Can a parent trust a preschool, even a registered one, has no criminals or sex offenders amongst its staff? Yesterday, Fox Chicago News revealed an eco-friendly preschool in the West Loop area was unwittingly harboring a sex offender.
Investigating a tip, the local news station found Eric Ellis, who is listed as a Registered Sex Offender on the Illinois State Police Website, was placed by a temp agency at the Little Green Tree House daycare. Ellis committed related crimes in 2000 and 2001 and spent four and a half years in prison, before being added to the state sex offender registry. When asked, Ellis told the news station: “I work through a temp service. I don’t mess with kids. I got wrongly accused and people are trying to put that on me.” He additionally mentioned the temp agency is aware of his background.
The daycare, on the other hand, counted on the temp service to run thorough background checks on all workers and never screened any of the placed employees in its facility. As a result, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is conducting a child protection investigation and filing a daycare licensing complaint. DCFS responded in a statement: “By law, child care centers are prohibited from hiring registered sex offenders, and are required to notify DCFS of new hires and complete background checks on those new hires.”
No or incomplete background checks for daycare workers isn’t isolated in Chicago. Last year, a National Study revealed that most daycare centers do not conduct background checks on workers, including investigating child abuse records and education histories. Washington is one such state. A recent news piece focusing on Yakima, Wash., revealed some preschools do not screen workers and are not obligated to. While licensed facilities are required, unlicensed daycares are exempt.