworkers. And it doesn't list all convictions.
      Osborne joined the ranks of more than 70,000 child care providers paid by
      the program — 60,000 of them unlicensed.
      In Illinois, someone who watches four or more unrelated children needs a
      formal license, which requires the most extensive background check, including
      fingerprint-based searches of law enforcement databases
      But those who watched three or fewer children were exempted from such
      checks, even if the state helped pay for the service. Those unlicensed providers
      watch about 40 percent of the children getting subsidies.
      'Children at risk'
      The issue increasingly became a topic in Cook County courtrooms, where
      defendants with long rap sheets mentioned their baby-sitting jobs during
      "That profoundly concerned me," said longtime Circuit Judge Nicholas Ford.
      By 2008, judges asked the court's child-protective division how ex-cons
      could qualify to baby-sit for the state. Checking into it, the division's
      policy analyst, Larry Grazian, said he learned nobody ran full background
      checks on unlicensed baby sitters. So Grazian called Sen. Murphy, who pushed a
      law to require background checks.
      Advocates such as Illinois Action for Children supported the move, at least
      for baby sitters who weren't related to the kids they watched. They argued
      it would be too invasive to extend it to grandmothers and other baby
      sitters watching relatives. Murphy said he agreed to the limit to get the law
      enacted in August 2009.
      The mandate still took an additional 171/2 months to become practice — even
      as the state was alerted to sex offenders on its rolls a few months after
      the law was enacted.
      As part of a routine, wide-ranging audit of Human Services, state auditors
      compared the addresses of state-paid baby sitters with the sex offender
      registry. They found two payments made that year to a registered sex offender
      at the offender's address. Also, 83 baby sitters lived at addresses where
      sex offenders were registered, according to the auditors' report.
      Auditors called it a "significant deficiency."
      "Failure to follow established department rules and policies has led to
      putting children at risk when receiving child care at certain providers,"
      auditors said.
      The audit didn't name the offenders, but one may have been Tremayne Huey,
      who was convicted in 2004 under an alias for having sex with an underage
      girl, according to court records. On two baby-sitting applications filed
      before the law took hold, prior convictions were left blank or denied, state
      records show.
      Huey could not be located for an interview, but Human Services records
      show his address at homes in Blue Island and Chicago Heights — the same
      addresses where both his real name and alias had been listed on the state's sex
      offender registry. Still — even after the auditors' report — Huey kept
      getting checks.
      He received nearly $4,800 from taxpayers for two stints as a baby sitter,
      the last one ending in March 2010, according to state records.
      The state said it didn't fully begin checking the sex offender registries
      for the names of unlicensed baby sitters until September 2010 — 13 months
      after the law took hold — and only began full background checks on
      nonrelative baby sitters in February 2011.
      The Department of Children and Family Services blamed the delay on legal
      hurdles and manpower shortages in an era when government is expected to do
      more with less.
      "You can't keep adding water to the bucket and not expect that at some
      point it will overflow," said the agency's deputy director, Kendall Marlowe.
      Meanwhile, people such as Ester L. Davis continued to be paid.
      State records show he has been paid nearly $44,000 since 2005.
      Along the way, Davis was convicted in 2008 of felony marijuana possession —
      a crime that program administrators said should have prevented him from
      being reapproved as a child-care provider under state rules.
      Yet he continued to get payments through July 2010. He could not be located
      for comment; a warrant was issued for his arrest after he skipped court
      earlier this year on pending felony gun charges.
      Advocates say more thorough checks are being done on longtime baby sitters —
      and those who live with them — as their cases come up for renewal, about
      every three to six months.
      But those checks still rely on baby sitters being candid about who lives in
      the homes where they baby-sit.
      Checking homes
      On a sunny summer afternoon, a Tribune reporter rang the doorbell to a
      11/2-story brick home in Bellwood.
      It's the address where, since February, the state had paid Lemorial
      Westfield to watch three children.
      It's also the address where Lemorial's 67-year-old husband, George, long
      has registered as a sex offender, convicted of sexually abusing a teen who
      had briefly lived with the couple.
      The Westfields' door was answered by a 6-year-old girl whom the state was
      paying Lemorial to watch. The girl, a friend of the family, went to fetch
      George Westfield, who said his wife had stepped out briefly while he watched
      the girl.
      This scenario isn't supposed to happen, according to long-standing state
      By law, a baby sitter can't watch children in a home with any residents who
      wouldn't pass the background checks.
      Unlicensed baby sitters who use their homes are now required to list who
      lives with them on forms mailed to the state. But if baby sitters are not
      forthcoming, there are few mechanisms in place to catch them.
      The Tribune found the Westfields by comparing baby sitters' addresses with
      the sex offender registry. Such checks have been done for several years by
      DCFS for its foster parents. Human Services had promised in June 2010 to
      "periodically" do the same thing for its baby sitters.
      After being presented with the Tribune findings, Human Services said it
      will begin determining how best to check all baby sitters' addresses against
      the sex offender registry.
      Beyond sex offenders — whose addresses are publicly available — there are
      no protocols to check harder-to-obtain parole and probation databases of
      other ex-offenders to see who may be living where children are being watched.
      The Tribune compared baby sitter addresses with prison data on parolee
      addresses and found 126 baby sitters received checks this summer at
      Chicago-area addresses where parolees were living. Some of those arrangements may have
      been legal — Illinois law allows some felons, such as burglars, to watch
      children for the state or live in homes where they are watched.
      Based on the Tribune findings, Human Services said it's exploring how it
      can do real-time checks of prison databases to weed out addresses of
      parolees. But it will be difficult to navigate different types of data systems.
      In the meantime, examples of questionable cases have emerged in court.
      Nobody stopped parolee Raheem Gray from moving in with his girlfriend, who
      was being paid by the state to baby-sit. That's despite Gray having been to
      prison for convictions on two gun and three drug cases, which should have
      barred state-paid baby-sitting in their South Austin neighborhood home.
      Court records show Gray did move out last year. He was sent back to prison
      after a parole check at the couple's apartment found a gun stashed under a
      child's bed.

      The screening methods used to qualify babysitters for a state-run
      childcare subsidy program in Illinois were so inadequate that in several instances
      children were placed with registered sex offenders or individuals
      previously convicted of assault, drug and weapon possession crimes, _according to
      the Chicago Tribune_
      (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-sex-offender-baby-sitters-20110828-107,0,2452349,full.story) .

      The Child Care Assistance Program, a $750 million-a-year service that
      provides babysitting services for more than 150,000 Illinois families, first
      came under scrutiny in 2008 after trends emerged in Cook County courtrooms
      where repeat offenders increasingly mentioned their babysitting jobs,
      according to the Associated Press. An investigation by the division’s policy
      analyst found that unlicensed babysitters--some 60,000 of the 70,000 care
      providers on the program’s payroll not required to be licensed if they are
      watching three or fewer unrelated children--were approved without full background
      checks, the Tribune reports.
      These findings prompted legislation enacted in 2009 requiring stricter
      background checks for non-relative babysitters. But the scrutiny the new law
      required didn’t become practice for nearly 18 months, according to the
      Tribune. Meanwhile, 83 state-paid baby sitters were living at addresses where
      sex offenders were registered, including one registered sex offender who had
      already received almost $5,000 for child care services from the state, the
      Tribune reports.
      Faults in the 14-year-old program's screening process stem from its
      reliance on applicants to self-report their criminal history accurately, the use
      of an incomplete database to screen applicants, and infrequent comparisons
      of registered baby sitters' addresses to sex offender lists, according to
      the Tribune. Information about parolees and other ex-offenders is even less
      readily available.
      The state's Human Services department said it will explore how to do
      real-time checks of prison databases in response to the investigation's finding,
      the Tribune reports, though cross-referencing multiple data systems could
      be a challenge.

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