Daycare providers and facilities provide an indispensable service to families in Arkansas (and nationwide): They enable parents and guardians to pursue careers and take time for themselves so they can support their kids well. Childcare takes time, effort, expertise, and experience—so the daycare professionals who provide childcare (and, by doing so, support entire communities of families) are under an immense amount of pressure to do their jobs well.
That pressure only gets heightened when daycare providers are at the center of stressful investigations into potential license-related violations.
There are cases in which daycare facility owners or independent providers make mistakes or find themselves embroiled in tense miscommunications. There are other situations in which people make allegations against daycare professionals that are entirely false or impossible to prove. In either case, if you're a daycare professional facing allegations about your professional conduct, you need to think and act quickly. Having disciplinary actions on your permanent professional record can make it very hard for you to continue working in this field. And, more immediately, if you lose your license because of the types of allegations and investigations, you could lose all of your clients, your source of income, and your precious reputation in no time at all.
At the Lento Law Firm, we don't think that one misinterpretation or miscommunication should ruin your entire career. That's why our Professional License Defense Team is ready to help you advocate for your rights and navigate the Arkansas disciplinary and investigatory system to help you retain your license and your good name.
Arkansas' Department of Human Services, Division of Child Care, and Early Childhood Education
One of the primary governing bodies that oversees the various ways that daycares (and independent providers) operate is the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Child Care, and Early Childhood Education.
That's quite a mouthful, so it's often abbreviated to the DCCECE.
The DCCECE holds a significant amount of authority over Arkansas childcare providers. If the DCCECE learns about a potential rule violation or decides it wants to investigate a provider or facility, the DCCECE is well within its rights to:
- Audit or investigate a practice
- Issue warnings for any perceived infractions
- Assess (and collect) fines for any type of severe or repeated violations
- Mandate that a daycare provider or facility owner take corrective actions to resolve a specific issue
- Enforce a period of probation following the identification of an infraction
- Take action against a daycare provider's license (or facility operator's license), as needed—on either a temporary or a permanent basis.
While there's a temptation to ignore the warning signs of an impending investigation or even tell yourself that it's easy to regain a lost license, think again. You also can't assume that the DCCECE will be able to see through an obviously false allegation or that, because you're innocent, nothing will come of an investigation around something that didn't happen.
Simply being involved in an investigation can tarnish your reputation. And, unfortunately, it's far easier than you may think to lose your license. The DCCECE does not take child safety lightly and may decide to suspend or revoke your license as an overly cautious measure.
You can't let that happen. It would result in a significant disruption to the families you serve. It'd also result in disastrous outcomes for your reputation and financial stability. If the DCCECE starts talking about investigating you, take that as a sign to retain the services of the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm at once.
Other Groups that Have Authority Over Arkansas Daycare Facilities (And Independent Providers)
The DCCECE isn't the only group that may be able to step in and regulate Arkansas daycare facilities—far from it.
These other entities may have regulations, guidelines, or other rules that could be pertinent to your situation. Whether they actually show up to influence your disciplinary proceedings or simply have rules that allow the DCCECE and its investigators to make a decision, these groups are good ones to know about as you work toward the most successful resolution possible:
- The Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services, a group that may intervene in cases where there is abuse or reported neglect associated with your daycare environment;
- The Arkansas Department of Education, a group that could decide to get involved if your daycare offers early childhood education and if the allegations against you are related to those offerings
- Your local health department may become interested if your facility is responsible for serving meals.
When you were first setting up your practice or facility, there's a chance that you already interacted with one or more of these groups.
Setting Up Shop: The Initial Licensing Process for Daycare Professionals in Arkansas
Applying for a license to operate a daycare facility in Arkansas is a long, multi-step process. The state of Arkansas has this process in place to help ensure that Arkansas daycare providers have the skills, expertise, and background necessary to provide high-quality care for Arkansas' youngest inhabitants.
Among the many steps that prospective Arkansas daycare providers will need to tackle are the following:
- Completing a comprehensive application that includes detailed information about your team members (if you're a facility operator) and the various services you plan to offer
- Undergoing background checks for all staff members
- Submitting to an on-site inspection to ensure that your facility complies with all Arkansas requirements for operational excellence
- Making sure that all initial and ongoing training guidelines are met, which includes ensuring that your team is trained in first aid, CPR, child development training, and more
- Paying all required fees
If you've gone through all of that once, you'd likely hope that you'd never have to go through it again. Even if your license gets taken away for small, logistical reasons, you'd hope that the re-application process isn't quite so complex.
That may not be the case. Whether the accusations against you were valid or not, if your license gets taken away due to a disciplinary investigation after an allegation against your practice, the DCCECE may require you to repeat the application process prior to regaining your license. This will take time and money, and you won't be able to provide any services while this is happening.
If you get approved for licensure the second time around, which is not a given, you'll likely need to undergo a probationary period. This could involve regular inspections, ongoing monitoring, and overall increased scrutiny. It won't make your life easier, and it also won't help your general reputation.
Ultimately, it's in your best interest to avoid license revocation at all costs. Getting your license back may not be possible, and if it is, it'll be a difficult and damaging process that could affect your business for years to come.
What Allegations Could Result in Action Against an Arkansas Provider's License?
After all of that, it could seem like only the most severe allegations (and, hopefully, the most clearly provable ones) should result in license revocation.
That might not be the case. Arkansas is extremely serious about the safety of its children, which, itself, is a good thing. However, it can result in a low tolerance for any allegations of any type of misconduct against childcare providers and a general quickness to act and recommend steep sanctions without necessarily proving the allegations true.
In our years of assisting Arkansas daycare providers, we've found that the most common types of allegations concern:
- Lack of proper or required qualifications
- Unethical or unprofessional conduct
- Substance abuse or misuse by staff members
- Fraudulent activities
- Misrepresentation of qualifications
- Safety violations
- Violations of care standards
- Staff member criminal convictions
- A lack of compliance with local or state regulations.
This list isn't complete—there are other allegations that could initiate investigations against an Arkansas daycare provider. These allegations can also come from anywhere. Anyone, from a colleague to a client to an auditor or even someone with no real relationship with the provider, can file a complaint.
Once a complaint is filed, the DCCECE's investigatory process will launch into action.
What Happens After an Allegation is Filed Against an Arkansas Daycare Provider?
After the DCCECE learns about a potential violation, a number of things will happen very quickly.
- First, the DCCECE will take time to read the initial complaint and simply decide whether or not it's a good idea to move forward based on just the basic information included.
- If the DCCECE decides that it wants to learn more, it may launch a full-scale investigation into your practice or facility. This can involve client interviews. It will almost certainly involve an audit of your paperwork. It will be extremely intrusive and stressful. And, to increase the pressure of the situation, Even though the DCCECE will not formally make a decision about your responsibility for the allegations until much later in the process, the DCCECE investigators may informally make up their minds about your responsibility as early as in this initial investigatory phase.
- After the investigation commences, the DCCECE will invite you to a hearing. At this hearing, you will review all of the evidence that the DCCECE has gathered. You will also have a chance to tell your side of the story, cross-examine any witnesses, and provide your best defense possible.
- At the end of this hearing or just after it, the DCCECE will provide a decision and a recommendation for sanctions.
At this point, you'll have a decision to make:
Do you agree with that decision and the recommended sanctions or not?
If you don't agree with the recommended sanctions, you may be able to appeal the decision and formally request lesser sanctions. This won't be easy—the appeals process requires new evidence, a new defense, and a lot of paperwork filled out and filed impeccably within a very short span of time.
That's where we come in. The Professional License Defense Team will work with you to determine the best possible rationale for your appeal and help you meet all applicable deadlines as you move forward with your case.
Does Arkansas Have a Permanent Repository for Child Care Provider Disciplinary Records?
Yes, Arkansas does! The Arkansas Child Maltreatment Central Registry is a bank of data that the Arkansas Department of Human Services collects and maintains. In this database, there are records of individuals who have been accused or convicted of child maltreatment.
If you're an individual who works or hopes to work with children in any capacity, you cannot be on this list. The goal of this list is to prevent individuals who have a history of serious criminal offenses and, in particular, child abuse, from initiating or progressing in careers where they would have contact with Arkansas children.
Again, in theory, this is an excellent and extremely protective idea. But if someone like you ends up in this database without due, demonstrated cause, that can ruin the rest of your career all by itself.
If you believe that an investigation into your actions as a daycare provider or facility owner in Arkansas is imminent, retain the services of the Professional License Defense Team at once. We can help you negotiate with the state, protect your rights, and help you avoid the type of discipline that could result in your information being in this database.
The Arkansas Child Care Background Check System, And Why It's Relevant for You
If you're hoping to achieve licensure in Arkansas as a child care professional, you'll need to pass a background check. So will everyone on your team. To pass this check, you'll need to submit your personal information. This will allow the state to run your information against statewide databases — such as the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Central Registry — to ensure that there are no previous infractions against your name that could be relevant to your future career in childcare.
It's a long process. It also results in your information being easily verifiable by anyone who has access to the Arkansas Background Check System, which may include potential employers. This means that when you apply for a new child care role, your possible employer will be able to:
- Verify your current licensure status
- Access and examine any documented disciplinary events that may be associated with your name in the database
- Make decisions about your employment with this information in hand
Again, in the event that someone with a history of child abuse applies to a childcare position in Arkansas, this can be a very helpful tool to keep children safe. But if your information in there indicates that you've undergone a disciplinary event for a lesser or logistical violation, you may find that potential employers will make decisions about you that may not be fair. You also won't have much room to provide explanations or context about what employers find in the database. This can make your professional life extremely complicated and embarrassing. You need to make sure that your information within the background check system is accurate and up-to-date. If there's information about disciplinary violations that is false or misleading, talk to our team. We'll do what we can to help you protect your reputation.
The Various (and Distinct) Rules that Daycare Facility Owners and Individual Providers Need to Follow
In order to avoid the types of allegations that could wreak havoc on your career, it's a good idea to know the basic rules that you need to follow as either a daycare facility owner or an independent daycare provider in Arkansas. Here's a brief rundown of the types of rules that you might expect to follow as an Arkansas daycare professional.
Rules for Arkansas daycare facility owners may include:
- Making sure that you maintain a specific staff-to-child ratio
- Complying with regular safety inspections
- Ensuring that any educational activities you offer follow a state-approved curriculum
- Maintaining comprehensive and accurate records concerning your daily operations, including daily attendance logs, up-to-date staff training records, and incident and injury reports
Rules for Arkansas independent daycare providers to follow may include:
- Complying with comprehensive background checks
- Keeping up-to-date with all required and relevant training
- Reporting any concerns about child safety or welfare promptly to the state
- Maintaining a high standard of professional care
If you are a daycare provider or facility owner in Arkansas and you're worried that someone can allege that you have violated one of these or a similar rule, you need to jump into action immediately. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help you perform your own investigation to uncover evidence supporting your defense, negotiate with the state, and navigate the disciplinary process that lies before you as successfully as possible.
Here's How the Lento Law Firm Team Can Help You
Don't try to weather the storm of DCCECE investigations on your own, and don't try to downplay the seriousness of your situation. Neither of these strategies will lead to a successful outcome.
Instead, retain the premiere services of the Lento Law Firm Team to ensure that you're not only not alone and you're not only being proactive about your protection. You'll have the benefit of experienced professionals on your case, working tirelessly to ensure that you're taking the most strategic steps forward possible. You'll be able to achieve peace of mind and relax a bit during this turbulent time. And you'll have the confidence of knowing you're doing the best possible thing for your future.
The Lento Law Firm is ready to help you with the benefit of:
- Our years of specific experience in Arkansas daycare licensing. We appreciate the fact that the daycare industry is full of very specific regulations, guidelines, and expectations for both facility operators and individual providers. We're very familiar with the nuances of your industry, and we are prepared to leverage our knowledge to help you achieve the outcome you deserve.
- Proactive defense strategies. One of the first things we'll do when we speak with you in an initial consultation is start to determine the best way to handle your case. Is proceeding with deft negotiations the most strategic angle we can take? Opening direct lines of communication with your state's regulatory boards? Or will your case require a more aggressive, proactive approach to make sure you're protected from day one? We'll assess your situation, weigh the various approaches available to you, and help you move forward with a measured meticulous defense strategy.
- Our full support. We understand that going through a disciplinary event, particularly one that affects your personal reputation and your professional future, can take its toll on your mental health. We seek to alleviate the struggle you're facing by taking the load of paperwork off your shoulders, representing you in tense conversations with the Arkansas regulatory boards, and allowing you the bandwidth to spend time with those you love during this difficult time instead of feeling bogged down by regulations and legalese. Our team will be there for you at every step during your upcoming disciplinary process.
Retain the services of the Lento Law Firm Team earlier rather than later to safeguard your stress levels, your reputation, and your future as much as possible during the weeks ahead. After you bring us on board, we'll start acting at once to help you safeguard your reputation and your license. The Professional License Defense Team is ready to begin our services at once, so reach out without delay. We'll start with a consultation to learn your story and ensure that we understand the details of your situation, and then we'll start pulling together your defense strategy in a timely manner.