Care scare; Enforce existing rules.
A report issued Wednesday by State Auditor Suzanne Bump raised eyebrows by stating that 119 addresses of registered sex offenders matched locations of licensed child-care programs. By week's end, education and public safety officials announced plans for a statewide system to cross-check the addresses of sex offenders and child-care programs.
But what's needed here isn't another policy or procedure so much as enforcement of existing rules.
When officials from the state Department of Early Education and Care looked into the 119 address matches, they found 65 did not match any active business, or matched a college campus or location where the sex offender was studying or working.
Of the remaining 54, 50 were for multi-unit buildings in which a sex offender was residing and a child-care business was operating. As EEC Acting Commissioner Thomas Weber pointed out, business owners cannot control who moves into the building where they merely operate.
In just four cases, licenses of child-care providers were revoked because the provider did not report the presence of a sex offender as required by law. And the EEC stated that no children were harmed at any of those locations.
So what's the problem?
The problem, according to the audit, is that EEC is failing to enforce fully the state's Criminal Offender Record Information system, is not conducting the annual unannounced visits to all licensed child-care facilities as required by law, and is not ensuring that the providers are up-to-date on their CORI checks.
We have long maintained that sex offenders at high risk for recidivism belong behind bars or in a secure treatment facility. Be that as it may, the existing system can only protect the public if existing laws and procedures are enforced.
Instead, we seem once again to have a case in which Massachusetts officials are wringing their hands and offering another set of policies and procedures, when what is truly needed is strict and comprehensive enforcement of the rules and regulations that already exist.
Cross-checking the addresses of Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders against the addresses of licensed child-care facilities is unlikely to reveal any new or useful information. What the auditor's report should do is spur officials at EEC to do their jobs, and child-care providers to comply fully with CORI requirements.