Auditor: Flaws riddle Colo. child abuse database

Auditor: Flaws riddle Colo. child abuse database

In Colorado, where 29 children died last year from abuse, a state child abuse database holds inaccurate records and is used incorrectly, state auditors said this week.

The Human Services Department operates the 30-year-old registry and its new Trails database management system. Many details in the records are wrong, and the users lack training, the auditors found.

In a sample of 31 child abuse reports from June 2000 to March 2001, the auditors found 44 errors. They included 'instances where children's names were misspelled, Social Security numbers were incorrect, severity and types of abuse were incorrect, and birth dates were missing,' the report said.

The auditors examined all 107,848 records in the database and found gaps that limit its usefulness in tracking down abusers. About 7,600 records were missing, they said, including perpetrators' birth dates'a required field. About 46,000 records lacked the perpetrator's Social Security number. Another 1,200 records lacked information about the nature and severity of abuse.

When the auditors compared a sample of 48 convicted child sex offenders from a state Web site against the registry, they found 19 were not listed in the Human Services database.

Nor does the database properly purge the records of persons cleared of child abuse charges, the auditors reported. They identified 191 individuals who had been acquitted but were still listed as perpetrators.

Many of the errors result from manual data re-entry, according to the report, and the system itself also updates inaccurately, the auditors said. County officials told them that the state department has not provided proper training.

'We were aware prior to the audit that there were issues with the registry for child protection,' department spokeswoman Liz McDonough said. State officials have been meeting with a work group for several months to develop administrative and technical recommendations for improvement, she said.

McDonough added, 'We have a lot of people making reports to the registry'it is not as consistent as it needs to be.'

The department agreed with many of the auditors' recommendations and pledged to implement several of them by mid-2002 with help from Colorado's IT Services office.

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