(USNewsBreak.com) – The Department of Energy (DOE) oversees and runs multiple child care centers for agencies under its authority. Employees have use of their facilities as a convenience. However, a new report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) sheds light on issues within these centers that allegedly left children at risk.
The OIG Investigates
From July 2018 to October 2020, the OIG investigated DOE child care centers to address multiple employee concerns. The resulting report suggests the department failed to run background checks on childcare workers at many different locations. The agency allegedly hired individuals in lieu of screening and thus, failed to provide a safe and healthy environment for the kids under its care.
A complete background check typically includes fingerprinting, which allows the employer to search all available records across various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. It is considered a much more reliable approach to reviewing a candidate’s criminal history. Child care worker screenings also typically include proper vetting of a new hire’s work history with appropriate collaborating documentation as well as both driving and credit checks.
Failures at Specific Locations
Identifying the exact issues at DOE childcare facilities reveals the depth of the problem. At Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, an OIG investigation found that 18 employees did not undergo fingerprint checks. The lab also failed to verify employment in at least one case.
The OIG found 23 workers with no fingerprint checks and 21 instances in which employers failed to run sex offender searches on childcare workers at Argonne National Laboratory. Their investigation into the National Energy Technology Laboratory, which runs two childcare locations under the DOE, turned up another 23 examples of failure to run proper sex offense or criminal record checks.
Six DOE centers reportedly did not receive reviews due to COVID-19 closures, but of those checked, three failed to provide proper training to their employees. The OIG’s report also notes issues with properly vetting driving and credit records as well as poor accreditation maintenance. The office even had difficulty accessing records at another undisclosed location.
The OIG recommends DOE take inventory of its sites to ensure that all centers run proper background checks and training before they reopen. It also asks DOE to create reviews for all other outstanding issues. Three of the locations corrected the violations and committed to improving background assessment processes before OIG published its final report on the matter.
The DOE, for its part, admits the findings are accurate. Officials say they are working to correct the remaining issues and implement changes to prevent future problems.
The OIG report does not specify whether any childcare employee failed background checks after the fact. Still, the potential for a sexual offender or violent criminal to gain access to children in one of these centers was high, primarily due to a lack of oversight by the DOE. That leaves parents in a difficult spot — can they truly trust that their children are in safe hands?
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