The House of Representatives has approved a proposal, offered by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and members of the House Republican Caucus, that would require the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to conduct fingerprint-based checks of the state and national criminal history databases on prospective applicants seeking to adopt or become foster parents.
The proposal, which was
filed as an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal Year 2016 state
budget, would also require background checks on all individuals, age 15 or
older, residing in the same household as adoptive or foster parents, as well as
all applicants for employment, interns and volunteers who have the potential
for unsupervised contact with children in any department-approved program,
including individuals who provide transportation services for such programs.
“Children are our most precious resource, but they are also among our
most vulnerable residents, and the state should be making every effort possible
to guarantee they are never placed in harm’s way,” said Representative
Jones. “Requiring background checks similar to those already
conducted by the Department of Early Education and Care will help to ensure that DCF is
taking appropriate precautions in its hiring and placement process.”
A 2014 audit of DCF revealed that, in a review of 29 case files, the
Department was unable to provide documentation for 48 of 63 required background
checks. The audit also showed
that 25 homes matched the address of registered sex offenders.
Representative Jones’ proposal directs DCF to
obtain from the Massachusetts Sex
Offender Registry Board all available sex offender registry information
associated with the address of any center, home or facility licensed through
“Whether they are in the actual home or in the
same apartment building, sex offenders pose a significant risk to child
safety,” said Representative Jones.
“Increased oversight and stricter background check regulation policies
will help to reduce those risks considerably for children who have been
entrusted to the state’s care.”
The amendment, which was approved on a unanimous
roll call vote of 159-0, was co-sponsored by the House Republican leadership
team, including Representatives Brad Hill of Ipswich, Elizabeth Poirier of
North Attleborough, Susan Gifford of Wareham, Paul Frost of Auburn and Todd
Smola of Warren. Additional co-sponsors
included Representatives Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick), Marc Lombardo
(R-Billerica), Angelo D’Emilia (R-Bridgewater), Sheila Harrington (R-Groton),
Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden), Leah Cole (R-Peabody), David Muradian
(R-Grafton), Tim Whelan (R-Brewster) and Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk).