Daycare facilities and providers are often asked to do the impossible: Provide incredible care for the next generation so their families are able to work, rest, and go about their lives—often with very little budgets or without adequate staff or resources. Daycare providers are expected to keep children safe and healthy, and, in some cases, daycare providers may even provide aspects of early childhood education.
It's an immensely important job, and it can be innately stressful.
If you're a provider or the owner of a facility, you likely do it because you love it—and because you legitimately care about the children and families you serve. This can make it feel all the more hurtful and heavy when someone in your community decides to file an allegation against you with Delaware's regulatory bodies. If this happens, you could face an uphill battle of hearings, paperwork, and possible disciplinary experience.
Here's the thing: If you get your license suspended or are even associated with an unfair allegation, that can be hard to recover from. The childcare industry depends heavily on good reputations. Parents do their research before entrusting people with their children. If you don't want this allegation to result in possible career-long consequences, you need to act now to ensure you don't suffer undue ramifications.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm is ready to fight for the future and reputation of dedicated daycare facility owners and providers in Delaware (and nationwide). Call 888.535.3686 to tell us about your case, or fill out this form to provide details online.
The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families
In Delaware, one of the governing bodies that oversees the way daycare facilities and independent providers operate is the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families (often abbreviated to the DSCYF). The DSCYF and its Office of Child Care Licensing have a lot of power over Delaware daycare providers.
If the DSCYF feels it has a reason to act or impose sanctions, it does have the power to:
- Issue warnings if a provider is accused of a minor infraction
- Assess and enforce fines if a provider is accused of a severe or repeated violation
- Determine that a daycare provider may need to take corrective actions or pursue additional training if a specific issue is identified
- Recommend and enforce a period of probation after an infraction
- Suspend or permanently revoke the license of a daycare provider or daycare facility if something serious has happened.
While it may not seem like a big deal to undergo a license suspension, particularly if you're dealing with an unfair or false allegation and you believe it'll be easy to get the suspension thrown out, that isn't the case.
Arguing for your rights and overturning DSCYF decisions can be a long, overwhelming, and extremely bureaucratic process. There will be a lot of paperwork involved. You'll need to go through dense regulatory documents to determine if your alleged actions did or did not cross lines that you may or may not have known existed.
And, while your license is suspended, you won't be able to provide care. This may mean, depending on the way your business is structured, that your families will need to find alternate care on very short notice, which may not be possible. That could trigger a litany of downstream consequences that could make life a lot harder for a lot of people. It will also ruin your reputation within the daycare community, likely costing you a lot of money.
Is the DSCYF the Only Group Overseeing Delaware Daycare Facilities and Providers?
Before we discuss what types of allegations could result in a DSCYF investigation and what daycare professionals might be able to do to avoid the worst possible outcomes, let's go through the other governing bodies relevant to your situation.
Aside from the DSCYF and its Office of Child Care Licensing, other good names to know include:
- The Delaware Division of Family Services, or the DFS—a division that may step in if there are any reports of neglect or abuse in association with your daycare environment
- Your local health department—a department that may step in if your daycare facility provides meals
- The Delaware Department of Education—a department that may step in if your daycare facility provides any type of early childhood education
When you first set up your services or obtained your license, there's a chance you engaged with any or all of these entities.
What's the Licensing Process Like for Daycare Providers in Delaware?
When daycare providers or facility operators first set up shop in Delaware, they need to go through a series of application steps to ensure they're able to provide stellar services for Delaware's families.
These steps include:
- Filling out an application that includes comprehensive information about your team and your services
- Undergoing background checks
- Submitting your facility to on-site reviews and inspections to ensure you meet all operational norms and requirements
- Making sure that you've met all training guidelines, which, depending on your facility, may include first aid training as well as CPR, child development, and more
- Paying fees
While the process may differ slightly if you're attempting to regain a license instead of getting it for the first time, if you're going through the process of reinstating a daycare license in Delaware, you may need to:
- Address any violations against you. Whether the accusations were legitimate or not, the DSCYF may require you to rectify any perceived issues before allowing you to render services.
- Reapply. Even if you've already gone through the extensive application process, you may need to do it all over again.
- Undergo a probationary period. If you are approved and able to achieve a reinstated license, the DSCYF may only allow you to do so if you agree to a period of probation, which may entail more scrutiny, constant monitoring, and regular inspections.
And, of course, your ability to enjoy your reinstated license may be lessened by the fact that it'll likely be hard to find new clients.
If at all possible, the best course of action is to avoid license revocation in the first place. This may seem like obvious advice, but many people don't know that they have options that could allow them to protect their license before disciplinary actions happen. If you know that the DSCYF may be investigating you due to an allegation or violation, it's a good idea to take time up front to be as proactive as possible about your situation.
What Types of Violations Could Result in Sanctions Against Childcare Facilities and Providers in Delaware?
After reading the above, you may wonder: What allegations could be so severe that it'd be worth shutting down a daycare facility (and leaving a community of families without care)?
Delaware takes the safety of its children very seriously—as it should, of course. This results in very low tolerance for any allegations that even remotely impact child safety and a tendency to recommend steep sanctions even if the allegations may not be 100% true.
The most common allegations that daycare facilities and providers face tend to circle around the following:
- Unprofessional conduct
- Substance misuse
- Misrepresentation or fraud
- Safety and care violations
- Criminal convictions
- Violating state or local regulations
This is an incomplete list. There are many reasons that someone could decide to file a complaint against a Delaware daycare facility or provider. These challenges could come from anywhere: If a colleague, a family, or an auditor notices a perceived lapse in judgment, they could decide to file an official complaint with the DSCYF.
If this has happened (or you think it could happen soon), that leaves one simple question:
What happens next?
What Happens After an Allegation Filed Against a Delaware Daycare Provider?
After the DSCYF receives information about a potential childcare violation or lapse in standards, it will take some time to review the initial case presented and determine whether it wants to pursue further action.
If the DSCYF decides it wants to learn more, there will be an investigation into your facility or practice. Depending on the nature of the allegations, this could involve interviewing your clients, auditing your facility, or other invasive actions that will be stressful for you and for all concerned.
After the DSCYF gathers its information, you will receive a notification and an invitation to either an informal conference or a formal hearing, again, likely depending on the severity of the allegations against you. At this informal or formal meeting, you will have an opportunity to clarify your side of the story, present any evidence you may have been able to find to help clear your name, and see if you can figure out a way forward that doesn't involve severe disciplinary experiences.
At the end of this process, the DSCYF will come to a decision regarding your responsibility for the alleged infraction. It will also determine what your sanction should be and will then recommend a fine, mandatory corrective actions, or could even revoke your license.
If you don't agree with the DSCYF's decision or actions, you do have the ability to launch an appeal. This won't be easy. Much like every other step of the process, appealing the DSCYF's decisions will involve a lot of paperwork, shrewd defense work, and deft negotiation skills. However, appealing and negotiating will be worth it if it can help you sidestep the consequences we've discussed above. To appeal the DSCYF's decision, you'll need to pull together an argument supporting your lack of responsibility for the alleged violations, and you'll need to do it relatively quickly. There's likely a small window of time in which you'll be able to appeal. Luckily, the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help. Retain our services as early on in this process as you can, and we'll help protect your rights, negotiate for you, and structure your appeal process successfully to help you work toward the most optimal outcome possible.
What Is the Delaware Child Protection Accountability Commission?
The Delaware Child Protection Accountability Commission, or CPAC, is a group that oversees background checks for people who are working with children, including people who own daycare facilities and daycare providers. The goal of this commission is to prevent people with serious criminal offenses or child abuse on their records from working with children in the state of Delaware.
In the vast majority of cases, this commission is a very good thing. It helps ensure, for example, that parents and guardians can trust their child's caretakers and also helps safeguard Delaware children.
Unfortunately, if you are a daycare provider and you're at the center of an unfair disciplinary incident, you could find yourself on a list of unpreferred or banned providers without having done anything to deserve that. If this happens, you'll have a very hard time finding work or clients in Delaware. Importantly, you should also be aware that even if something happened in a different state, it could end up in this commission's database. If any allegations or concerns about your behavior come to light, it's critical to take care of them adequately and promptly.
Delaware's Child Care Background Check System And Why It's Relevant for You
One of the steps required to achieve licensure in Delaware as a childcare provider is getting through a background check. When this happens, you'll submit your information and initiate a check across statewide databases to ensure you don't have prior disciplinary items on your record.
If you do this, you should know that anyone with access to the Delaware Background Check System—which will include potential employers, as well as state regulatory bodies—can:
- Look up your current license status
- Review any disciplinary history or possible incidents that have been listed in the database in connection with you
- Make licensing and hiring decisions accordingly!
While this system can be exceedingly convenient for people making licensing and hiring decisions, as a provider and applicant, this system leaves little room for explanation or nuance. If there's something in the background check system that does not paint a good picture of you, especially if it's in there because of false allegations, that can make your life a lot more difficult than it needs to be. For example, if you're trying to get a new job and your prospective employer checks the database and finds something, that employer may discontinue considering you on the spot—or, at the very least, ask you some extremely tough questions.
Are There Separate Rules that Daycare Facility Owners and Individual Providers Need to Follow?
Daycare is a multifaceted industry. There are some large facilities that employ many providers and support entire communities of children; there are smaller individual providers that may only provide care for one or two families.
As you may expect, each of these disparate groups of professionals will need to adhere to different types of rules. Here's a quick overview of what you might expect as a Delaware facility owner or independent provider.
Rules for Delaware Daycare Facility Owners
- Facility owners must maintain a specific staff-to-child ratio and, in particular, must never exceed that ratio to ensure that the children in their care receive adequate attention.
- Facility owners must comply with regular facility safety inspections by the Office of Child Care Licensing to ensure that their facility meets all applicable welfare, safety, and health standards.
- If your facility provides any type of education in addition to care, you'll need to make sure your curriculum is state-approved and focuses adequately on the emotional, cognitive, and physical development of the children in your care.
- Finally, as a facility owner, you will be required to maintain accurate records. These records may need to include daily attendance logs, incident and injury reports, and continually updated staff training records.
Rules for Individual Daycare Providers:
- All individual Delaware daycare providers will need to undergo comprehensive background checks. This includes fingerprinting.
- All individual Delaware daycare providers are responsible for ensuring that they invest in training sessions on a regular basis to prove that they are up-to-date with the latest best practices in the field.
- All individual Delaware daycare providers must report any concerns about a child's welfare they have to their management and to the Office of Child Care Licensing.
- All individual Delaware daycare providers must ensure that their actions are always up to a high standard of professional childcare. This is a wide rule category but generally means that children under their care must be safe and their well-being looked after.
If you're a Delaware daycare provider or facility owner, the moment that you hear someone alleging you did not follow one of the above rules or otherwise implicates you in a violation, stop what you're doing and call the Lento Law Firm Team at once. We can help you manage your case as much as possible to avoid reputation-ruining discipline.
Why Choose the Lento Law Firm Team in Delaware
For years, the Lento Law Firm Team has supported daycare facility owners and independent daycare providers across the nation and in Delaware as they have navigated license-related disputes.
If you're in a similar situation, know that the Lento Law Firm is ready to help you with:
- Our targeted experience in daycare licensing. Your industry involves very specific, niche regulations. Our team is more than prepared to handle the intricacies of the system.
- Proactive defense strategies. Our team will work to open direct lines of communication between you and your state's licensing board to assist with negotiation. This can result in favorable outcomes without your necessarily needing to experience the stress of a formal hearing.
- Our willingness to do what it takes to support you. Whether your case resolves quickly, requires an appeal, or further escalation after an appeal is denied, our team will be there to help you understand what's happening, protect your rights, and chart the best way forward to safeguard your name and your future.
At the Lento Law Firm, we understand the anxiety and emotional toll that Delaware daycare licensing issues can trigger. Retain our services, and we'll be there to shoulder as much of the load of handling your case as we can.
The Lento Law Firm Team is Ready to Advocate for You and Your License
If you're a Delaware daycare provider, you're acutely aware of the essential services you provide. You've gone through the training. You see your families every day. You work hard to ensure that the children in your care feel safe and healthy every single day.
When you find yourself at the center of an investigation, that may feel like a betrayal. It'll certainly feel like a lot of paperwork. Given everything going on in your life, you could be tempted to ignore the investigation and hope it works out for the best.
Don't do this. The state of Delaware may decide to take away your license, even if you technically haven't done anything to deserve that outcome. Getting your license back can be a lot harder than you think—as is recovering from damage to your reputation after being associated with a childcare violation.
The Lento Law Firm is here to help you safeguard both your license and your reputation. The Professional License Defense Team is ready to begin advocating for you whenever you reach out to us, so reach out without delay so we can help you manage your investigation, negotiate with the Delaware licensing and regulatory boards, and take other actions on your behalf to help you attain your sought-after outcome.