Maryland's education department failed to keep track of critical criminal background checks for state child care center employees.
A legislative of audit of the Maryland State Department of Education found that MSDE did not adequately follow up on required criminal background checks alerts, failed to conduct required inspections of child care facilities, and did not perform timely reviews of the state’s child care subsidy eligibility requirements.
Through its central headquarters and 13 regional offices MSDE oversees 7,656 child care homes and 2,720 child care centers, serving 219,000 children.
Maryland state law mandates a criminal background check before any individual can work at a child care facility. MSDE offices are alerted to initial background check results and receive ongoing alerts for any criminal activity. MSDE received 5,000 alerts during the 2011 fiscal year. OLA’s audit of MSDE procedures in following up on these alerts found that the department did not check to see that all individuals associated with child care facilities obtained required criminal background checks.
Auditors reviewed 25 alerts and found that MSDE did not properly follow up or inadequately followed up on 12 of those alerts. One MSDE office failed to take action on five alerts from June of 2011, until OLA brought the matter to department’s attention. The report also disclosed that three alerts were not followed up because there were no records of the individuals in MSDE’s Child Care Tracking Administration Tracking System.
In some cases, MSDE regional offices relied on “verbal confirmations” with child care facilities that individuals on alerts were no longer employed by the child care facility.
The report tested 60 child care facilities during the period from July 2008 to June 2011 and found that 23 facilities were missing at least one required inspection. State regulations require at least one unannounced inspection each year. Auditors also found that MSDE licensing supervisors at regional child care offices did not always use monitoring reports entered into CCATS.
The audit also disclosed that MSDE failed to monitor local social service departments to certify that state child care subsidy eligibility. OLA found delays of up to 18 months for eligibility reviews. One local social service department, which accounted for 16 percent of childcare subsidy payments in 2011, was not reviewed for three years.