Washington State Audit Prompts Desire for Ongoing Criminal Monitoring of Child Care Workers and Foster Parents

By Michael Klazema on 5/20/2013

Officials in Washington state are calling for a “rap-back” notification system to be put in place to help them keep track of alleged criminal activities committed by workers in positions of trust. Child care workers and foster parents are the main focus at the moment, but this system could easily be expanded to include other occupations like teachers and nursing home workers.

Right now, child care workers and foster parents are required to pass criminal background checks prior to employment. However, once they pass the background check, they are essentially in the clear. No one checks up on them again, so they could potentially become involved in criminal activity with no one being the wiser.

With a “rap-back” system in place, officials would receive automatic notifications each time a worker was involved as a suspect in any sort of criminal investigation. This would help prevent embarrassing and dangerous situations, like having offenders working with children or drug abusers working in a nursing home with easy access to prescription drugs. The state could set up its own system to check workers’ records on an ongoing basis, or use a service like Ongoing Criminal Monitoring from Ongoing Criminal Monitoring enables companies to submit a worker’s name and date of birth and then have automatic monthly checks run on that individual. If new records of criminal activity are recorded, will notify the employer via email. The process is renewable in 12-month increments.

Washington state officials became interested in “rap-back” notifications after a state audit of Washington’s state-regulated and state-subsidized child care facilities and foster homes turned up some disturbing statistics. The audit revealed that 28 offenders had been living or working in state facilities between 2002 and 2012. In some cases the problem was that the supervisors at the facilities failed to notify the state of new employees or residents, while in other cases the problem was that the offenses were committed after the initial background check process had been completed.

State officials hope that initiating ongoing criminal monitoring will help keep children safe from offenders. It certainly does seem like a step in the right direction. After all, passing a background check is no guarantee of future good behavior. However, ongoing criminal monitoring or “rap-back” services provide more up-to-date information that can be used to make sure workers remain fit for employment in positions of trust.

It is telling that the “rap-back” process is intended to return criminal allegations, not just criminal convictions. When it comes to getting kids out of an unsafe situation, time is of the essence and state officials can’t always wait for the justice system to run its course. Instead, they must be proactive and review allegations will allow them to do so.

Currently Washington state is one of only 10 states that does not keep civil applicant fingerprints or use an ongoing criminal monitoring service. If the proposal for “rap-backs” is adopted, Washington state will then be following a recommendation that the federal government has been making since 2008.


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