California Audit Finds Sex Offenders Working in Child Care

The state social services agency on Wednesday was moving to shut down nine homes used for child daycare and foster care after an audit found registered sex offenders living there in violation of state law.

The revelation came after state auditors compared the addresses of 75,000 licensed facilities, including foster family homes and daycare centers, with the state's database of registered sex offenders.

California Department of Social Services Director John Wagner said the audit found that the addresses of 49 sex offenders matched those of 46 child care facilities.

The department was able to confirm nine of the cases during inspections of all 46 facilities that were completed Monday, Wagner said.

Three license suspensions already are in effect — two in Los Angeles and one in San Bernardino. Two foster children were removed by local authorities in one of the cases, Wagner said.

The department would not immediately give details on the other six pending suspensions.

"It goes without saying, anyone convicted of a sex offense has no business being anywhere near a licensed facility for children," Wagner said. "Protecting children in our licensed facilities is our highest priority."

The Bureau of State Audits asked for the department's database of licensed facilities in November, but the social services agency did not learn of the matches with sex offenders until last week, Wagner said. The audit is due for release on Tuesday.

Of the 46 address matches, 25 were in Los Angeles, eight in the Central Valley, seven in the San Francisco Bay area, four in San Diego, and one each in San Bernardino and Sacramento.

In most cases, the department's inspectors could not verify that a sex offender was living at the address or found that the offender was there but children were not present.

It is a violation of state law for daycare and foster care licensees not to report the presence of a registered sex offender, Wagner said.

The Department of Social Services needs that information to conduct background checks on the license holder and others living at the home or child care center. Had the department discovered a resident was a sex offender, the license would have been denied or suspended, he said.

In the three cases in which licenses were suspended this week, one offender had been convicted of sexual battery while the other two had been convicted of oral copulation with a minor, said Larry Bolton, the department's chief lawyer.

Investigators are interviewing the children who had contact in each of the homes or day care centers.

"We haven't finished the interviews, but no indication yet" that any child was actually abused, Bolton said.