SALT LAKE CITY -- A blistering audit released by the Utah State Auditor's Office has found instances where registered sex offenders were living in or around home child care facilities, and accuses state regulators of failing to check it out.
The audit, released Wednesday, found two instances where registered sex offenders were living inside the same residence as a licensed home child care provider. However, the audit claimed the Utah Department of Health's Office of Child Care Licensing approved the license and did not verify who lived in the home.
"Contrary to background screening and approval requirements, one Department of Workforce Services’ child care assistance client did not disclose to the OCCL that the registered sex offender lived in the home. The OCCL revoked the child care provider’s eligibility to provide subsidized care shortly after we notified them that a sex offender was registered at that address," the audit said. "Checking the child care provider’s address with the state’s Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry (sex offender registry) prior to authorizing or reauthorizing child care could prevent such occurrences in the future."
In one of those homes, auditors said, there was a registered sex offender in Utah whose conviction had been set aside in Texas. Child care licensing officials cleared the home to operate, despite the confusion.
In another situation, auditors told FOX 13 they found a five-plex where at least 12 registered sex offenders were living next door to a licensed home child care provider.
"We are concerned that in this one home, divided into five units, where a child care provider is licensed -- in each of the other four apartments, registered sex offenders live there," said auditor David Pulsipher. "Each of the offenses committed by those sex offenders was a felony sex abuse against a child."
The Utah State Auditor's Office would not disclose the locations of the home child care providers. The Utah Department of Health said two of the child care facilities have had their licenses revoked.
Pulsipher said there was no evidence a child had been harmed in any of the instances, but it still raised concerns about how thoroughly state officials checked the situations of the child care facilities they licensed.
"Historically, state licensors have not checked the sex offender registry," he told FOX 13. "They take the word of the child care provider."
The Utah Department of Health said the facilities audited were not open to the public but were licensed for "friends, family and neighbors." They did receive some subsidies from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, which have since been revoked. It is not a crime to not disclose a sex offender in the home, Health Department spokesman Tom Hudachko said, but it is a violation of the agency's administrative rules.
Hudachko said the Office of Child Care Licensing is working on strengthening its rules and regulations -- including regular checks of the state's sex offender registry.
"The vast majority of the centers the audit looked at were in compliance and were playing by the rules," he said. "However, the audit did point out a few instances where we should have done a better job and we could have caught these issues before they occurred."
The audit found no problems with the state's foster care system or public school system.
The public can check the state's sex offender and kidnap registry, even looking up names by proximity as well as getting email alerts. The state also runs a database for people to check out the records of licensed child care facilities.
Read the audit here: