NYC homeless shelters fail to properly screen child care workers

The city puts young children living in homeless shelters in danger by failing to properly screen child care workers, an audit by the City Controller found.

Scott Stringer’s inspectors checked out 43 on-site child care centers in city shelters and found 82% of the staffers had not undergone a criminal background check.

By contrast, all public child care centers funded by the city must have their workers fingerprinted and screened through the Statewide Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.

“This investigation reveals that New York City has created two standards of care — an inferior system for homeless children and one for everyone else,” Controller Scott Stringer said. “We found a lack of oversight in shelters that we inspected, as well as conditions that would give any parent nightmares — and that is not acceptable.”

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“There should be one health and safety standard for all child care facilities in New York City, regardless of where their children go to sleep at night,” he added.

Stringer called on the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to police the care providers working at shelters.

He also suggested the city increase homeless parent’s access to child care vouchers for subsidized care.

The 30-page audit comes as the number of families with children depending on the city Department of Homeless Services for housing has spiked by 68%, from 7,624 families in August 2007 to 12,828 families in August 2016.

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The entire shelter population hit a record 60,107 people in October, a number that includes 23,554 children, records show.

Still, most of the young children in shelters do not have access to child care services, according to the audit.

All told, 99 of the 167 (59%) of the shelters housing families do not offer any on-site care or so-called “linkage agreements” to help connect parents with locally based providers.

Many of the shelters that do provide child care do so without permits and in areas that fail to abide by basic safety standards, the audit found.

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In 21 rooms checked by investigators, 41% had no sprinklers, 18% had no fire extinguishers, 9% had designated emergency exit doors locked from the inside, and 50% had insufficient outdoor space, the report said.

Stringer, a Democrat who is reportedly positioning himself to run again Mayor de Blasio, has long criticized the administration's handling of the city’s homeless crisis.

The Controller released a report last December that found 87% of shelter units across the city housing families had conditions that threatened residents' health or safety.

More than half of the apartments had rats, rodents, or other pests.

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