State: New Rochelle Needs More Checks Of Youth Workers

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New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office issued a report of an audit that revealed New Rochelle to be inconsistent in its background checks of employees of youth programs. Photo Credit: Office of the State Comptroller

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – New Rochelle needs to conduct better background checks when it comes to its employees who work with youth programs, according to the results of an audit recently released by New York State Comptrolloer Thomas DiNapoli

“Failing to perform background checks potentially jeopardizes the safety of children,” said DiNapoli, in a prepared statement. “It is essential that local officials take action to ensure they are consistently screening all persons who provide youth program services in their communities. Parents need to trust that all of the necessary steps have been taken to keep their children out of harm’s way.”

New Rochelle is one of seven municipalities in the state the audit found are inconsistent when it comes to employment screenings.

The audit, “Background Checks at Municipal Youth Programs,” aimed to find out whether municipalities actively helped to create a safe environment for youth participating in programs sponsored by the municipality.

The audit found that New Rochelle only checked personnel for programs for which the state mandates screening. Background checks are currently required by the state for any individuals who have contact with children in camps, child-care programs, and therapeutic programs.

These requirements, however, do not cover all youth programs the city operates, according to the report.

City officials reportedly told the state they believed “that the application process itself was a deterrent to persons who could jeopardize children’s safety.”

The lack of certain background checks were also attributed to how well the individual was known to the city as well as employment by the school district. Limited resources were also a factor. 

Due to the lack of consistent background checks, the state tested the names of those who provide youth program services to see if there was any record of sex offense or criminal history, and found none among the employees or contractors.

“Nonetheless, background checks of all individuals who provide services to youth programs are essential for helping municipalities protect children against unsafe individuals and help protect the municipality against liability from possible legal action,” according to the report.  In addition, the state urges all municipalities to conduct annual background checks for all employees, not just new ones.

There are 82 employees and 55 contractors who work for youth programs in which 2,000 children participate, according to the report.

A message for a comment on the audit was left with Parks and Recreation Commissioner William Zimmerman.

To read the full report, visit the state Office of the Comptroller website.

Check back with The New Rochelle Daily Voice later this week for the city’s reaction to the audit.

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