Ohio investigating day cares for fraud - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Ohio investigating day cares for fraud

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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - The state has opened dozens of fraud investigations of taxpayer-funded day care centers following an overhaul designed to detect abuse in the program, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
    
The Dayton Daily News reports that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has 64 open investigations of state-funded daycare centers in 21 counties. The newspaper obtained the information from the state agency through a public-records request.
    
The centers are operated both out of homes and as small businesses. They're run by private providers reimbursed by the state for watching the children of low-income, working parents.
    
In January, the state spent $6 million to switch to a new billing method to try to weed out dishonest day care centers billing for nonexistent childcare. In March, the state agency created an anti-fraud unit.
    
Ben Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, declined to provide more details of the investigations.
    
"Some of them will most likely result in more serious action," Johnson said. "In at least a couple cases, local law enforcement is involved."
    
Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services county directors association, said the publicity about vulnerabilities in the program and fraud charges for child care providers in Lima and Columbus may have jolted the state into taking the issue more seriously.
    
The state, Potts said, is "finally starting to see what we've been saying all along: There are certainly opportunities for abuse in the system, and the few are making it bad for the many."
    
Federal funding has been available since the 1990s to subsidize day care costs for low-income working parents. In 2010, the program paid $600 million for Ohio families to day care providers.
    
In January, the state brought online an electronic billing system that replaced an old paper-billing method. Data analysts also pore over the billing activity for suspicious patterns - for instance, children who check in and out at the exact same time every day.
    
Since the change, the state has launched at least 80 investigations of possible fraud, either in response to allegations from the public or as a result of data analysis.
    
Of those, 16 were closed after state officials determined fraud wasn't taking place. There have been two fraud-related prosecutions of taxpayer-funded daycare centers in Ohio this year.

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