LANSING - Michigan put thousands of lower-income children at risk by authorizing sex offenders and other criminals to provide day care between 2003 and 2006, according to a state audit released yesterday.
Auditor General Thomas McTavish said the Department of Human Services licensed, registered, or enrolled about 1,900 "unsuitable" day-care providers, including child abusers and 31 people on the public sex-offender registry.
A majority of the providers were relatives of the children or aides caring for them in the children's homes, not licensed homes or facilities.
The state pays the providers if their lower-income parents are working or going to school.
In response to the audit's findings, the state stopped paying some providers and began running added criminal background checks on workers in April, 2007, after it was told that its primary background-check program wasn't flagging all offenders.
The state also expanded a list of crimes for which providers' services can be ended, started doing background checks on other adults in relatives' homes, and did pre-enrollment checks on providers.
Some previous checks didn't start until after certain providers enrolled with the state and indicated they had committed no crimes.
State authorities don't visit or monitor the types of day-care homes covered primarily by the audit.
Between October, 2003, and March, 2006, the state enrolled 116,585 day-care providers to care for 273,364 children whose families get financial assistance for day care. About 4,600 of those could have been at risk, the audit showed.