A registered sex offender who managed to get hired as a family caseworker and expand his role to mentoring young boys several years ago is now charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old Buffalo boy, authorities said Tuesday.
Police said Phillip T. Young, despite becoming a registered sex offender in 1995, was hired in 2000 by the Buffalo Urban League to help work with families experiencing difficult times. The hiring raises questions about why his background was not thoroughly vetted.That incident cost him his job at the Urban League. But when Young was set free, police said, he managed to re-establish contact with a child in one of the families he had previously mentored.
In 2006, Young, 44, was arrested for making sexual overtures to a youth whom he took to his home, according to police. As a result, he spent a year in jail.
After doing so, he sexually molested the 13-year-old boy last summer as the child slept in his family’s home, police said. In addition, police said, Young was also mentoring some of the boy’s brothers, though he was no longer associated with the Urban League.Young, who lists his occupation as a social worker, was arrested Sunday after the boy told relatives what had happened last August. Charges against Young, of Sumner Place, include sexual abuse, committing a criminal sexual act and endangering the welfare of a child.
“He was telling people after he was released that he was in jail for failing to pay child support,” said a law enforcement official familiar with the case in explaining how Young was able to reconnect with families he’d met while mentoring.
Outraged that Young was ever given the chance to have contact with young boys given his sex offender status, authorities said the Urban League had an obligation to check the state’s online sex offender registry before ever hiring him.
“You would hope that practices are in place to minimize mistakes like that from happening again,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
“All mentoring programs, at a very minimal, should do a record check. All they have to do is put the name into the registry to see if they are sex offenders. That information is open to everybody,” the other law enforcement official said. “They definitely need to check these people out before they send them into people’s homes.”
If the Urban League had checked the registry before hiring Young, critics say, he would never would have gotten the opportunity to establish a relationship with his latest victim.Brenda McDuffie, president of the Urban League, said that background checks are conducted on all prospective workers before her organization decides whether to hire them, but that Young was brought in from another agency when it closed.
“Unfortunately when he was first hired, we agreed to take staff from another organization that was closing, My Brother’s Keeper, and he was one of the staff we took,” McDuffie said. “He was one of the people who unfortunately slipped through the cracks.”
When the Urban League learned of his 2006 arrest, McDuffie said, Young was immediately fired and the Erie County Social Services Department was contacted “so that they could notify all the families he had contact with, and we were under the understanding that they notified all the families.”
She added that Young was not an official mentor.
“He was a family caseworker, working with the family through a parent and every parent is told that our staff is never allowed to take their children without their supervision,” said McDuffie, stressing that Young’s crimes were not taken lightly. “It’s the worst thing to have our children put in jeopardy.”
In addition to doing background checks on potential new hires, McDuffie said her workers are now reviewed annually to make sure they are in good standing and to safeguard clients.
Young is a Level 2 sex offender. Those individuals are considered at risk of possibly reoffending, while individuals rated at Level 3, the highest level, are viewed as the most likely to reoffend.
Derenda added that parents are the first line of defense for their children.
“It is incumbent upon parents to know who their children are associating with,” he said.
Young, who is being held without bail in the Erie County Holding Center, is scheduled to appear in Buffalo City Court at 9:30 a. m. Thursday for a felony hearing.
In the 2006 incident, Young asked a 15-year-old boy he was mentoring if he could show him a pornographic movie, according to police. He also asked the boy if he would perform oral sex for $1,000. The youth refused.
Young became a registered sex offender in 1995 on a sodomy conviction stemming from an arrest at Buffalo State College.
"25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years"