School officials: delays in background checks for A+ workers put kids at risk

Local News

Delays in getting background checks for A+ workers are causing problems. Some school officials say they’re putting kids at risk.

The background checks are required by law and everyone agrees they are necessary. But the delays are leading to a severe shortage of A+ workers. So there aren’t enough of them watching the kids.

At Wilson Elementary School in Kahala, there are about 300 children in the A+ after school program. The ratio for supervision is supposed to be one aide or group leader for every 20 kids.

“We may have one leader watching 50 to 100 kids, provided who comes to work when they come to work,” said Shawn Coleman, A+ Site Coordinator.
“That can’t be safe?” KHON2 asked.
“No, that’s far from ideal,” Coleman said.

He’s been working in the A+ program for 17 years, and says the severe shortage of workers is worse than ever. He says background checks provided by the state Department of Human Services normally take about a week.

Now it’s taking more than two months.

“I brought this up many times with the state A+ people as well as our district A+ coordinators and the Honolulu District A+ people share our frustration and our concerns. But it all comes back to the Department of Human Services,” said Coleman.

KHON2 spoke with other officials with the A+ DOE program and they say it is a serious concern. They brought it up with state leadership and they say something needs to be done. Kamaaina Kids, a private company that also runs A+ programs says it’s having problems also and has a waiting list of 200 children.

The background checks require getting fingerprints from the applicant to check for a criminal record, records of child abuse, neglect, and sex offenses.

DHS says delays are caused by “the comprehensive nature of the background checks… the number of different types of checks completed.”

And it “continues to look for opportunities to improve efficiencies in the process.”

Coleman says the problem needs to be fixed before something bad happens, and parents are getting concerned.

“I’m sure that they ensure the safety of their children with me because I know them, I know the kids. However, like I said, it’s far from ideal,” he said.

DHS says the average time for background checks is three to four weeks. But we checked with other A+ officials and they confirm that in many cases, it’s taking two months.

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