Automatic background checks called for in new state audit

SEATTLE — A new state audit is calling for automatic notifications when someone like a foster parent or childcare worker is suspected of committing a crime any time after they’ve already passed an initial background check.

The automatic checks are being recommended to improve public safety and have been suggested by the federal government since 2008, said state Auditor Troy Kelley, who added that this kind of check-back service is being used in 29 states and is being developed in eight others plus the District of Columbia.

The recommendation announced Tuesday comes from a follow-up investigation after a state audit released last August found 28 sex offenders lived in state-regulated or subsidized child care or foster care homes between 2002 and 2012.

“We must continually strive to improve public safety in our state. This audit is a step in the right direction, highlighting best practices from around the nation and showing ways we can add extra safeguards to protect our children and our communities,” Kelley said in a statement.

For Tuesday’s report, state auditors looked at a group of applicants for jobs such as childcare workers and nursing home aides and found that hundreds could have triggered what is known as a “rap back” notification. About half of them were charged with crimes that would have disqualified them from their jobs, such as drug crimes, assault, indecent exposure, child molestation, burglary and theft.

Last year, the Washington State Patrol did more than 800,000 background checks for people who work in positions of trust, like people becoming teachers, foster parents, police officers, childcare workers and other school employees.

A rap back service uses stored fingerprint records to automatically track new crime information for people subject to background checks. The employer would be notified if one of its workers is arrested or convicted of a crime.

Washington is one of 10 states that neither uses a rap back service nor keeps civil applicant fingerprints.

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