Lawmakers Say Calif. Needs Tighter Scrutiny of Sex Offenders
Thursday, April 17, 2008
The audit, released late Wednesday by the state Department of Social Services, found that the addresses of 49 registered sex offenders matched those of 46 child care facilities throughout the state.
The department has suspended licenses for nine of the homes. Officials said there is no indication that any children were abused.
Nevertheless, the report angered the two lawmakers who requested the audit, Assembly members Anthony Adams, a Republican from Hesperia, and Fiona Ma, a Democrat from San Francisco.
It showed that more than 50,000 registered sex offenders in California have little supervision because they have completed parole. Another 8,000 sex offenders are currently being supervised by parole agents.
"The other 51,000, those folks aren't tracked by anyone," said Bill Barnes, Ma's chief of staff. "The findings are completely outrageous. What's clear is no one's responsible. ... These folks are falling through the cracks."
The audit matched the addresses of 75,000 licensed facilities, including foster family homes and in-home daycare centers, with the state's database of registered sex offenders. It recommended that the state departments of justice and social services share their databases to ensure that sex offenders are not living at licensed homes.
"It's the simplest thing to do," Adams said. "To not do it is bordering on malfeasance."
He and Ma scheduled a news conference on Thursday to discuss the findings and potential legislation.
Some of those who were named in the audit and had their licenses revoked reacted angrily to the report.
Dorothea L. Morris was among those whose licenses was suspended because her address matched the one given by her son, a registered sex offender. She had operated Morris Family Child Care in Pacoima, north of Los Angeles.
"He's not living here," her husband, Jimmye Morris, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "He's not even in the state. He's back East. He hasn't lived here in over seven years."
The Department of Social Services also suspended the license of Harriett J. Hunter, who had operated Hunter Family Child Care in Los Angeles.
Hunter said she obtained her license in 2002 but had never cared for a child other than her niece for a few hours each day. That stopped before her fiance, Raymond Carreon, moved to the home in 2005, she and Carreon said.
Carreon was convicted in 1996 of committing a lewd act with a child under 14, according to the audit. He told the AP that he properly registers as a sex offender each year as required by law and has no contact with children.
"I'm not even well," said Hunter, 65, who said she suffers from arthritis and other ills. "I haven't done child care, I don't do child care, I don't intend to do child care."
Of the 46 address matches identified in the audit, 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.
Only nine licenses were suspended because in most cases inspectors for the Department of Social Services could not verify that a sex offender was living at the location. In other cases, no children were present where the offenders were living.
Under state law, daycare and foster care licensees must report the names of any adults living in or associated with their facilities.
The audit also found cases in which multiple sex offender parolees lived at the same address. Under most circumstances, state law prohibits a sex offender from living with other offenders while on parole.
However, the locations matched by state auditors often turned out to be drug treatment programs, hotels and apartment complexes. State Auditor Elaine Howle said the law is unclear about whether such living arrangements are illegal.
She called for the Legislature to clarify the residency restrictions. Adams said his bill would close a loophole that allows up to six sex offenders to live together in group homes.
Howle and the lawmakers also said they were angered when the Department of Social Services disclosed some of the findings before the audit's formal release, which was scheduled for next week.
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