Monday, December 28, 2009

Child care fraud

The Board of Supervisors in Contra Costa County has just issued a contract to use data mining to find fraud in various welfare programs, including child care.

The article says that in 2007, their civil grand jury estimated child care fraud costs Contra Costa County $500 million a year. I don't believe it. I don't believe $500 million a year is spent on child care in Contra Costa County, including private-pay centers. That would be 1/4 of all the money CDD spends on all child care programs, including CSPP, R&R, and local planning councils. It cannot be. The article says they only investigated 539 cases of potential fraud in 2007, so they must have stolen a million bucks apiece.

I'm tangentially involved in assessing child care fraud in my county. A couple of years ago, our DA issued a report to the BOS saying there was a 50% fraud rate in subsidized child care. It made the front pages. What it turned out to mean was that, of the cases that child care case managers had been suspicious enough of to refer to the DA's office, 50% of those cases turned out to involve fraud. I informed my own bosses of this mis-statement, just to cover myself, but, as one expected, it never went higher.

There is fraud in APP child care. Most of it is some poor woman  (literally) sneaking a couple of extra hours child care from the system. Some of it is lying about the father being in the home. That is, these people are stealing a service. There is also simply stealing money, getting paid for caring for services not provided, mostly because the kids don't exist or are looked after by mom at home. A few of  these involve big rings that rise to a few hundred thousand dollars in fraudulent payments over a period of years.

But I simply cannot believe Contra Costa County loses $500 million a year in fraudulent child care payments. If this is not a typo, somebody snowed the grand jury.

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