If you're a daycare provider or facility operator in South Dakota, you need to know just how easy it can be to lose your license.
This might seem both foundational and unfathomable. After all the work you went through to get licensed in the first place, you might think it beyond the pale for the state to decide you can't do your job anymore. This is particularly pertinent for daycare providers since the services you provide are what enable entire communities to do their jobs, too. If you're suddenly shut down, which is what would happen if you lost your license, the amount of disruptions that would follow is hard to imagine.
Unfortunately, it can be far easier for a South Dakota daycare facility operator or independent provider to lose their daycare licensing. If someone (anyone!) files a complaint against you with South Dakota's relevant regulatory boards, the resulting investigatory and disciplinary process can be both extremely difficult and, possibly, damning. To help avoid this outcome, if you're a South Dakota daycare professional, it's vital that you jump into action to protect your reputation and your future as soon as you can after a complaint rolls in.
This is easier said than done, of course. That is—unless you retain the services of the Lento Law Firm Team.
At the Lento Law Firm, we don't think that any one incident, particularly if it's a mistake or a misunderstanding, should necessarily result in your being unable to further your career. For years, we've assisted daycare providers across the nation and in South Dakota as they've safeguarded their reputations, their sources of income, and their futures. We're happy to do the same for you. Retain the services of the premier Professional License Defense Team to uncover the best possible ways to advocate for your rights and understand your options as you navigate the South Dakota disciplinary and investigatory system. Call 888.535.3686 to tell us about your case, or fill out this form to provide details online.
What Governing Body Oversees Daycare Providers in South Dakota?
One of the main governing bodies you'll interact with as you go down this disciplinary road is the South Dakota Department of Social Services—in particular, its Division of Child Care Services. (Usually, this department is referred to as the DCCS).
The DCCS has a considerable amount of authority over South Dakota's childcare providers. For example, if the DCCS becomes aware of a rule violation or decides that it wants to learn more about the goings-on at a particular practice, the DCCS can:
- Conduct audits or investigations of a daycare facility
- Issue warnings for any infractions that the DCCS believes have happened
- Collect fines related to any violations that the DCCS believes have occurred
- Require daycare providers to take corrective actions, as needed, to address any issues the DCCS has identified
- Enforce probationary periods as the DCCS deems necessary
- Determine and enforce actions against a daycare professional's or facility operator's license, as deemed fit
If you're a busy facility operator, it'd be completely understandable if your first instinct was to ignore or underestimate the seriousness of DCCS actions. You might assume you can pay a fine or complete a quick task and then continue on, the DCCS investigation ultimately just being a blip on your radar.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. South Dakota takes the safety of its children very seriously—as it should!—but that can mean that the state can be quick to act and severe in its recommendations, even when the allegations against a provider are unsubstantiated.
Further, if you lose your license, there are a whole host of downstream consequences that can end up making your professional and personal lives much more difficult than they need to be.
For example, when you don't have a license, you won't be able to provide care, which will immediately throw a wrench in the plans of your entire daycare community. You'll lose clients. You'll disrupt homes. You'll be out a lot of money. And you won't necessarily be able to predict when the issue will resolve or if you'll definitely be able to get your license back at all.
To protect your reputation and your future, the moment that you realize a DCCS investigation could be in your future, you need to reach out to the Lento Law Firm Team at once. Our Professional License Defense Team is ready to help you navigate the disciplinary and investigatory process ahead of you, and the sooner you get us on the case, the better.
Is the DCCS the Only Governing Body with Authority Over South Dakota Child Care Providers?
Before we start discussing what rules daycare providers must follow, and what the investigatory process might look like, we need to continue adding to the relevant cast of characters. The DCCS is not the only group that has a say over the way daycare providers in South Dakota must operate.
For example, as you move forward in your disciplinary experience, you may interact with:
- The South Dakota Department of Social Services, Child Protection Services. CPS may decide that it needs to get involved if there are any allegations of neglect or abuse that are associated with you, your team, or your daycare environment.
- The South Dakota Department of Education. If you and your team (or you, by yourself) offer any type of services that are related to early childhood education and the allegations against you are pertinent to those services, the Department of Education may become involved.
- Your local health department. Do you or your team provide meals or snacks to the children in your care? If so, your local health department may take an interest in your facility, particularly if the allegations against you are relevant to food and safety.
There's a chance you may have already interacted with some of these groups through your initial licensing process. If you go through a disciplinary process with the state, you may have to go through that daunting, paperwork-heavy process all over again.
What's the Licensing Process for Daycare Professionals Like in South Dakota?
Securing a license to either provide childcare or run a daycare facility in South Dakota is a multi-step, labyrinthine process. The state wants to do its due diligence to ensure that you have the background and skills necessary to take care of any children who may be in your care.
To help prove that you are eligible for a license, you may need to accomplish steps such as:
- Filling out an application that includes comprehensive information about you and your team, if you're a facility operator. You'll also need to detail the services you intend to offer.
- Complying with background checks, which can include background checks for your entire team, to ensure that everyone involved in your operation or practice is eligible to work with children.
- Complying with any necessary on-site inspections to ensure that your facility is in line with all of South Dakota's required operational standards.
- Ensuring that you and your team are compliant with all training guidelines initially and showing that you have a clear plan to make sure that you are in compliance with all ongoing training guidelines. The training you'll need to demonstrate may include first aid, CPR, child development training, and other focus areas.
- You'll also need to pay all fees that the state deems necessary in association with the licensing process.
This entire process can take a very long time.
And, if you have to go through it all over again due to a disciplinary proceeding, you may have to go through it more than once—and, at the end of the process, there's no guarantee that you'll actually get your license again.
It's far better to avoid license revocation in the first place, if at all possible. If you're worried that possible revocation processes may be in your future, retain the services of the Professional License Defense Team at once to safeguard your future.
What Types of Actions Could Potentially Result in My Losing My South Dakota Child Care License?
Since the stakes are so high, you might think that only a few very serious offenses could trigger the DCCS's investigatory process. In reality, people can file allegations against a daycare provider for many different reasons.
Importantly, anyone can file an allegation, too. You might discover that a colleague, a team member, a client, or an auditor has filed a complaint against you. This will only heighten the stress that you're experiencing. You may even feel betrayed.
At the Lento Law Firm, we're here to help you go through your disciplinary process as successfully as possible. In our years of helping South Dakota daycare professionals mitigate the harm associated with DCCS investigations, we've found that the following allegations are the most common:
- Lack of required qualifications to provide childcare properly
- Team member or individual unprofessional conduct or unethical behavior
- Substance abuse, particularly while on the job
- Engaging in fraudulent activities or misrepresentation of qualifications
- A facility violating key state-sanctioned safety standards
- Any daycare professional being out of compliance with accepted care standards
- Criminal convictions on the part of staff members, especially if the conviction was related to something violent
As we mentioned above, anyone can file a complaint for just about anything. If the DCCS reviews the complaint and decides it wants to learn more, it can initiate a full investigation and formal hearing process, even if that doesn't seem warranted from the outside.
What Happens After Someone Files a Complaint Against a South Dakota Child Care Provider?
After the DCCS learns about a potential violation, several things will happen very quickly. They may or may not happen in this order, but below is a general checklist of things you should be able to expect in your disciplinary experience:
- First, the DCCS will quickly scan the provided information and determine whether or not it wants to pursue it. The DCCS does not have the time or resources, of course, to investigate every complaint that comes its way. The DCCS personnel will, therefore, read the complaint, weigh any provided evidence, and either discard the complaint or set an investigation in motion.
- Then, an investigation will happen. This could be an in-depth operation that involves client and team interviews, a full inspection of the daycare facility, an audit of all records and paperwork, and other invasive, highly stressful actions. This will be a significant disruption to you and your practice. If you have not already done so, by the time an investigation is scheduled or happening, you need to retain the services of the Lento Law Firm Team to ensure that the DCCS does not overstep its authority as it tries to learn more about your alleged responsibility for a possible rule violation.
- After the investigation is complete, the DCCS will invite you to a hearing. This may be informal, but if the allegations are severe or involve child safety, there may be a very formal hearing during which you'll need to make your case before a panel of DCCS representatives. This will be your chance to tell your side of the story, cross-examine any witnesses, and ensure that you provide the DCCS with any evidence that could exonerate you or your team.
- At the end of the hearing, the DCCS will deliberate and then come to a decision about your possible likelihood of being responsible for the allegations against you. If the DCCS believes you are responsible, they will also recommend sanctions for you to undergo before possibly regaining your license. These sanctions can range from having to pay a fine to getting your license revoked permanently.
Luckily, if you receive a sanction and you don't agree with the DCCS's assessment of the situation, you can file a formal appeal to ask the DCCS to reconsider.
What's the South Dakota DCCS's Appeal Process Like?
After the DCCS issues a decision in your case, you'll have a brief window of time to file an appeal. Usually, a successful appeal will not ask the DCCS to reconsider your responsibility—the goal is generally to ask for a lesser sanction.
To start your appeal process, you'll need to figure out ways to represent your side of the story that are as ironclad and evidence-based as possible. This may require that you start your own investigation to uncover information or learn more about the regulations that you have allegedly violated.
Don't underestimate this process. Even though you'll only have a few business days to submit your appeal, your appeal will be paperwork-heavy. You'll need a very clear, strong strategy. And you'll need to be ready to pivot your strategy on a dime. That's why, if you think that an appeal is in your future, you need to retain the services of the Professional License Defense Team at once.
With our team on board, you can tackle the following appeal steps:
- Assessing your readiness for an appeal
- Determining the strongest possible basis for an appeal
- Finding compelling evidence to back up your appeal
- Writing a persuasive argument that encapsulates your defense direction
- Filing your appeal to ensure you hit all applicable deadlines
- Negotiating as necessary to realize your most successful possible outcome
Filing a strategic appeal isn't the last action you can take. If your appeal is unsuccessful, the Lento Law Firm Team can help you pursue negotiations or further actions to support the best possible outcome for you, your team, and your future.
Does South Dakota Maintain a Permanent Record of Disciplinary Actions Against Child Care Providers?
South Dakota does have a permanent database for keeping track of daycare professional disciplinary action. It's called the South Dakota Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect, and it's maintained by the South Dakota Department of Social Services.
This is a good thing. It helps ensure that anyone who has a history of violence or child maltreatment doesn't have the chance to work with children in the future.
However, if this registry contains information about you, that can have some very specific repercussions on your professional future. For example, if you're an individual provider and someone else tries to hire you, they'll likely check this database first. If you have disciplinary actions documented against your name, that prospective employer could very likely decide to go in a different direction.
It's a good idea to avoid having your information permanently in this database. To do this, you'll need to work quickly with our Professional License Defense Team to negotiate for reduced sanctions and manage your disciplinary experience well from day one.
Are There Rules that South Dakota Daycare Providers and Facility Operators Need to Follow?
Yes, there are. To avoid potentially career-wreaking allegations, it's a good idea to understand what responsibilities are expected of daycare facility owners and independent providers. Here's a quick list of the most common rules that South Dakota daycare professionals will need to follow:
If you're a South Dakota daycare facility owner…
- You will need to ensure that you maintain a very specific staff-to-child ratio to ensure that every child in your care has access to the services that they need.
- You will need to comply with state-regulated safety inspections.
- If you offer any type of educational activities, you'll need to ensure that the curriculum you follow is state-approved. The same goes for food and safety: If you are responsible for feeding your children, you'll need to follow local health and safety rules.
- Finally, you will be responsible for maintaining accurate, comprehensive records surrounding your daily operations. These records may include anything from up-to-date staff training logs, daily attendance logs, or injury and incident reports.
If you're a South Dakota independent daycare provider…
- You'll need to comply with the background checks relevant to your position as you get your license
- You'll need to make sure that you stay up-to-date with all training relevant to your position
- You'll need to understand that you are required to report any concerns about child welfare or safety immediately to the state
- And, finally, you'll need to make sure that you're always maintaining a high standard of care for the children and families you're supporting.
If someone can allege that you have violated any of these rules as a South Dakota daycare professional, it's time to get your ducks in a row. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help you jumpstart your own investigation, become well-versed in your state's regulations, and pull together a strong defense to support your best possible outcome.
Here's How the Lento Law Firm Team Can Help South Dakota Daycare Professionals
If you're a South Dakota daycare professional, you do not have the time for long, drawn-out disciplinary and sanction-related negotiations. You also don't have the mental bandwidth for stressful processes during which your ability to provide services is at stake.
Luckily, you don't need to weather these scary situations alone. With the help of the Lento Law Firm Team, you can feel sure that you're being proactive at every stage of your disciplinary experience. We'll bring our years of specific experience in South Dakota daycare licensing, our ethos of proactive defense strategies and deft negotiation tactics, and our full support to help you succeed. We'll start with a consultation to learn more about your story and then work closely with you to determine your next best steps.
We know that time is of the essence for you and your case, so the Professional License Defense Team is ready to begin supporting you without delay.