New Jersey's 40th Legislative District

Senator Kristin Corrado

Senator Kristin Corrado

Sweeney-Corrado-Vitale Bill To Tighten Background Checks for Developmental Disability Caregivers Gains Committee Approval

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Action Responds To State Auditor’s Report Revealing Security Lapses

Reacting to findings of security lapses that allowed workers hired to care for people with developmental disabilities to evade background checks, the Senate Budget Committee today approved legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Kristin Corrado and Senator Joe Vitale that would strengthen state law by requiring the Department of Human Services to be responsible for the safety checks.

Legislation by Senators Sweeney, Corrado, and Vitale expands the criminal background check requirement for agencies that serve individuals with developmental disabilities. (Pixabay)

The legislation, S-3554, was crafted in response to an audit that found that some of the caregivers sidestepped the law requiring criminal background checks and that others failed to comply by having the service providers wave the requirements.

“Anyone who is entrusted with caring for our most vulnerable residents should be subjected to the most stringent criminal background checks available. No exceptions,” Senator Corrado said. “We cannot allow one more person to fall through the cracks in the system. We must be a voice for the voiceless. This legislation will ensure the state upholds its responsibility to root out the bad actors, so we can keep people with disabilities safe from harm.”

This bill would expand the current federal and State background check requirement for agencies that serve individuals with developmental disabilities.  The bill would expressly require federal and State background checks for individuals who operate agencies that serve individuals with brain injuries, community care residences, and any alternates for the community care residences.  The bill would also shift the responsibility for reviewing background checks from the agency to the State.

“The law should be clear and definitive in requiring thorough background checks of each and every person who is responsible for caring for those with developmental disabilities and that these safety standards are strictly enforced,” said Senator Sweeney. “There should be no confusion and no exceptions when it comes to entrusting people with the responsibility to care for this vulnerable population. This audit revealed weaknesses in the current system that will be tightened by this legislation.”

“The recently-enacted bill known as ‘Stephen Komnino’s Law’ will help improve safety standards for caregivers and the state funding to increase their pay are important steps in safeguarding those in care” said Senator Vitale. “But the law for criminal background checks needs to be tougher. Every potential worker should get a background check and anyone identified as a safety threat should be removed or disqualified.”

The bill would clarify in statute that all residences for individuals with developmental disabilities which are licensed by the Department of Human Services or the Department of Children and Families would be required to have an un-announced annual inspection if there are pending safety issues.

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