State Auditor Troy Kelley on Tuesday urged officials to adopt a background-check system for teachers, child care workers and nursing home aides that continues to monitor for criminal issues after the initial check.
“Washington’s background check process is falling behind other states because it does not provide an automatic notification if a person commits a criminal offense after passing a background check,” according to Kelley’s first major performance audit, which noted the federal government now recommends the so-called “rap back service,” which is currently in use in 29 states and under development in eight others.
Washington currently requires an initial background check and follow-up checks at certain times for positions of trust.
A “rap back service” could more quickly identify a significant number of “inappropriate individuals” in those positions, the audit found.
Specifically, auditors analyzed 800,000 applicants for positions of trust between 2005 and 2012 (they analyzed only applicants, not employees, because of “data limitations”). They found that 507 of the applicants were charged with at least one new crime after passing an initial background check.
Half of those people were charged with disqualifying offenses like drug crimes, assault, indecent exposure, child molestation, burglary and theft, according to the audit.
On average, the applicants could have remained on the job for nearly two years before a follow-up check, the auditors found.
In order to implement the tighter system, officials would have to revise state law to allow the Washington State Patrol and FBI to retain fingerprints. The system would also be more expensive.
Last year, the state conducted more than 800,000 background checks for positions of trust.
The Auditor’s Office said it conducted the new audit to follow up on a report last summer that found 28 sex offenders had been living in state-approved foster homes and preschools and day cares operated in private homes. In one case, a school district had employed a registered sex offender as a janitor for nine years.
No children were reported to be harmed by the offenders uncovered in that audit, but it disclosed several areas of potential weakness in the state’s tracking and monitoring systems.