The man in charge of California’s Department of Social Services admitted this week that the state is woefully behind in efforts to adequately monitor centers caring for our children and elderly.
In testimony before a joint hearing of the San Adena Human Services Committees Tuesday, the department’s director admitted that his office made mistakes in the past and he vowed to pour resources into fixing them.
“What we realized was we were dealing with the consequences of a completely outdated management information system," said Will Lightbourne, the Director of the Department of Social Services.
Lightbourne and more than a dozen witnesses said the same thing: their system of oversight to facilities that house and care for the elderly and young children is outdated and broken.
It’s a system that was developed and implemented nearly 25 years ago. One that hasn't been upgraded and still depends on a nearly obsolete computer program.
Maribeth Shannon is a healthcare advocate with California HealthCare Foundation who testified in the hearing.
“I hope we don't let this crisis go. I hope we really can use this as a way to put an infrastructure in place that allows more information to be collected, more information to be shared," Shannon said.
The meeting in Sacramento follows our NBC 7 Investigation into home day cares.
On May 23, 2012, Cristina Oliver dropped her son off at a Clairemont home day care, hours later he was dead.
The Medical Examiner said Lou's death was a homicide. The little boy had suffered head and spine trauma.
The daycares owner, James Nemeth was not arrested or charged.
But, had the Olivers read his file beforehand, they say they would have never trusted him with their son.
The daycare owners had been cited by the Department of Social Services several times dating back to 2007.
James Nemeth declined NBC7’s requests for interviews.
However he did send NBC7 an email last November saying, in part: "I cared for Louis, he was an amazing child. I tried everything I could to save him and the fact I failed is something that will be with me forever."
NBC 7 discovered that obtaining the file for a home daycare isn't easy.
You have to make an appointment with a local social services office and review the file in person.
“It should be easy for us to go online, type in the licensing number and see all of the whole case file on there and it seems like it’s archaic right now,” Cristina Oliver said. “This gigantic pile you have to sift through and look for information. It’s very laborious.”
Director Lightbourne tells NBC 7 that a thorough data system is years away and would cost as much as $20 million dollars.
In the meantime he says Social Services hopes to post a temporary day care tool with basic three-year inspection histories online by this spring.
Right now state law only requires day cares to be inspected once every five years, and that's something other lawmakers vowed to change this legislative session.
“It’s embarrassing, quite frankly,” said State Sen. Leland Yee, who represents San Francisco and San Mateo, referring to the state’s current system for inspecting child and elderly care facilities and disseminating that information to the public. "These problems have been around for a long time, and so we have really put some kids in harm's way."
Cristina and Mike Oliver sent NBC 7 an email writing:
“It’s about time lawmakers are addressing this issue. Our state legislators need to take action now. There has been too many cases like our son’s case happening throughout the state. Since the Department of Social Services candidly admits that their system is outdated and broken they need to make this their No. 1 priority. The system needs to be overhauled and re-done up to the standards of today’s society. We should be given better online access to daycare provider files and when there is a complaint at a daycare, the system should have real time updates alerting parents. This is positive news and we hope that this awareness will bring changes in the near future.”