A state-funded child care program, called Childcare and Parent Services, is investigating parents and daycare centers that have been wrongfully claiming taxpayer money for which they didn't qualify.
Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Bobby Cagle said the department is still trying to determine exactly how much money has been given away that shouldn't have been, but he estimated the amount is anywhere between $5-10 million.
"It is disappointing," Cagle said. "We as an agency serve families that really need this service. Any amount of money that goes through overpayments inadvertently or goes to a fraudulent purpose, deducts from the amount that we can spend on those families that really need the service."
One of those parents is Christina Morton, mother to 10-month-old Autumn.
"I definitely can't afford daycare, but we're going to make it work," Morton said.
Morton works and goes to school, and said she is trying to apply for the state-funded program.
"It's hard juggling school and work, too, and then if you need to work more hours you can't because you can't afford daycare, so you have to stay at home, and that would take away from the bills you have to pay," Morton said.
Cagle said the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts is doing the audit. He said the audit has found problems mostly with parents who haven't reported salary increases that would make them ineligible for funding. He also says some Department of Family and Children's Services workers have made errors in reporting whether or not families qualify for the funding. But the most disturbing finding, he said, is of daycare centers who may have intentionally committed fraud.
"A provider could potentially claim that children attended their programs that did not attend," Cagle said.
Cagle said that over the next few months, his department will contact people who were getting free childcare who didn't qualify to get them to pay back the state what they owe. He said those who appear to have committed intentional fraud will be prosecuted. Names of those being prosecuted will be released at a later date.
Copyright 2013 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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