Criminals Working in Daycares & Becoming Foster Parents, Investigation Shows
After the State of Florida's Department of Children and Families (DCF) provided an exemption for criminal disqualification, people with questionable criminal backgrounds have been given a chance to work in daycares or become foster parents, reports ABC Action News.
"It's scary to me," says one of the parents interviewed by ABC Action News. The said exemption waives a suspected criminal, who failed the background check, a "second chance" for them who want to work with children.
The DCF investigation shows that these likely were offenders of sex and prostitution, several domestic abuse and battery charges, federal bank robbery, and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.
Richard Filson, a child abuse attorney and Florida's Children First board member, tells the news team there are significant times that DCF had placed children's welfare in unsafe homes, with persons with questionable criminal histories babysitting them, even one where the DCF placed a child under the care of a former sex offender.
"It does surprise me. These are not the things you would normally see," said Filson.
Since 2012, there have been 35 criminal exemptions granted in the counties of Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco; the names of those granted with these exemptions are yet to be investigated by the ABC Action News I-Team.
DCF Secretary Mike Carroll claims that the applicants for the exemption go through a tedious process, where results are being screened both at the regional and state levels.
"We screened thousands of folks; less than one-half of one percent ever even have to go down this road," says Carroll.
What is more alarming is that most parents are unaware of it. When the ABC Action News team brought on the topic, one parent exclaimed, "I don't think that's right."
Childcare Aware lists that all workers who will be in contact with children should always have their criminal backgrounds checked as part of the hiring process; it even reiterates that child care centers should take into account the child abuse and neglect registry, fingerprint check, and sex offender registry.
When asked if he would let these people watch over his children, Sec. Carroll says he is confident that folks who receive exemptions are qualified to look after his kids. "I believe that we have a good balance in our background screening laws right now," he added.
While Sec. Carroll showed confidence in granting these exemptions, Atty. Filson thinks that the State is not doing its job in the issue.