As anyone living in Utah can attest, the state has no shortage of children. According to the CDC, Utah has the fifth highest fertility rate in the United States. This is great news for daycares and home child care professionals who work in the state; they can have a lucrative and fulfilling career as long as Utah's rules and regulations are followed. If a complaint is filed against a child care facility, they are at risk of losing not only their professional license, but the livelihoods of all their employees.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm is here to help you prevent that from happening. If you or your business are facing an investigation into your professional child care license, do not hesitate to retain our services. Oftentimes, people dealing with license complaints do not realize the importance of having an experienced legal team until it is too late. While most of Utah's child care businesses are located along the Wasatch Front in Salt Lake County and Utah County, the Lento Law Firm advises clients all across the state, from Logan to Park City to St. George. For the best chance of success, contact our Professional License Defense Team as soon as you catch wind of the complaint. We can be reached by calling 888-535-3686 or by filling out our online form.
Utah's Child Care Licensing Committee
In Utah, daycare and child care licensing falls under the purview of the Child Care Center Licensing Committee, which is within the Office of Licensing. The entire operation falls under the much larger Utah Department of Health and Human Services. Using authority granted to them by the 1997 Utah Child Care Licensing Act, the Child Care Licensing Committee is responsible for licensing and regulating both commercial facilities (daycares) and residential facilities.
The staff of the Child Care Center Licensing Committee have a wide-ranging set of objectives, including:
- Monitoring child care facilities to ensure they are complying with United States and Utah state law
- Providing training and assistance to child care providers
- Processing background checks
- Maintain an informational public list of child care providers in the state and their licensing records
- Investigate any complaint that alleges rule-breaking or care by an unlicensed facility or individual
The licensors employed by the Child Care Center Licensing Committee are individuals with child care experience and/or degrees in fields related to child development. Each licensor undergoes a minimum of 480 hours of training before they are allowed to conduct inspections.
Child Care Facility Inspections
Utah's way of licensing compliance involves ongoing inspections of child care facilities. Because child care is a very fluid business (children grow up and are replaced by younger children), the Child Care Center Licensing Committee monitors each facility closely to ensure the quality of care is always at a high level. Child care licensees will have to account for a variety of inspection types.
- Pre-License Inspections. These are done during the initial licensing process. The facility itself is measured and evaluated for safety. The results of this can have an impact on potential issues down the road. For example, if the licensor determines that your facility has a capacity of twenty children (based on square footage and other assessments), then the licensee can be in noncompliance if they are caring for twenty-five children the next time the licensor visits. Assuming the business is in compliance with all of the Child Care Center Licensing Committee requirements, a license will be issued.
- Announced Inspections. Once a year, approximately 30 to 90 days before the date the child care license is set to expire, there will be an announced inspection. The licensee is informed ahead of time. The licensor will be checking for child safety and to confirm all rules are being followed.
- Unannounced Inspections. Each child care facility will also receive a surprise visit by the licensor once annually. It can happen at any time throughout the year. The purpose of an unannounced inspection is to make sure facilities are maintaining compliance year-round and not only when they can prepare for the Child Care Center Licensing Committee employee to stop by.
After every inspection, the child care provider will be given the results of the inspection and the licensor's conclusions.
Violations Found During an Inspection: What Happens?
If an instance of noncompliance has been found, the licensor will explain the rule and give the licensee a chance to discuss the violation. Along with input from the child care provider, the licensor will set a correction date to resolve the compliance. If the violation is serious (meaning it puts the safety of the children in question), the licensor may determine that day to be in the very near future. The Child Care Center Licensing Committee representative will then follow up unannounced to verify the noncompliance has been corrected.
If the child care provider disagrees with the licensor's assessment, they have the legal right to appeal any corrective actions or fines (such as a Civil Money Penalty) taken by the Child Care Center Licensing Committee. This appeal must be filed within ten working days of the inspection.
As with any sort of legal proceeding, a licensee should always retain a law firm to help. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm is a nationwide team that focuses specifically on these very situations. We are well-versed in Utah's rules and regulations surrounding child care licenses and have experience negotiating with licensing boards such as the Child Care Center Licensing Committee. We understand that child care is not just a hobby or a favor; it is a valuable career. Approaching any noncompliance appeals with legal counsel is putting your all-important child care license in jeopardy.
What If Someone Files a Complaint Against a Child Care Facility?
If a credible complaint is filed with the Utah Child Care Center Licensing Committee (usually via a form on their website), an investigation may be triggered. These might be conducted by a provider's typical licensor or a specialized complaint investigator. Depending on the level of risk the alleged violations pose to children at the facility, these investigations can be announced or unannounced and can vary in scope.
As with noncompliance discovered during a routine inspection, complaint investigations should be taken very seriously. An investigation that goes poorly for the child care provider can have disastrous long-term repercussions, including the revocation of the child care license and forced closure of the facility. If you are a licensee who has been accused of rule violations, the best path forward is to reach out to the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team at the onset of the investigation. Our legal team will stay in contact with the Child Care Center Licensing Committee and the assigned investigator to ensure you are receiving fair treatment and have every opportunity to present your side of the case.
How Are Corrective Actions Determined?
Utah's Child Care Center Licensing Committee determines the level of consequences for differing rule violations by using a risk assessment method based on the actual or potential harm to children under care.
- Low risk or harm - The possibility of harm exists but is unlikely to occur.
- Moderate risk or harm - Harm to a child has occurred or is likely to occur but is not serious enough to require medical or mental intervention.
- High risk or harm - The child has been harmed or is likely to be harmed seriously enough to require medical or mental health assistance.
- Extreme risk or harm - Death or life-threatening injury to a child has occurred or is likely to occur.
The Child Care Center Licensing Committee will use this scale in combination with other factors such as the scope (did this happen to more than one child?) and whether the licensee is a repeat offender in order to decide the exact corrective action to assign. Typically, it will be one of the following:
- Warning. Outside of an outright dismissal of the alleged violations, a warning is the best-case scenario for those who are in noncompliance. Reserved for Low-Risk rules, the licensor or committee investigator will give the licensee a deadline for correction. If the violation is fixed within the specified time frame, the action will merely be documented by the licensing committee and kept off of the provider's public record.
- Citation Warning. If a provider has already been found in noncompliance, they may be alerted that a repeat instance will result in a Citation. This action is also kept off the licensee's public record.
- Citation and Monetary Warning. If a repeat instance occurs following the prior warning, the provider will be issued a Citation. In addition, this level comes with a warning that any further noncompliance will result in a civil money penalty. This level of action and higher is considered serious and will be displayed on the child care provider's public record.
- Repeat Citation and Monetary Penalty. If noncompliance reoccurs, a Repeat Citation is issued in addition to a monetary fine.
- Plan of Correction. This level is considered a critically noncompliant state. The Child Care Center Licensing Committee maintains a point system to determine which providers reach this level. This is how it works: Every citation and Repeat Citation is assigned 10 points. When a licensee accumulates 150 citation points within a 36-month period, the licensing committee will require them to undergo a Plan of Correction. These plans allow the licensee to continue to provide child care while working toward full compliance.
- Conditional License. A provider's license may be put into conditional status if they fail to complete their Plan of Correction or if an instance of noncompliance is considered severe. With a conditional license, providers must come into compliance within a specified time frame or potentially lose their ability to provide child care in Utah. Throughout the conditional period, the Child Care Center Licensing Committee will institute Monitoring Inspections to ensure progress is being made. Each of these inspections will cost the provider $253.00. The frequency can vary from monthly to semimonthly to weekly.
- Revocation. A severe noncompliance issue (or the repeated failure to comply) can lead to the revoking of the provider's license. Typically, a warning letter will be sent to the provider, offering one last chance to reform before the revocation.
- Immediate Closure. If the Child Care Center Licensing Committee feels that a provider's noncompliance has led to an imminent risk to a child's health or well-being, they can make the determination to close a child care facility immediately. This can happen without any prior warnings being issued. If an Immediate Closure occurs, a licensing committee staff member will arrive at the site of the facility and will not leave until every child has been released to a parent or guardian. It is very unlikely for any provider who has experienced an Immediate Closure to receive another Utah child care license at any point.
What Happens When a Citation Goes On a Provider's Public Record?
When an instance of noncompliance is made public record, it remains on the Utah Child Care Licensing website for 36 months. Afterward, the record is still available to the public but can only be accessed by contacting the Child Care Licensing division directly. In addition, any noncompliance that is verified during a complaint investigation (as opposed to a routine inspection) will be part of the provider's record. This is all the more reason to involve legal counsel, like the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm, as soon as a complaint has been filed.
How Much Are Monetary Penalties for Citations?
To encourage compliance, monetary fines are attached to all Repeat Citations. The fee amount varies in conjunction with the risk assessment level. For Low-Risk Repeat Citations, the Utah Child Care Center Licensing Committee charges $100 per rule violated. If multiple children are involved, this can be $100 per child. For Moderate Risk level violations, it bumps up to $150. High-Risk Repeat Citations rise to $200.
A noncompliance incident that is deemed an Extreme Risk can carry fines from $500 up to $5,000. Seeing as most child care businesses are local operations ran by working class people, some of these amounts can be eye opening. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team understands that monetary fines add up. We do everything in our power to help our clients rectify licensing board noncompliance issues before they reach that point.
What Are Action Reviews?
During the investigation and citation process, most decisions are made by the licensor overseeing the case. If the accused provider and their legal representation feel that the results of the investigation are unfair or misleading, they have the right to an “action review” — which is the term the Utah Child Care Center Licensing Committee uses to mean “appeal.”
There are three levels of action reviews, and it is up to the provider (and their legal team) to decide which is right for their case.
- Level 1: Management Review - An appeal held with the licensor's supervisor.
- Level 2: Informal Discussion - An appeal held with the Director of the Office of Licensing (the larger division that handles all professional licensing in Utah, not just in child care).
- Level 3: Informal Hearing - An appeal generally held with someone from the Executive Director's office.
While a provider can (and should) have legal counsel present at any action review, they are not technically legal proceedings. As such, the Child Care Center Licensing Committee is generally not inclined to involve its legal team at this stage. If the provider chooses to escalate even further, the next step would be a formal appeal. This would place the case into the legal system and be heard by an Administrative Law Judge with a focus on dispute resolution. At a formal hearing, the licensing committee would have their own legal counsel arguing on their behalf.
Utah providers who face citations and wish to appeal should always retain legal representation. The action review process can be quite extensive. Making a strong case for an appeal often involves presenting documentation, witnesses, statements, and other evidence. These are times when you need a professional working on your behalf. The Professional License Team at the Lento Law Firm has worked extensively on similar appeals and will provide the detailed touch needed in these cases.
Rules and Regulations for Utah Child Care Professionals
Based on the risk assessments assigned by the Child Care Center Licensing Team, here is a list of rule violations grouped by severity:
- Failure to report program or provider name changes or a change in ownership
- Failure to report a change in the facility's space or capacity
- Failure to post license somewhere readily visible on the premises
- Failure to inform parents or licensing committee if phone number or other contact information changes
- Provider did not purchase liability insurance
- Failure to assign interns and guests name tags
- Incomplete clearance received by local fire authority and/or health department
- The facility accepted a child without receiving a health assessment form for the child
- The admission form does not ask for the correct information as required by law (including known allergies and medical conditions)
- Provider admits child that has not been properly immunized or received immunization exemption
- Employment of an individual who is not qualified or trained
- A director or designated supervisor is not present when the center is open
- Allowing government employees (police, CPS) into the center without verifying identification
- More children than the stated capacity
- Provider is operating facility unlicensed (assuming five or more children in their care)
- Altering a license or operating under another individual's license
- Failure to submit annual immunization report
- Volunteers and employees were not subject to an approved background check
- A guest or student has unsupervised contact with a child in care
- Failure to check building and play structures for lead-based paint
- Outdoor area is not enclosed by a fence
- A provider does not follow the correct caregiver-to-child ratio
- A door is left open without a caregiver in the room
- A parent has unsupervised contact with a child in care that is not their own
- Napping children are left unsupervised
- Children are not signed in or out properly
- Child is subjected to abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual)
- Any sort of corporal punishment (including spanking)
- Shouting at children
- Forcing or withholding food, rest, or toileting
- Confining a child in a closet or locked enclosure
- Lack of supervision results in a lost or unattended child
- Child is exposed to a firearm
- Death or extreme harm caused to a child as a result of any guidance violations
This list is not comprehensive but should give providers an idea of the level of corrective action they may be facing. For a complete list of rules and regulations, see the Utah Child Care Center Rule Interpretation Manual.
Contact the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm Today
Regardless of what stage of the investigation and citation process a provider is currently in, retaining a legal team can only help. Situations like these take child care providers out of their element. Even still, some license holders feel that hiring representation will make them look guilty. They assume that representing themselves will show the licensing committee that they have nothing to hide. This is a mistake. Having a nationwide team of experienced lawyers is never a bad thing. We assist clients all over Utah, including:
- Bountiful/Davis County
- Heber Valley
- Logan/Cache Valley
- Ogden/Plain City
- Park City/Summit County
- Salt Lake City
- Saratoga Springs/Eagle Mountain
- South Jordan/West Jordan
- St. George/Washington
- West Valley/Taylorsville
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm handles many cases of this type, from small citations to potential license revocations. We know how these committees operate and have experience negotiating lesser citations with licensing boards. If you are a Utah child care professional facing a complaint or an investigation by the Child Care Center Licensing Committee, contact the Lento Law Firm. Tell us about your situation through our online form or by calling 888-535-3686 today.