A new audit of the South Carolina agency that serves citizens with disabilities recommends requiring a central adult abuse registry and background checks of caregivers.
The Legislative Audit Council’s audit released Monday states those who employ caregivers need a database to search for any past abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Auditors noted at least 20 other states have some form of adult abuse registry. South Carolina also maintains a list of child abuse and neglect cases at the state Department of Social Services.
The audit said approximately one out of every four caregivers at state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs facilities was hired “without knowledge of their criminal background.” Nearly one in ten had no documentation of a criminal background check at all.
“Maintaining an adult abuse registry… would provide an additional safeguard for vulnerable adults,” auditors wrote in the report.
Gloria Prevost, director of the nonprofit Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities says such a database is important because it would provide peace of mind for families of persons who are in need of constant care. She noted the recommendations were first made back in 2008 and legislation proposed the next year, but it never passed the Statehouse.
“I think it would offer great protections for people who are in the care of others,” Prevost told South Carolina Radio Network. “That they and their family members would feel more secure when they’re not able to be in their own homes with their family.”
The audit also recommends that all caregivers undergo a national, fingerprint-based criminal check and a national sex offender registry check.
In their response, DDSN officials sought to ease safety concerns, saying the agency is in compliance with South Carolina criminal background check laws.
“The allegations of (substantiated) abuse… across all facility types and locations is extremely low, ranging from 0.01 to 0.06 percent of people served across each of the 5 years of the audit period,” DDSN said in its response.
Tom Hayes and Matt Long contributed to this report