Department of Human Services corrects child abuse history clearance errors

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Harrisburg, PA –Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas today announced the Department has corrected several inaccurately issued child abuse clearances and released the following statement:

“Protecting Pennsylvania’s children is our priority. When the Department became aware that it had issued inaccurate clearances for several individuals, we immediately took action to fix the problem.

Certain individuals, in order to work or volunteer with children, are required to obtain clearances. In addition to the Department’s child abuse history clearance, the person may also be required to have a Pennsylvania State Police criminal record check and a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal background check.

These 28 people received child abuse history clearances that stated that they had no history of abuse or neglect rather than properly documenting this information. While these errors represent less than one-one-thousandth of a percent of the 2.5 million clearances issued, I believe that full transparency is the only appropriate response when dealing with these issues.

Of the individuals in question:

  • None were “prohibitive hires” meaning that they would be prohibited by law from working with children. Under current state law, individuals who do not have a judicial finding of abuse or neglect within the last five years are permitted to work with children. State law allows employers and volunteer organizations to decide whether to hire these individuals;
  • Eight were the result of an issue with the information technology system the Department uses to conduct the clearance review. The Department has worked closely and cooperatively with its IT vendors to correct the system error; and
  • Twenty involved employee error in processing the clearance review.

Employers should have had access to accurate information when making a decision to hire these individuals and we apologize for our mistake. We are notifying both the individuals who received the clearances and the employers and volunteer organizations of the error. While employers and volunteer organizations may always require an employee or volunteer to go through the clearance process again for any reason, they do not have to do anything unless they are notified by the Department.

The steps we are taking will help ensure that this does not occur in the future. These steps include:

  • Deducting the cost of addressing the associated IT issues from future payments to its IT vendors;
  • Reviewing the employee errors that caused some of the inappropriate clearances and taking action as necessary to address them; and
  • Hiring a third-party vendor to review the Department’s process with the goal of ensuring that we are taking all appropriate actions to avoid these or any other types of errors in the future. The review will be made public when completed.”

SOURCE: Pa. Dept. of Human Services