[A] 62-year-old Indianapolis man says his name — shared with thousands in Indiana — landed him in a rare predicament when he was mistakenly identified as a criminal and suspended from his job.
The blunder sent Richard Anthony Brown on a week of bouncing from one state agency to another before finally clearing his name.
Brown was working as a caregiver in the Lawrence Township school district’s after-school care program when his name popped up — three times — in a routine background check. Indiana Department of Child Services records showed three Richard Browns with criminal records.
DCS officials notified Lawrence Township’s Before- and After-School Care Program, which told Brown last week that he was suspended from his job. Day cares risk losing their licenses if they hire people convicted of felonies or misdemeanors involving children or domestic violence.
Richard Brown was suddenly in a position of needing to prove that he wasn’t one of the other Richard Browns.
“These other Browns lived in three different counties where I had never lived in my life, and they committed some kind of offenses in the late 1990s,” Brown said. “I’ve lived here (in Marion County) since 1981.”
Brown said he called the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, which runs background checks on day-care workers. The department told him he had to contact DCS.
DCS told Brown that if he could prove he lived in Marion County when the other Richard Browns were out breaking the law, he could get his job back.
FSSA spokeswoman Marni Lemons said that in sending information for the background check, Lawrence Township Schools apparently sent only Brown’s name without a birth date. The agency then conducted a check in a database kept by DCS.
When Brown’s name came up as a criminal, the agency told the school day care.
“I don’t know why they would send in a common name with no other information, but it happens,” Lemons said.
At that point, Lemons said, the day care or Brown had the responsibility to provide more information to the DCS that would exonerate Brown, Lemon said.
“We know there are people with the same name, and we tell the provider to work it out with the individual,” Lemons said. “They then have a chance to appeal the finding directly to the DCS, since it is their database.”
Lemons said FSSA’s system worked “exactly as it was designed to.”
Stephanie McFarland, a spokeswoman for DCS, said its process ran as intended, as well.Give me a break.. So the DCS accuses someone of a crime simply because they have a common name, Richard Brown, held by thousands of other Hoosiers, some of whom have committed crimes.The man immediately gets suspended and it becomes his burden to prove he's not the Richard Brown who has a criminal record? What if his employer isn't willing to spend the time and effort to work with the employee to straighten out this mess borne out of pure bureaucratic laziness? If this is indeed how the system is designed to operate, the system needs to be changed. Immediately.
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