Problems with a contractor hired to process state background checks are leaving job seekers in limbo for months and costing state businesses lots of money.
The holdups have even slowed the adoption process for some children.
Speaking at a legislative interim meeting on Tuesday, Mark Drennan, executive director of the West Virginia Behavioral Health Care Providers Association, told lawmakers that glitches with MorphoTrust have caused some employers to wait three or four months before receiving results of background checks for potential employees.
"This broken system prevents individuals from being gainfully employed," he said.
Scott Boileau, executive director of the Alliance for Children, Inc., said parents wanting to adopt or foster children have experienced similar delays.
Background checks are required in West Virginia for anyone wanting to work with children, the elderly or the mentally ill. Anyone wanting to adopt or foster a child who has been deemed a ward of the state also is required to get a background check.
Boileau said he knows of one family that has waited nine months for the results of their background check. Other families become frustrated with the process and drop out.
"Folks are not going to put up with that," he said.
Although problems with background checks have not slowed any active adoptions, Boileau said the slow turnaround times have kept some children in the state's care for much longer than necessary.
"The fact is, there probably have been kids that could have been placed sooner," he said.
The state hired MorphoTrust, previously known as L-1 Enrollment Services, in August 2011. Before that, the State Police processed all background checks.
The contract was renewed in August, even though Drennan wrote a letter to Tomblin in July warning of problems with the contractor.
Capt. Michael Corsaro of the State Police told lawmakers on Tuesday that before hiring the company, background checks sometimes would not be processed for two months or longer.
He said the Huntington State Police detachment often had so many people waiting in line for background checks that troopers could not respond to calls because they had to stay in the office and take fingerprints.
Members of the Legislature's Select Committee on PEIA, Seniors and Long Term Care were not pleased to hear of the problems.
"In an age of technology, it's not acceptable to have to wait that long," Delegate Larry Williams, D-Preston, said.
Williams is the co-chairman of the committee.
Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, said she knows of businesses in her district that have waited two or three months to receive the results of a background check.
"By then, somebody has already found another job," she said.
Hiring MorphoTrust was supposed to free up troopers for police work and reduce the turnaround time for background checks.
"Our excitement quickly turned in the opposite direction, to agitation," Drennan said.
Drennan said there were often problems with the company's digital fingerprint system, so MorphoTrust would take old-fashioned ink fingerprints. The company purchased a scanner to digitize those inked cards, but the device did not work.
Drennan said everyone who had their fingerprints taken while MorpoTrust was using that scanner had to go back and get new prints.
He said many providers have returned to inking fingerprints themselves and sending the cards to MorphoTrust for processing. It's the same process as before the state hired the company, he said, except it costs businesses $9 more per background check.