State Auditor Susan Montee says several state agencies need to do a better job of keeping people of suspect backgrounds from caring for children, the elderly and the mentally ill.

Montee has released an audit of the state departments of Social Services, Mental Health and Health and Senior Services. Montee says Missouri is one of only a handful of states that doesn’t automatically disqualify individuals from employment at residential care facilities if they have a criminal background. She says legislators could make that change in state law.

She says state agencies also need to do their part by tightening regulations on who can and cannot work with the Missouri’s most vulnerable residents. Montee notes that the Department of Social Services doesn’t automatically keep people who have been convicted of child abuse from working in nursing homes. Hiring is left to the discretion of the residential facility’s executive director.

The audit says the Department of Mental Health doesn’t require state-run facilities to conduct periodic criminal history checks or to determine whether employees have been listed on the state sexual abuse registry. The State Auditor’s review found that 22 workers who abused mentally ill patients had prior child abuse or neglect convictions.

The Health and Senior Services Department, according to the audit, doesn’t require its providers to conduct national criminal background checks. The audit says some people with out-of-state criminal histories have worked for Missouri providers.