Convicted sex offenders are registering addresses with the state, which, in some cases, are identical to locations for state-subsidized child care providers, database research by Independence Investigates shows. Whether the offender is actually under the same roof as a child-care facility has not been determined as of this publication because Independence Investigates perceived the potential for an imminent threat to some children. “Investigates” has therefore contacted and turned over its research to the state Department of Human Services, which oversees the child-care subsidy program.
According to its website, “The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides financial assistance to low-income families that are working, searching for employment or are in training, and families that are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency.”
A parent who meets income and other requirements can take their child to an approved child care provider. The provider then charges a lower out-of-pocket rate to the parent, but then receives a subsidy on the back end from a mix of state and federal dollars. Most of the approved providers operate out of their homes, as opposed to a brick-and-mortar retail location.
Independence Investigates obtained the full child care provider database for all Colorado providers that had an “open fiscal agreement” with the state in 2010. In other words, the database shows all providers that agreed to participate in the CCCAP program at any time in fiscal year 2010*.
“Investigates” then obtained the full sex offender registry from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Using Google geocoding, the two databases were cross-referenced. From the cross-referencing, an entirely new database was created, showing all instances where the distance between the provider address and the sex offender address was less than 100 feet. In some cases, the sex offender’s address was identical to the provider’s address.
“We will go through the information you provided, and look at where we’ve got issues, and again, look at the system, and say, how can we tweak it so that we more frequently do a cross-match of the data so that we can identify these issues and take care of them,” said Liz McDonough, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services.
The geocoding data allows for some interpretation, but the number of EXACT address matches between providers and sex offenders could range anywhere from 4-10 housing units. Furthermore, there are at least 20-25 near matches in which an provider is in the same apartment complex as an offender (many times there are several offenders in an apartment complex with a child care provider), or there are offenders within 10 feet of a provider (essentially directly next door).
Most providers in CCCAP are “licensed,” meaning the provider has submitted to criminal background checks, including fingerprint checks. The Criminal Background Unit of the Division of Child Care also seeks to conduct fingerprint based criminal checks on all adults residing in a licensed facility. However, some CCCAP providers are able to become licensing exempt.
In one particular circumstance, “Independence Investigates” found an exact address match between a CCCAP provider and a registered sex offender in Denver, where even the last names between the provider and offender were identical. The CBI background report for the sex offender showed multiple separate charges of assault or sex abuse against a child. McDonough said the child care provider in question last received money from the state for her services in December 2008, but her contract (i.e. her ability to provide services as a CCCAP provider) remained open through at least July 2010. The known sex offender was registered at the same address no later than October, 2009. It is possible that the offender lived at the address while no child care services were provided. However, McDonough did acknowledge that the simple fact that an offender could register an address identical to a CCCAP provider showed a flaw in the system. Additionally, McDonough said the Department of Human Services will be checking with all former clients of this particular CCCAP provider to ensure no crimes were committed against any of the children who might have been at that CCCAP provider.
“It’s very concerning to us,” McDonough said. ”We will go through the information you’ve provided, and look at what the systemic issues are that this raises, and how we can address them.”
Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, said at this point with the information provided, it may not be necessary for the general assembly to conduct an investigation or audit, leaving that to DHS. However, she added that members of the general assembly would be keeping a watchful eye. ”We will definitely follow up with Human Services to make sure they do a thorough investigation,” McCann said.
Conducing an investigation into this issue may not be the responsibility of the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI), but rather may rely on cooperation between the Department of Human Services and local law enforcement agencies across the state. As for the sex offender registry, CBI is only the umbrella provider of information. Sex offender registry data is collected by local law enforcement, and then sent to CBI where it is entered into the database.
Independence Investigates previously reported that a small audit into CCCAP showed that the program was open to fraud and abuse.
A similar investigation into the “Wisconsin Shares” program by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel discovered that hundreds of day care providers authorized by the state had criminal records, and that the program was being defrauded of millions of dollars.
*”Open fiscal agreement” with the state through their local county means the provider was approved to participate in CCCAP. However, it is possible that a provider that had an open fiscal agreement, yet did not accept any children for care. Still, the state acknowledges that such instances are rare.