Colorado has approved a new bill that would strengthen the state’s existing background check requirements for human services. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee gave Senate Bill 15-087 the green light earlier month, with members unanimously approving the bill.
SB15-087 comes in the wake of a 2014 whistleblower investigation conducted by Denver’s ABC news affiliate CALL7 that revealed a disturbing lack of oversight among Denver Human Service (DHS) workers. CALL7 investigators found that DHS workers had arranged foster children to be cared for by registered sex offenders. Furthermore, DHS was not conducting criminal background checks on caregivers. While no incidents were attributed to this lack of oversight, it presented the need to reform Colorado’s existing laws regarding the background checks of caregivers.
When investigators initially questioned DHS Manager Penny May about the lack of background checks, she denied the allegations. However, just several weeks later May admitted that DHS workers were not properly conducting background checks on caregivers. This investigation is believed to have prompted Colorado’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee to create SB15-087.
So, what does Colorado’s new bill entitle? See the list below for some key points of SB15-087:
Adds new criminal offenses for which caregiver candidates can be rejected (e.g. misdemeanor sex crimes).
Creates greater transparency regarding the type of background checks human service workers are required to complete, such as national crime databases, sex offender registries and court records.
Allows Guardians Ad Litem and court-appointed attorneys who are representing children to access background checks.
The primary objective of SB15-087 is to improve the safety and quality of care by Colorado’s caregivers.
“The bill reorganizes statutes regarding the regulation of foster care homes, kinship foster care homes, and noncertified kinship care to clarify the responsibilities for background checks between the state department of human services (state department) and county departments of human or social services (county departments) and licensed child placement agencies,” wrote Colorado lawmakers in the bill summary.
Just because Colorado’s Senate Health and Human Services Committee has approved SB15-087 doesn’t necessarily mean it will take effect. The next step towards making this proposed bill an enforceable law is to allow the Senate Judiciary Committee to hear it. And if the Senate Judiciary Committee approves it, the full Senate will vote on SB15-087.
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