- Office of the State Auditor
Media Contact for Audit Provides Recommendations to Improve Child Safety at State-Licensed Group Care Programs
Boston — An audit released today of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump, found deficiencies related to investigations of suspected child abuse or neglect, background record checks of program employees, and the timeliness of investigations and licensing visits of group care programs.
“There is perhaps no more important responsibility for state government than ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of children in state care,” Bump said of the audit. “The Department of Early Education and Care has made progress in some areas in recent years, but there is still more to be done. I encourage the agency to work with the Department of Children and Families to fully implement our recommendations to ensure allegations of abuse in these facilities are fully investigated.”
The audit shows EEC did not always review or initiate investigations of reports of suspected abuse or neglect of children in its licensed programs. Bump’s office found DCF did not send some reports of abuse or neglect to EEC, and in other instances, DCF did send these reports, but EEC had no record of receiving or investigating them. Bump called on EEC and DCF to improve their processes for communicating, reviewing, storing, and retrieving reports of abuse or neglect.
The audit also revealed EEC did not complete required group care program licensing visits and investigations of incidents of alleged child abuse at these facilities within established deadlines. Forty of the fifty closed investigations reviewed by Bump’s staff were completed after established due dates (generally 30 days after the investigation is assigned). On average these investigations were completed 61 days after these deadlines. Additionally, the audit found EEC conducted licensing site visits late for 16 percent of program files reviewed.
Finally, the audit found EEC did not ensure that all staff at its licensed group care programs had undergone required background record checks (BRCs) before beginning their employment. A BRC includes checks of the Criminal Offender Record Information database and Sex Offender Registry Information database, a DCF background check, and a fingerprint-based check of the state and national criminal history databases. In its response, EEC indicated it took steps to improve its process for conducting BRCs after the audit period.
Group care programs provide care for adolescents and young adults (residents) on a 24-hour residential basis for periods longer than 45 days. Services provided are intended to help residents achieve independent living and provide treatment for residents with mental health issues, behavioral issues, developmental disorders, or previous traumas. During the audit period, there were 354 EEC-licensed group care programs.
EEC is responsible for licensing childcare providers and providing financial assistance for childcare services for low-income families, parenting support for families, and professional development opportunities for employees in the field of early education and care. The agency licenses approximately 9,000 childcare-related programs, including 428 licensed residential programs (354 group care programs and 74 temporary shelters). During the audit period, EEC had a total of 174 employees, and in fiscal year 2018, it received $576.8 million in state appropriations.