Tulsa Foster Care Worker Arrested on Child Pornography Charges
A man from Tulsa, Oklahoma who previously worked with foster parents and foster children through a nationwide nonprofit organization was recently arrested and hit with child pornography charges. The suspect apparently passed all necessary background checks prior to starting his position in fall 2013, but the checks raised no red flags.
From September 2013 to May 2014, the suspect worked with the Bair Foundation Child & Family Ministries. The Bair Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization that works to "ensure the safety and well-being of foster youth while working with their families of origin in their reunification efforts." When screening foster parents and other individuals set to have close contact with foster children, Tulsa branch of the Bair Foundation runs extensive background checks through the local government's Department of Health and Human Services. DHS rules require that anyone hoping to work in the foster care system be completely clean of any criminal history, including sex crimes. The suspect evidently passed his background checks without issue back in 2013.
Though he was only with the Bair Foundation for a short period of time, the suspect did have frequent contact with kids. According to local Tulsa news outlets, he served as a "respite foster parent", essentially a babysitter for kids whose full-time foster parents need a short break. In other words, when a Bair Foundation foster parent in Tulsa needed a night or two to themselves, a respite foster parent would take over and watch the kids. In most cases, respite foster parents are left alone and unsupervised with the kids put in their charge.
So far, no one in the press is sure why the suspect had such a short stint with the Bair Foundation, or whether or not his truncated period of time in the job had anything to do with his later child pornography charges. As of yet, though, there have been no accusations of sexual abuse or assault levied against him. Police arrested the suspect after flagging his IP address on a network known for the trading of child pornography.
Unfortunately, there isn't much that employers can do to be sure that their workers aren't trading or possessing child pornography. Background checks that look for criminal records, presence on sex offender registries, or child abuse history have historically been a good way of keeping predators outside of schools and away from youth-serving organizations. But beyond device or hard drive scans for this kind of material, it's tough for employers to flag people who possess child pornography, but haven't been caught yet. It's a reason why so many youth-serving organizations or child-care facilities won't ever leave a single adult alone and unsupervised with kids: there's just too much of a risk without enough of a guarantee that the kids are being left in a safe situation.