As a licensed childcare provider in West Virginia, you depend on your license to run your childcare or daycare center and provide important services to your community. Your license to operate a childcare facility serves as a badge of trust to the public, providing confidence in families who seek your services that you have obtained a certain level of certification and training and are adept at delivering the utmost care to children.
You've always tried to provide the highest level of care and service to your clients, so you were likely shocked to learn that someone filed a complaint against you or your childcare organization. You have every right to be concerned. Depending on the nature of the complaint, you could lose your childcare license or experience other harsh consequences that could derail what you've worked so hard to achieve.
Even if the allegations are not true, your reputation is at stake, as well as your livelihood and future. You need to do all you can to answer the accusations and defend your license.
Regardless of the complaint against you or your childcare center in West Virginia, you need help from an experienced and qualified childcare license defense attorney to advise you of your rights and options. An attorney can also help you devise a strong and strategic defense to increase your chances of getting the most favorable outcome possible.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has in-depth knowledge of West Virginia's childcare laws and requirements. We also have extensive experience helping clients throughout West Virginia and across the country with their pressing and complex childcare licensing issues. Contact us today at (888) 535-3686 for a comprehensive review of your case and advice regarding your options for mounting an effective defense.
West Virginia's Childcare Licensing Services
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) governs childcare licensing in the state. Its duties include licensing and monitoring child group facilities and child-placing agencies in West Virginia to ensure children receive the best possible care.
WVDHHR offers licensing agency services for both residential and commercial childcare operations. A childcare facility in West Virginia is a location that provides care for seven to 12 children for 30 or more days per year. A childcare center is a location that provides care for 13 or more children for 30 or more days per year.
Any childcare operation in West Virginia must meet certain provider/child ratios, depending on the number of children in care. These ratios apply to the “useable activity space” available at the location, along with the number of toilets and handwashing sinks available. Ratios vary depending on the age of the children and whether the facility is a center-based care, group care, or family child care operation.
Getting a Childcare License in West Virginia
In West Virginia, a childcare license is a written certificate issued by the Secretary of WVHHR that authorizes an individual, corporation, partnership, government agency, and other organizations to operate a childcare facility or center.
To qualify to become a Family Child Care Provider in West Virginia, you must be at least 18 years old, and you must provide care for children in your own home or facility, not the child's home. Each adult who works at the daycare home or childcare facility must submit to fingerprinting and criminal and background checks.
Childcare facility operators must be at least 21 years old and have either a high school diploma or a GED. The operator must have at least six months of experience caring for children in a licensed childcare center, possess first-aid and CPR certification, and complete at least 15 hours of approved training annually.
WVDHHR will inspect your home or intended childcare location, and you must understand that you are considered self-employed, not an employee of WVHHR or any child service agencies in the state.
Before you can obtain a license to operate a childcare center in West Virginia, the state must first determine whether you require a “certificate of need. (CON)” The West Virginia Health Care Authority (HCA) issues this certificate, which states there is a need for the type of childcare services you intend to provide to your area. However, the HCA may determine you are exempt from needing a CON.
If the HCA determines you require a CON and approves it, the department will notify the Residential Child Care Licensing Unit (RCCLU) or the Bureau for Children and Families (BCF) Child Placing agency.
BCF's Licensing Unit will then notify the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification (OHFLAC) of the approval. OHFLAC will contact the childcare facility to initiate a Life Safety Inspection.
Any residential childcare facility in West Virginia must pass a Fire Safety Inspection and an Environmental Health Inspection. Additionally, the RCCLU and/or BCF's Child Placing agency will conduct either a remote or on-site review of your childcare facility or child placement agency and issue an initial license that will be good for six months.
Before your initial license expires, the RCCLU will review your case once again and likely inspect your facility. If you receive a regular license at that point, it will be good for two years.
If you are seeking renewal of your West Virginia childcare license, RCCLU may issue a provisional license if you're found not to be in full compliance but pose no “significant risk” to the health, safety, or well-being of children. You may receive a regular license once you are fully in compliance with WVHHR regulations.
Responsibilities of Childcare Providers in West Virginia
WVHHR requires childcare facilities in West Virginia to comply with “all applicable Federal and State laws, ordinances, rules, and regulations.” Along with displaying a certificate of license, childcare operations in the state must also develop, maintain, and display a number of items for staff and parents to review. Some include:
- An emergency exit plan along with a record of monthly fire drills for the past year
- A copy of the “Family Child Care Facility Licensing Requirements”
- Recent inspection reports from the Bureau of Public Health and the State Fire Marshal
- Daily activities and operations, including meal plans, snacks, and indoor and outdoor activities
- Rules regarding the discipline of children
- Admission records of each child that include their home address, emergency contact information, and other pertinent information about the child
- A record of the child's development history, along with any special needs the child may have
- Immunization records and medical checkup records
- Written reports of any accidents involving a child or injuries to a child
Childcare facilities in West Virginia must also provide parents access to speak with the manager or administrator of the facility to discuss issues when needed. Also, the center must maintain detailed information about every person who works at the facility.
Monitoring and Evaluations
All licensed childcare facilities in West Virginia receive on-site evaluations once per year from a Licensing Specialist, which can be either announced or unannounced visits.
During the evaluation, the Licensing Specialist will inspect the premises to ensure compliance with ratio requirements and safety measures. They will also assess the facility's personnel and the children in care at the facility and review the facility's financial records, childcare records, board minutes, and other information.
The facility may also receive inspections from the Health Department and the State Fire Marshal's Office, as well as the Department of Nutrition, if the facility serves food to children. Any facility that provides behavioral health services may be evaluated by OHFLAC.
Any facility not found in compliance may receive a Corrective Action Plan and be provided an opportunity to address the issues.
Background Checks for Childcare Licensing
Any employee, operator, volunteer, or adult household member of a licensed childcare center, group residential facility, or child-placing agency in West Virginia must submit to a thorough background check. The purpose of the background check is to ensure that no one who has access to the children has a previous record of mistreating or abusing a child.
As part of the background check, childcare operators and their employees must submit to fingerprinting to obtain a criminal background check. Parties must also submit to a registry check to ensure they are not listed on a child abuse or sexual offender registry.
Anyone found to have criminal convictions or a history of abuse against a child may not receive a license to become a childcare provider and may not work or be a part of the facility in any way.
Child Protective Service Reports and Investigations
All childcare professionals in West Virginia must report child abuse or neglect to Child Protective Services (CPS) when they have a reasonable suspicion abuse has occurred.
Any childcare facility that receives allegations of child abuse or neglect will be investigated by the CPS Institutional Investigative Unit (IIU). The IIU will issue a report of the findings of its investigation and offer recommendations to the facility in question, as well as any appropriate state agencies. The facility may receive a formal Corrective Action Plan that the Licensing Specialist will approve and monitor.
If a Licensing Specialist finds the facility to be in non-compliance—or if the facility receives a complaint from a client—the Licensing Specialist may investigate the matter and develop a Corrective Action Plan if warranted.
Offenses and Violations That Could Jeopardize Your West Virginia Childcare License
Any number of actions could place your West Virginia childcare license in jeopardy, including:
- Proof that you committed fraud or other illegal actions
- Violations of state, federal, or local laws involving building codes, health and safety requirements, sanitation requirements, or non-payment of employment taxes, among others
- Practices that place children's health and safety at risk or conducting clinical medical treatment of a child in care
- Failure to submit the required reports or make them available for review by WVHHR or RCCLU
- Refusal to provide a Licensing Specialist or another official of any child protection agency access to your facility or records
Specific offenses or allegations that could jeopardize your West Virginia childcare license include:
- Allegations of child abuse or neglect
- Inadequate supervision of children in your care
- Failure to abide by ratio requirements
- Caring for more children than your license allows
- Being convicted of a violent misdemeanor or felony
- Failing a RCCLU inspection
Other offenses may place your license at risk as well, and it's imperative you contact an experienced West Virginia childcare license defense attorney from The Lento Law Firm the moment you learn of an impending investigation or receive a Corrective Action Plan.
Administrative Actions WVHHR May Take Against a Childcare Provider in West Virginia
The WVHHR or the RCCLU may take several administrative actions against a childcare facility in West Virginia found to be in violation of law and requirements or non-compliant with Department regulations. These actions may include:
- Denial of an initial license application
- Non-renewal of an existing license
- Modifications or restrictions on a license, which can include admission prohibitions or reduced resident capacity
- License revocation
As stated previously, the Licensing Specialist will develop a Corrective Action Plan in most cases and monitor and enforce the plan to help the childcare operator meet regulations and requirements. However, serious violations, such as abuse, will be dealt with immediately and may include shutting down the facility.
How to Appeal a Corrective Action
West Virginia law allows any individual, corporation, or government agency to contest a corrective action or decision made by WVHHR or RCCLU. The aggrieved party may request a hearing from the Commissioner of the Bureau of Social Services (BSS) within 30 days of receiving the action.
An administrative or judicial review shall be conducted in accordance with the law. Any decision made will become effective on the date it was issued. A facility may obtain immediate relief if it can show good cause and petition the Circuit Court in the county where the facility is located. The Commissioner may obtain injunctive relief while the administrative review is pending.
What You Should Do If Your West Virginia Childcare License Is in Jeopardy
If you or your childcare facility in West Virginia received a complaint or if you know of an upcoming inspection or investigation that could jeopardize your childcare license, it's imperative you contact an experienced childcare license defense attorney as soon as possible.
An attorney can help you develop an effective strategy to answer the complaint and provide advice on how you must conduct yourself during any investigations or dealings with WVHHR or RCCLU.
If you wish to appeal any decision against your childcare facility, you must have an attorney represent you in the process. An administrative review is not the same as a court trial, and different rules of evidence apply. You need an experienced legal advocate to help you file your appeal properly and counsel you throughout the process to increase your chances of getting a favorable outcome.
Before the hearing, be sure to collect any evidence you feel could exonerate you or explain the situation. Share this information with your attorney. Also, carefully document and maintain records of all communications you've had with a Licensing Specialist or any official with the WVHHR, RCCLU, or CPS. Contact the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team immediately for help.
How Can an Attorney Help with My West Virginia Childcare Licensing Issues?
WVHHR places high priority on protecting the health, safety, and welfare of children. The Department takes any allegations of wrongdoing seriously, as well as non-compliance with standards, rules, and regulations. WVHHR and the BSS will impose penalties quickly on any childcare facility they find in violation of laws or requirements, and you could receive a Corrective Action Plan or other consequences without first having the opportunity to defend yourself.
Although you can request an administrative or judicial review of the action taken against you, you can only do so after the fact. This places you in a particularly awkward position since you will be acting reactively rather than proactively to overturn the action and/or mitigate the consequences.
With that in mind, having an attorney on your side is all that more important. Working with a West Virginia childcare license defense attorney is imperative to improving your chances of answering the charges and developing a solid defense. Some ways an attorney can assist include:
- Gathering evidence to exonerate you or showing you had no part in conducting the alleged offense
- Helping you address questions from the Licensing Specialist and counseling you during inspections
- Helping you meet minimum standards or come into compliance with regulations and requirements
- Developing a solid and strategic defense plan
- Representing you during investigations
- Helping you complete the necessary forms and paperwork to apply for an appeal and representing you during the administrative or judicial review
WVHHR has vast resources at its disposal and, some may say, a certain partiality with the law. That, combined with the fact that you've probably already received administrative action, places you in a precarious position indeed.
However, you do have rights, and you need an attorney to help protect and assert those rights to the appropriate authorities to help you find the relief you seek. An attorney can act as a trusted advisor and confidant and offer you peace of mind that a dedicated and experienced legal professional is worrying about your case for you and looking out for your best interests.
How The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team Can Help
If you're under investigation by WVHHR or any childcare or child welfare agencies in West Virginia for an alleged offense—or if you've already received a Corrective Action Plan from your Licensing Specialist—you should contact the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm immediately.
We have helped many childcare operators and other childcare and daycare professionals throughout the state, and we can assist by:
- Reviewing your case and the complaint against you to help you understand the accusations and your rights
- Gathering pertinent evidence to refute the allegations
- Assisting you with meeting standards and complying with laws and regulations
- Working with you to develop a solid and strategic defense plan
- Advocating for you with the Licensing Specialist and other important state agency authorities to mitigate potential consequences
- Representing you in all interactions with RCCLU, WVHHR, or any applicable state agency, including investigations and administrative reviews
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team has in-depth knowledge of West Virginia's childcare licensing laws and requirements. We also have extensive experience helping childcare center operators and staff with their complex and pressing licensing issues. Contact us today to request a review of your case and learn how we can help you obtain the best outcome possible.
Areas We Serve in West Virginia
Charleston – The state's capital and home to nearly 50,000 residents, Charleston, West Virginia, sits at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha rivers. The area offers resplendent natural attractions as well as the Governor's Mansion and the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences.
Morgantown – Morgantown is home to West Virginia University, and the city's population of just under 30,000 increases significantly during the fall and spring semesters. Morgantown is also home to the WVU Core Arboretum, which sits near the Monongahela River.
Harper's Ferry – A historic city, Harper's Ferry was the site of the famous abolitionist raid in 1859. The city is home to the Harper's Ferry National Historical Park and Civil War Museum, as well as John Brown's Fort.
Whether you live in any of these locations or somewhere else in West Virginia, you can reach out to the Lento Law Firm for help. We serve clients throughout West Virginia, including Beckley, Huntington, Parkersburg, and Martinsburg.
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
You invested a lot of time, effort, and resources into getting your West Virginia childcare license. You sacrificed much to follow your dream and passion to care for children.
Whatever your situation regarding your licensing issues with the WVHHR, RCCLU, or any childcare or welfare agency in the state, you deserve the best possible defense to increase your chances of getting the positive results you seek.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has the knowledge, experience, and resources to handle your case effectively. Contact us today at (888) 535-3686 today for a confidential consultation.