Thursday, October 4, 2012

DEL taking action to address issues identified in child care subsidy audit

The Working Connections Child Care program helps low-income families pay for child care while they work, look for work, or participate in approved job training. The program helps up 30,000 families at any given time with an economic boost they need to find or maintain work.
Accountability and program integrity are one of the many areas the Department of Early Learning (DEL) has been focusing attention in the program. The child care subsidy system is an old and largely manual system. Several audits identified ways the subsidy system is not working as well as it should, and DEL has addressed many issues in accountability. For context, DEL is responsible for child care subsidy policy and oversight; the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is responsible for families’ eligibility to receive subsidized child care and payments to child care providers.
Thanks to the funding from the state Legislature, we are working on developing an electronic subsidy system that will replace the old paper and manual entry system. This will be a crucial step in tightening controls over the $280 million in subsidy payments we make each year.
Despite some cases of reported fraud in the child care community, which have been turned over to DSHS for investigation and/or prosecution, families who are eligible for services are receiving care and, as of now, the program has room to serve more families.
DEL initiated its own child care subsidy audit team to review random, targeted, and complaint-based subsidy payment records from both licensed and license-exempt child care providers. We assembled the audit team to improve accountability over child care providers’ billing practices. The team is responsible for documenting and writing overpayments for collection where errors in billing occur; the team refers potential fraud cases that are identified to DSHS’ Fraud and Accountability at the Department of Social and Health Services for investigation.
Based upon the DEL audit team’s results, DEL has asked OFM for permission to add an additional five auditors to the team, using existing federal funding.

Any amount of waste or abuse is too much. DEL has been actively working with DSHS on recovering overpayments. DEL has also modified or added to child care subsidy rules:
  • Responsibilities for child care providers who are paid for providing subsidized care.
  • The provision that providers may not receive benefits for child care subsidies at the same time as they are themselves are paid for providing care.
  • A requirement that providers maintain the last year of attendance records to be immediately available upon request on site.
  • Not allowing payments to providers who bill for more children than they are allowed to care for (called overcapacity). 
These are just a few areas where DEL and DSHS have been focusing attention to improve performance and promote responsible practices by people who work in or use the child care subsidy system.

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