DSHS Investigation of Abuse or Neglect of Caregivers Working at Adult Family Homes.
DSHS Residential Care Services receives complaints regarding adult family homes. In 2010, DSHS received 543 complaints related to adult family homes. The investigative unit screens the complaints and allegations warranting follow-up are sent to an investigator. There are only seven investigators in the state. An investigation of a complaint varies from case to case, but can last from six to seven months to a couple of years to complete. Only 15 cases resulted in final findings in 2010.
The investigator then collects information and makes an assessment whether to move forward or not. The burden of proof is a “more probable than not" standard that the abuse occurred. The investigator then drafts a preliminary finding if they believe that abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult occurred.
The accused caregiver has thirty days to appeal the decision of the investigator and request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. If the person does not appeal, or appeals and is found guilty, the findings become final and the person is placed on a statewide registry. This is a professional death sentence as state law does not permit long-term care facilities to employ people placed on that registry.
Until findings are final, they are kept confidential in order to protect caregivers in the case of unfounded allegations. The names on the Registry are not readily available to the public. Providers are able to check if an employee or job applicant’s name is on the registry by providing a identifying information. DSHS’s enforcement of their findings is somewhat limited. DSHS doesn’t discipline caregivers. It does cite long-term care facilities for violating state law and putting vulnerable adults at risk by hiring caregivers with findings. With adult family homes, and all licensed and certified facilities, the provider is responsible for the safety and care of the individuals and not the state.
The attorneys at Smith & Rosenberg have substantial experience successfully defending licensees against charges from the agencies that regulate and license them. We know that your livelihood is often threatened by the charges promulgated by agencies that often have little practical experience in the industries they regulate. We understand the many avenues available to challenge an agency’s findings that can lead to a negotiated settlement or vindication of our clients.
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