Parents for Safe Child Care

'This Is A Matter Of Bureaucratic Indifference'

March 31, 2003

By Bryan Johnson

OLYMPIA - The State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) says it performs only criminal background checks on persons who are approved by parents to provide at-home babysitting for relatives and others.

Tracey Wright of Oak Harbor will spend the next 20 years in prison for her role in the sexual abuse and exploitation of kids, including two of her own children.

She was not a state approved daycare provider, but the state had approved her as a babysitter in her Oak Harbor home for some of the other seven victims.

This, despite the fact the state had earlier removed three of her own children from her care.

Those include her 13-year-son, a level three sex offender, and an infant son and a 1-year-old daughter removed from the home 10 years ago.

But Tracey Wright had no criminal record. That's all the state checked for.

That upsets Stu Jacobson of "Parents for Safe Child Care". He told KOMO 4 News: "This is a matter of bureaucratic indifference. This is really looking though the lens of an ethically slanted compass."

The state limits its checks to criminal records maintained by the State Patrol and the FBI. It does not check for past child abuse or child custody records. DSHS explains why: "It would be a violation of Federal confidentiality laws to check these records."

Suppose someone had reported Tracey Wright's history to the state, what then? "Even if we had reports of past abuse complaints, we would not have the right to check under federal law."

Jacobson says that not acceptable: "You're going to get people who are unfit to care for kids continually creeping in, and they are going to care for kids and obviously expose them to harm's way."

The state has this advice for parents: Either use fully-licensed state daycare, or do your own background check on whoever is taking care of your kids.

The state explains it does full background checks on licensed day care workers who waive confidentiality restrictions to facilitate such checks.

Parents for Safe Child Care is a 501(c)(3) non-profit