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Report: CA paid criminals to care for residents

September 24, 2010 8:03:28 PM PDT
Some of California's most vulnerable citizens, the elderly and disabled who need state subsidized in-home care, are being cared for by violent felons. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants the law changed to forbid felons from working in these positions.

Schwarzenegger successfully got legislative approval to require background checks for In-Home Support Service workers last year. Data since then has identified nearly 1,000 convicted felons working or seeking jobs in the program. Eight-hundred were fired, but at least 200 continue to work because a court subsequently ruled the state can only disqualify those who had committed just three specific crimes -- physical child abuse, elder abuse and defrauding public assistance programs.

There are still 70,000 workers needing background checks.

"It's concerning that people with serious criminal backgrounds could have contact with these people," Sacramento County prosecutor Laura West said.

Privacy laws prevent authorities from warning the elderly and disabled their caregiver had committed a violent or financial crime.

But the union representing in-home workers say out of nearly 400,000 caregivers, 200 is a small number. And while the crimes sound scary, in-home care recipient John Wilkins says two of his providers had a criminal past but still did a good job.

"Someone's criminal background does not prevent them from providing care to an individual like myself," Wilkins said.

The governor has already sent a letter to the Legislature demanding a fix to the system.

"It's the equivalent of saying to a rapist or murderer, 'Come into my grandmother's home and take care of them," governor's spokesperson Rachel Arrezola said.

Until that fix, program administrators are in the bind of knowing a violent felon's past and not being able to legally fire or deny them employment.


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