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Equal Opportunity Employer

April 4, 2011 permalink

Want a job as a foster parent? Put assault, prostitution, drunken driving, theft or shoplifting on your resumé. This is no joke. Alaska hires fosters with exactly those qualifications.



Alaska licensing some foster parents with criminal backgrounds

20 out of 350 foster homes had a parent with a police record

ANCHORAGE - Some of the foster parents licensed to care for children in Alaska are people with a history of assault, prostitution, drunken driving, theft and shoplifting, according to an investigation by the Anchorage Daily News.

The state's largest newspaper compared records from the state court system dating back to the 1970s with the state's listing of about 1,200 foster homes.

Out of some 350 Anchorage foster homes, court records reviewed by an Anchorage computer service company for the Daily News found about 20 foster parents with a criminal history, including DWIs and decade-old cases. A handful of other foster parents outside the Anchorage area also had records.

Officials with the Division of Family and Youth Services said that in some cases they were unaware of the criminal records. In other cases, they knew of the problems but approved the homes anyway, believing foster children would not be put at additional risk.

The agency did a review of its own and removed eight children from foster homes and closed three homes. But despite the increased scrutiny, one boy was mistakenly left with his foster father for 2 months after the foster home was officially shut down. The boy stayed there until his foster father was jailed on a new charge of domestic violence assault in December, the Daily News reported Sunday.

``We are still concerned about the safety of our foster homes and the safety of our residential homes,'' Health and Social Services Commissioner Karen Perdue said recently.

The state pays a tax-free stipend of about $23 a day per child to foster parents. If the child has serious problems, the payment is more. Last fiscal year, for instance, one foster family who took in young sex offenders received $46,800.

The state regulates foster parents to make sure they provide a safe, nurturing home for children whose own parents are unfit. Rules for foster parents are generally supposed to eliminate people who have ever been charged with serious offenses, including felonies, sex offenses and domestic violence assault. State law allows case-by-case exceptions.

Alaska has had a system since at least the early 1980s to check all prospective foster parents and weed out people with criminal histories.

The system has grown more sophisticated over the years and now includes state and FBI criminal record checks based on fingerprints. DFYS also checks its own child abuse records, the state sex offender registry and references. A worker interviews the family and inspects the home.

DFYS officials said they don't know how many foster parents have criminal records. They are working on a better system to uncover those who have prior records or get into trouble after they've been licensed.

``The vast majority of our foster homes are wonderful, but there are a few with problems,'' said Kathy Posegate, DFYS staff manager in Anchorage.

About 50 Alaska children are taken away from their parents every month because of abuse or neglect. The total number of children in care reached a record in December, topping 2,150, before dropping slightly this month.

Most of the crimes among foster parents occurred long ago, represented a one-time lapse and no longer relate to who the person is today, officials said.

``People can change,'' Perdue said.

Source: Juneau Empire