Your license to operate a childcare facility in your state is essential for your career as a child development professional. Being licensed tells the parents--or specifically, the parents who entrust their children to your care--that you are in compliance with stringent state regulations and that you can be trusted with the lives and well-being of their children. It is important to know that if someone files a complaint with your state's licensing board, regardless of whether the allegations are true, the very possibility of having your license suspended or revoked could put your entire career in jeopardy.
When it comes to childcare, state regulatory agencies take complaints very seriously and investigate aggressively--and they are likely to suspend or revoke the license of any child development professional they suspect has violated state standards of conduct, professionalism, or safety. If you find your professional license under scrutiny, involving an experienced professional license defense attorney is your best option for protecting your career. Joseph D. Lento is an experienced attorney who fights to protect the rights of licensed professionals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, whose ability to work has been under threat. We can help you fight allegations of wrongdoing and possibly save your business, your job, and/or your career.
Allegations of Wrongdoing that Could Result in Loss of License for Child Development Professionals
A wide variety of offenses can trigger disciplinary action on your professional license—most having to do with violating state regulations, standards of professional/ethical conduct, or violation of the public trust. Examples include:
- Child neglect or abuse. Since the bedrock of any childcare organization is protecting the children, any allegations of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of a child can cause the shutdown of a daycare facility faster than any other complaint.
- Inadequate supervision. States require a certain ratio of children to adults in childcare facilities. You could lose your license if you do not employ enough staff to care for all the children--or if you employ staff that is unqualified to care for the children.
- Sanitation violations. Daycare facilities must meet minimum sanitation standards. Failure to meet these standards could result in your daycare facility being deemed unsafe.
- Building violations. Caring for children in a building that violates minimum fire codes or is otherwise deemed unsafe can result in a loss of license.
- Criminal convictions. Most states require child development professionals to have a clean criminal record, especially when it comes to crimes involving children or crimes of moral turpitude. If you apply for a childcare license with a "disqualifying" conviction on your criminal record, you may be denied a license. If you are convicted of a felony, violent misdemeanor, or other serious crime, you could likewise lose your license.
- Caring for more children than your license allows. Some states issue childcare licenses that specify the maximum number of children a provider may care for. Exceeding this number could jeopardize your license.
- Failing an inspection. Daycare centers are subject to regular inspections by regulatory boards. Failure to pass an inspection could result in your license being suspended or even terminated.
Possible Penalties for Licensing Violations
Because child safety is such a priority, state licensing boards may be quick to suspend the license of a child development professional pending an investigation, especially if abuse or neglect is alleged. In cases where there is convincing evidence of a violation, the board may revoke the license altogether, but not all complaints must necessarily trigger the loss of one's license. Depending on the circumstances (and the involvement of a good license defense attorney), state regulators have been known to invoke other disciplinary actions that could allow you to keep your license. For example:
- License suspension. You may be restricted from operations for a specified period of time or until you meet a set of established conditions for meeting safety standards.
- Fines. A monetary penalty may be imposed by the board.
- Operational limitations. If your childcare facility is deemed safe by the board, you may be permitted to continue operation under certain restrictions (e.g., limits on the number of children or children within a certain age bracket).
The Disciplinary Process for Child Development Professional Licenses
Although every state has its own protocols for investigating and penalizing childcare violations, child care licensing boards generally have broad regulatory powers and a relatively small burden of proof when it comes to meting out discipline. Additionally, disciplinary action may be fairly quick after a complaint is filed, especially if the allegations are serious. In most cases, the process moves somewhere along the following lines:
Complaint or Failed Inspection
Most disciplinary actions against licensed childcare professionals are initiated in one of two ways:
- A complaint is filed with the board by a member of the public who alleges wrongdoing
- A state inspector visits the childcare facility and finds violations
The board will launch an investigation to determine whether the complaint has merit. This may involve such actions as appearing at your facility unannounced and looking through your records, interviewing employees, parents, etc.
Action and Determination
After the investigation is complete, the board will either dismiss the complaint or confirm that wrongdoing took place. If it's the latter, the board will decide on what kind of penalty to impose.
Request for Administrative Hearing
Unlike other professional licenses in which a hearing is held before deciding on a penalty, the licensing board for childcare licenses has the right to penalize you unilaterally. However, you may appeal this decision by requesting an administrative hearing, at which time you may present your case and petition to have your penalty overturned or rescinded.
How We Can Help You
If you face a complaint or investigation into your childcare license, contacting an experienced professional license defense attorney presents your best chance at keeping your license from being revoked. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help you in the following ways:
- Evaluate the nature of the complaint and the circumstances to determine the best strategy to defend you against the allegations
- Represent you in all interactions with both the board and investigators
- Gather and present evidence and witnesses to support your side of the story
- Negotiate for the dismissal of your complaint, minimized penalties, and/or the clearing of your public record
- Represent you at the administrative hearing to contest penalties if the board takes action against you
What to Do If Your Child Care License Has Been Suspended or Revoked
If the state licensing board has already made a determination against your license to have it suspended or revoked, it is not necessarily the end of the story. You can still reach out to a good license defense attorney to help you apply for reinstatement of your license, especially if you have shown good faith to the board during the disciplinary process. The attorney can help with the following:
- Drafting a petition to reinstatement your license, presenting the reasons for the request along with any corroborating evidence
- Coordinating payment of any fines or fees that the board has assessed against you
- Coordinating the paperwork involved in processing your request
- Acting as your official representative in presenting your petition to the licensing board
- If your license has been suspended upon certain conditions, helping you to meet the conditions that qualify you for reinstatement
Why You Need an Attorney
Since child safety is a top priority, state licensing boards have a tendency to take quick action against child development professionals found to be in violation of the rules—especially if children were endangered in the process. The purpose of the licensing board is to protect the public by maintaining strict accountability for childcare professionals in the state. Because of this dynamic, you cannot be assured a fair hearing, nor will there be a trial if you are accused of wrongdoing. If the board becomes convinced you are at fault, it has the right to take action against you—period. Hiring an attorney at the first sign of trouble is your best hope of getting a fair hearing before the board to make sure your side is heard. An experienced license defense attorney will know how to engage the licensing board and present the best options for either having your complaint dismissed or finding an alternative solution to losing your license.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have many years of experience in disciplinary matters, including protecting professionals in danger of losing their license. Don't take unnecessary risks with your license; seek legal help as soon as you are notified that your license is in question. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to see how we can help.