Who Is Responsible And What Needs To Be Done To Adequately Monitor Illinois Day Care Centers?
In Part I of this IFI series, we brought attention to a report from the Illinois Auditor General, William Holland, which revealed some stunning information regarding the licensing of day care centers in Illinois. Part I: Sex Offenders Reside In Homes Which Are Licensed Day Care Centers In Illinois
In June of 2010, Holland revealed that 90 licensed day care centers in Illinois had the same addresses as those who are listed on the registry of sex offenders. It has also been reported at least one of the registered sex offenders received payment from the state of Illinois’ Deptartment of Human Services (DHS) in 2008. DHS has the responsibility of licensing child care facilities.
Of course, the data released by Holland’s audit should have been plastered across the front page of every newspaper in Illinois and the lead story on every television news broadcast in the state. Legislators should have held press conferences, attended by outraged parents and child advocates. But this did not happen and, if not for a few scattered stories in the media, many of us would not be aware of a travesty which has been taking place in the state of Illinois…for who knows how long?
Some say that the DHS is not totally at fault regarding this glaring lack of oversight regarding the protection of the over 170,000 children who are enrolled in day care centers across Illinois which provide services for low income families. To this point, according to state law, the Dept. of Human Services was not allowed to cross reference the addresses of private homes which are licensed to offer day care services with the addresses of registered sex offenders which is issued and maintained by the Illinois State Police.
But clearly the system broke down along the way and the buck has to stop somewhere. The Auditor General’s report indicates taxpayer money, totaling $634 million, was paid by DHS in 2008. These funds — which were allocated to facilities which have nearly 200,000 children in their charge — may have been used to have unsuspecting parents lead their children to the door steps of sexual deviants. While not every individual who is on the statewide sex offender registry is a pedophile, no parent would intentionally place their child in an environment that housed a sexual predator.
A series of questions must be asked and answered regarding this situation:
* Why was the Dept. of Human Services barred from cross-checking addresses of registered sex offenders with the addresses of licensed day care facilities?
NOTE: The number of identified day care centers where sex offenders live may be much higher than 90, due to the fact that the audit only counted cases where addresses matched exactly, down to whether street names were spelled out in their entirety or when abbreviations only were used.
* Is it possible privacy issues regarding the rights of convicted sex offenders took precedent over the safety of children?
* Sex offenders cannot live within a prescribed distance of a school. Yet in the above circumstances, sex offenders actually dwelled in homes where young children were being cared for. Why?
* What responsibility lies with the individuals who were issued licenses as day care providers? How many of those who were responsible for the administration of these private home day care facilities knew they had a registered sex offender in their homes?
NOTE: According to the Auditor General’s report, many of those on the sex offender registry were related to the day care center licensees.
* Clearly the law was broken. What steps will be taken by law enforcement, including the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Attorney General’s office, to address this issue?
* I have to wonder why the Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) isn’t taking the heat for this failure of oversight. 20 ILCS 4026 creates the SOMB and they are charged with the duty of monitoring sex offenders. The SOMB includes seven appointees by the Governor, seven appointees by the Attorney General, and eight others. How much tax money is this agency receiving and for what? Why isn’t the SOMB responsible for cross-checking and making sure that state licensed and funded day cares, schools, activity centers, after school programs, etc. are free of convicted sex predators. Obviously, they failed miserably here. Moreover, as our chief law official, why isn’t the Attorney General accountable for this?
Many of the questions above only address the tip of a dirty iceberg where 90 percent of the damage that may have been experienced by children lies underneath the surface of a bureaucracy whose primary goal may now be to pass the buck regarding who is at fault in a situation that can only be called an obscenity, at best.
On October 1st, 2010, a new law will go into effect which will allow DHS to run checks of addresses of sex offenders against the addresses of day care centers in private homes. However, in the meantime, what is being done to adequately safeguard children, many of whom may have been exposed to sexual predation of its most vehement form?
Many experts in the field of mental health and criminology agree sex offenders, especially pedophiles, cannot be rehabilitated. It is perhaps the most untreatable addiction that has infected the human condition. Subsequently, the only resolution to this problem is far closer scrutiny by state agencies and monitoring those on the sex offender registry. The Illinois State Police, the Dept. of Human Services, the office of the Illinois Attorney General and the Sex Offender Management Board, among other governmental bodies, must do a better job of sharing information, in order to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
What the Holland audit reveals is disturbing, to say the least. State lawmakers and law-enforcement officials have an obligation to work together to create a functional and manageable system regarding the licensing and provision of day care services.
The Illinois Family Institute will continue follow this story closely and work to see that this failure never happens again. Protecting innocent children and their parents from potential situations where they can be hurt and abused is the proper role of government