Monday, March 17, 2008

Sex offender law months from fixing; predators living near day cares


An effort to fix a glitch in a state law originally intended to keep child sex offenders at least 500 feet away from home-based day cares is under way but may take a few months or more.

State Rep. James Meyer, R-Naperville, is leading the effort to repair the 2006 law, which he sponsored. "We are going to come up with a law that protects children in home day cares as soon as possible," he said.

Meyer said that by the end of next week, he hopes to have come up with a workable definition of a home day care. It will likely be one that is licensed for three or more children, he said.

The next step will be to find a suitable bill already in the legislative process and attach the revised in-home day care law definition to it, a move Meyer said would cut the length of time to get the new definition into effect.

The 2006 law's definition of a home-based day care was taken from the 1969 Child Care Act, which defined home day cares as being licensed for at least nine children.

The statute applied only to home day cares licensed for nine or more children, but none of the state's 10,080 home day cares were licensed for nine or more children. That is likely because a regulation requires that for more than eight children a helper must be hired, according to a News-Democrat investigation published Feb. 17.

The newspaper also reported that after checking 4,066 licensed in-home and commercial days cares, it found that 786 of them -- including 718 home day cares -- were in neighborhoods where at least one child sex offender lived within 500 feet.

In St. Clair and Madison Counties, 37 day cares were found with an offender living within 500 feet. In Chicago, 673 day cares, or one in four, were found to be too close to a child sex offender.

The original legislation's senate sponsor, Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Westmont, has blamed the faulty definition on the Department of Children and Family Services, whose staffers help draft the original legislation.

DCFS licenses day cares but does not enforce the child sex offender laws. That duty falls to local police departments.

Meyer said that when the law took effect in June 2006, its sponsors didn't realize that the nine-child definition would exclude the very type of child care operation the law was meant to protect.

DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe has said he would have no comment on the original law or efforts to change it.

Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at and 239-2625.

No comments: