DENVER - The Colorado Department of Human Services is launching an audit of local child placement cases in all 64 counties -- and changing its own policy, as well.
CDHS officials said Thursday both the state-wide review and the policy change are a direct result of an ongoing CALL7 investigation that revealed serious safety loopholes in the Denver Department of Human Services, one of which led to children being placed with a registered sex offender.
"When we learned that the fingerprints weren't being conducted in every case … we decided we really should do an audit and just look into that and see whether this is a systemic problem or related to one specific county," said Julie Krow, CHDS Director of the Office of Children, Youth, and Families.
CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia has reported Denver DHS had failed to conduct fingerprints checks in some cases where children have been placed with other family members. Department officials repeatedly refused to address whether any such cases even existed, but internal emails obtained by the CALL7 Investigators refer to a detailed review already in progress, and multiple sources confirm approximately 300 individual fingerprint checks have been conducted in the past six weeks.
She said CDHS is in touch directly with administrators at Denver DHS, to make sure that county conducts all checks as required by law.
"You found a gap and we just want to make sure all the kids in Colorado are safe," Krow told Ferrugia.
Krow said CDHS plans to pull a random sampling of cases from each of Colorado's 64 counties -- hundreds of cases in all -- to see whether county offices are conducting proper background and fingerprint checks.
--State policy change--
Krow said CDHS is also changing its own policy as a result of the CALL7 investigation -- and will add a new layer to the process designed to keep Colorado children safe. Ferrugia's reports revealed DHS placed children with a registered sex offender, and then with a convicted child abuser, for months before recognizing its error.
"We appreciate that you brought this to our attention because what it caused us to do was to pull the list of registered sex offenders and their addresses and then look to see how it matched with our children in placement," she said.
Current state law requires matching on names only, and does not mandate address checks, but Krow said the state will now require it of every county in Colorado.
"If there is a gap that you find, or anyone else finds, we then seek to correct that," she said.