Updated: 10/24/2013 11:47 PM
Created: 10/24/2013 10:55 PM WHEC.com
By: Amanda Ciavarri
A program that protects some of the most vulnerable people from being taken advantage of, is actually putting them in a more vulnerable situation. It is a system that requires potential employees to pass a background check before working alone with the developmentally disabled. But there is issue that is popping up in the system.
No one is arguing that vetting out potential employees is a good idea. They say in that sense the background checks are a success. But they are taking 4 to 6 weeks to get returned to the employer, and that is causing a headache.
For those who run residential homes for the developmentally disabled, the idea is great! Employees must pass a detailed background check before working alone at these facilities. But the devil is in the details. These checks are run through a state run program called the justice center.
Patrick McGrath, the executive director of grace community services said, “We started hiring in the second week of July, one person waited 9 and a half weeks before he could start.”
And there are two ways to handle this situation. The state does say employees can work for these centers without passing a check, but can't work alone. That is what's happening at the Arc of Monroe. An unapproved staff member is supervised at all times. But this puts a strain on other employees.
Barb Wale, of the arc of Monroe explains, “Staff members need to work overtime to be able to provide the coverage, as well as the fact that we have minimum staffing on and that requires individuals might not be able to go out in the community as often as they would like, and we would like.”
The Arc of Monroe is funded mostly by Medicaid, which is your tax dollars.
Over at Grace Community Services, they don't bring anyone on board who isn't approved, but this means overtime too.
“We have been able to maintain our staff levels, but definitely to the detriment of the people working for me, because they are working so many hours. Fatigue is going to end up with error and I am putting them at risk as well by having them work this many hours,” said McGrath.
It also can mean they are missing out on potential employees.
“I wait eight to ten weeks to start my staff; they don't have a paycheck for eight to ten weeks. There are a lot of agencies in the area and companies that pay the same amount of money we do,” said McGrath.
He says there is a light at the end of the tunnel. He was recently in a meeting with members of the state department that runs the checks and they said they are dedicating more staff, so the process goes faster.
We reached out to the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, and they sent us this statement:
"At the direction of Governor Cuomo, we are going to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of individuals with developmental disabilities. After decades of abuse and neglect, when Governor Cuomo took office, he began an overhaul and instituted major reforms at OPWDD in order to protect those with developmental disabilities, and to fire workers as well as bring criminal charges against those who abuse the individuals in their care. As a result of these reforms, Governor Cuomo created the justice center, which investigates and prosecutes cases of abuse and neglect in a coordinated and cohesive fashion. One of the elements of the justice center is to keep a database of employees who have been terminated for abuse and neglect, and to ensure that they cannot return or get another job caring for individuals with developmental disabilities, while OPWDD performs its own checks under MHL 16.34. Better to go slow and be safe and sure that we are not hiring anyone with a questionable background. We will also look for ways to improve the process of doing background checks, but not at the expense of taking chances of hiring or approving individuals who will put people with developmental disabilities at risk."