Fiona Ma for State Assembly

California Suspends Day Care Licenses, Linking Its Action to Sex Offenders

SAN FRANCISCO -- California authorities have suspended the licenses of 10 home day care and foster homes after a state audit found evidence that convicted sex offenders might be residing in them, state officials announced Thursday.

In two of the 10 cases, inspectors visited the homes in the Los Angeles region this week and found sex offenders living at addresses where children were regularly present, said John A. Wagner, director of the California Department of Social Services.

In both cases, children were removed and no evidence of abuse had been found, though Mr. Wagner said that "we'll continue to interview those children." In the other eight cases, all but one in Southern California, the inspectors found sex offenders at the addresses, but no children present.

The inspections were made after a state audit, requested by state lawmakers last year, found 49 instances in which registered sex offenders had listed addresses in a state law enforcement database that matched those of licensed day care centers or foster homes.

Lawmakers reacted to the report with concern.

"In most cases, you have a lady who wants to have day care out of her home, and she can advertise, and people can drop their kids off," said Anthony Adams, a Republican assemblyman who asked for the audit with Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, a Democrat. "But maybe her brother or her husband or her uncle are offenders and living there, too."

The report did not indicate whether the sex offenders had been convicted of crimes involving children or adults. The Social Services Department said the 10 suspended homes had violated state licensing law, which requires day care and foster care licensees to disclose anyone living at the sites and to submit to criminal background checks.

Gordon Hinkle, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said that his office had investigated three cases of paroled sex offenders whose addresses matched child care facilities and that in only one case did an offender had access to children.

Released from prison four years ago, the unidentified offender was living with his 80-year-old mother, who was a foster parent, but was relocated as a precaution after the corrections officials reviewed the state audit, Mr. Hinkle said.

In another case, corrections officials found that the address had previously been classified as day care, but was no longer operating.

The audit, which also found instances of sex offenders living together in violation of state law, shed light on the complex and often overlapping problems of housing sex offenders, who are often limited by state law as to where they can live.

A 2006 state law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or public park. Even as the audit was made public on Thursday, the state's sex offender management board reported that the number of transient sex offenders has increased 50 percent since August.

Suzanne Brown-McBride, the chairwoman of the board, said although the audit was worrying, it was important to check the accuracy of the findings "before we start running through and making huge policy changes."

Ms. Brown-McBride added that although no one wanted sex offenders living near a day care center, "we should not only be identifying the inappropriate places for these people to be living. We should be identifying the appropriate places, too."