Denver scrambles to perform background checks over ‘kinship’ child placement

routinely failed to conduct federal criminal and fingerprint background checks on the next-of-kin for children who have been removed from their homes due to parental neglect or abuse. Once removed from their parents by DHS, children are often placed with their next-of-kin temporarily, and a lack of screening has put these children at risk of further abuse. The purpose of requiring fingerprint background checks is twofold: first, it prevents children from going to a home in which their caregivers have been previously convicted of sex offenses or violent crimes, and second, the checks verify that the caregivers are, in fact, related, and that they are who they say they are. It ensures that criminal background checks are actually being conducted on the proper person as well. This kind of screening is mandatory in Colorado. Four employees of DHS were suspended earlier this year after placing children in the homes of relatives, in which their next-of-kin were either convicted of child abuse, or were registered sex offenders. After these errors came to light, DHS began reviewing all “kinship cases” to ensure fingerprint background checks had actually been conducted. The DHS Director, Penny May, told investigators in July that the department does have fingerprinting and background screening policies, and that they follow procedure in ensuring caregivers are properly screened. Joe Homlar, the Child Welfare Department head at DHS, has said that there will be a review of all files, and that he is not aware that there are many cases in which fingerprint checks had not been conducted.]]>

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