Scores of people convicted of crimes such as rape, elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon are permitted to care for some of California’s most vulnerable residents as part of the government’s home health aide program, reports the Los Angeles Times. At least 210 workers and applicants flagged by investigators as unsuitable to work in the program are nonetheless scheduled to resume or begin employment. State and county investigators have not reported many whose backgrounds include violent crimes because the rules of the program, as interpreted by a judge earlier this year, permit felons to work as home care aides. Thousands of current workers have had no background checks.
Only a history of specific types of child abuse, elder abuse or defrauding of public assistance programs can disqualify a person under the court ruling. But not all perpetrators of even those crimes can be blocked. In addition, privacy laws prevent investigators from cautioning the program’s elderly, infirm and disabled clients that they may end up in the care of someone who has committed violent or financial crimes. “We are allowing these people into the homes of vulnerable individuals without supervision,” said John Wagner, director of the state Department of Social Services. “It is dangerous.” Administrators and law enforcers have warned lawmakers. But efforts to address the problem have stalled in the Legislature.