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'Oops Is Not Good Enough': Audit Says California Database Missed Thousands Of Child Abuse Reports

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A state database is putting children at risk after the state auditor's office says a filing error may have given child abusers access to young people.

The system built to protect California children is broken.

"We give 100% trust to that system," said Krystal Bartlett, owner of Forever Friends Early Learning Center in Sacramento.

Bartlett said she relies on the Child Abuse Central Index, better known as CACI, to ensure she's hiring the right teachers.

"It's our first green light that the person is OK to come in and be around children," she said.

But a state audit released Tuesday shows more than half of the child abuse reports between 2017-2021 are missing from CACI, which means approximately 22,000 suspects with a history of child abuse are not in the database.

"Some of these individuals may currently have inappropriate access to children," said auditor specialist Wade Fry.

Fry said counties are supposed to report child abusers to the state Department of Justice but some documents weren't filed properly or went missing and weren't added to the database.

We asked Audit Principal Ben Ward how the state could make such an error.

"We found that sometimes the counties were not able to demonstrate that they sent the info to the DOJ. Other times, it looked like the DOJ didn't enter it into the database," said Ben Ward, audit principal of data analytics.

Ward said the process would occasionally even rely on hardcopies and mail to file reports. He called the filing system inefficient and out of date.

"No not when it comes to our children, definitely not. Oops is not good enough," he said.

According to the report, roughly 300 reports of child abuse are not supported by county records which means people are listed on CACI who shouldn't be.

The state auditors suggested both short-term and long-term solutions. Short term, they're asking social services and the DOJ to work with the counties and double-check reported child abusers. Long term, they're asking the state Legislature to update the system and allow DOJ to have direct access to the system counties use to document child abuse cases.

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