Missouri has many childcare providers and programs across the state. Offering care and support to children before they start their school journey is a critical task, especially for those families who cannot do it themselves. As a childcare provider, you're probably motivated by helping children, and you may even be in charge of your own childcare program or facility.
In order to run a childcare program in Missouri, you must not only be passionate about your job, but you must also adhere to all of the state regulations. Disregarding these laws could result in your childcare license being revoked.
You must comply with all relevant regulations, as well as undergo inspections and address complaints. Misunderstandings, faulty information, or lack of knowledge of what's expected from daycare centers on the part of parents can often lead to these complaints. If you are a childcare provider or staff member and you don't adhere to the rules or have the proper qualifications, it may result in the suspension or revocation of your license.
If you need help defending your childcare license after a complaint, the Lento Law Firm can help. Our Professional License Defense Team is ready to assist childcare providers throughout Missouri. Contact us by telephone at 888-535-3686 or complete our form, and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.
Childcare Licensing in Missouri
In Missouri, the Office of Childhood (OOC) at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) oversees programs related to childcare, early learning, and early intervention for children from birth to age five. The OOC has two sections that are directly related to childcare licensing:
- Child Care Compliance (CCC): This section is in charge of licensing childcare providers in the state, as well as investigating complaints about childcare.
- Regulations: This section processes fingerprints and conducts background screenings for childcare providers in Missouri.
To become a licensed childcare provider in Missouri, you must go through CCC's childcare licensing orientation session. Then, you'll have to complete all the other requirements and submit to regular inspections by CCC once your childcare program is up and running.
Your childcare program must undergo and pass inspections on a regular basis. You must have fire safety and environmental sanitation inspections once per year and an inspection from CCC twice per year. During these inspections, specialists will check to ensure your childcare program is meeting the requirements set forth by Missouri law. If they find that you aren't compliant, you may have to face consequences.
You also must submit regular documentation concerning your childcare facility, including:
- Annual declaration for a licensed facility
- Current list of all available equipment
- Current list of childcare staff members
- Evidence of compliance with local building and zoning requirements
When the CCC inspector visits your facility, you must have the following documents on hand and ready to show:
- Background checks for staff members and volunteers
- Health information for childcare staff members
- Driver's licenses for individuals who transport children
- Training information
- Log of completed emergency drills
- Attendance records
- Department-approved variances
- Health information for children
As a licensed childcare provider in Missouri, you already know that the list of requirements to run your facility is long. You have countless things you must comply with, documents to fill out and submit, and regular screenings to do for your staff. All of those requirements don't include dealing with occasional complaints your childcare facility might get from a concerned parent.
Getting your childcare license in Missouri can be difficult, but keeping it can be even more so. DESE and CCC take early childcare very seriously and hold providers to high standards. A small mistake or even misunderstanding by a parent can lead to the suspension or revocation of your license. At the Lento Law Firm, our Professional License Defense Team can help. We understand the pressure you're under to comply with childcare licensing standards, and we know what's at stake if you're accused of wrongdoing. We can help you protect your childcare license.
Legal Basis for Disciplining Licensed Childcare Programs in Missouri
DESE can deny, suspend, place on probation, or revoke a license for any of the following reasons:
- The childcare facility has broken any local law related to the health and safety of children
- Not passing the required annual fire, safety, health, and sanitation inspections
- The premises are deemed unsafe and unsuitable for children
- Flammable liquids, poisonous materials, alcoholic beverages, and other hazardous items are made accessible to children
- Smoking or using tobacco products in any area of the childcare facility during a period when children cared for under the license are present
- Lack of a working telephone to receive incoming and outgoing calls
- Less than 35 square feet of usable floor space is provided to each child
- Putting locks or latches on bathroom doors or bathroom stall doors used by children below the first grade
- Not having a separate bathroom for staff if the center is licensed for more than 50 children
- Lacking a safe diapering area for facilities that provide infant and toddler care
- Having a play area that is not fenced in or isn't on or adjacent to the property
- Providing less than 75 square feet of outdoor play area to each child in the facility's care
- Failing to provide adult supervision every time the children go outside
- Allowing animals on the premises that may pose a threat to the health or safety of children
- Hanging drapes or other materials in front of exit doors
- Covering more than 30% of a wall with artwork or teaching materials
- Conducting less than one fire drill per month and less than one disaster drill every three months
- Not keeping stairways, landings, and ramps free of all objects
- Failing to have policies and procedures for responding to a disaster emergency
- Letting children share bedding
- Failing to keep play equipment in good and clean condition
- Letting children play on large trampolines
- Having caregivers, directors, or other childcare facility personnel under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs
- Allowing caregivers to do major housekeeping, cleaning, or maintenance activities when they're supposed to be providing childcare
- Denying a child admission to your childcare program based on their race, sex, religion, or national origin
This list doesn't cover even a small portion of the requirements for childcare facilities in Missouri. Failure to meet the standards set for childcare providers can result in disciplinary action from DESE. For minor violations, you'll most likely be asked to correct the error within a certain timeline and then demonstrate you've corrected it to a CCC specialist. For more serious or repeat violations, your license may be put on probation, suspended, or even revoked.
When a CCC licensing specialist determines that your childcare facility is in violation, you shouldn't wait to see what happens or act on your own. You should contact a Professional License Defense attorney, like the team at the Lento Law Firm. Even if it's a less severe violation, the matter can spiral out of control quickly. It's better to have legal representation from the start of the issue.
What Qualifies as a Childcare Program in Missouri?
There are several types of childcare programs in Missouri. The ones that require licenses include:
- Family child care homes: A family child care home is a childcare program where care is given to not more than 10 children for any part of the 24-hour day. The person providing the care must be licensed as a family child care home provider. A family childcare home program may take place in the provider's residence.
- Group child care homes: A group child care home is a childcare program where care is given to not more than 20 children for any part of the 24-hour day. The person providing the care must be licensed as a group childcare home provider. The program must not be in the provider's permanent residence or must be separate from their living quarters.
- Child care centers: A child care center is a childcare program conducted in a location other than a provider's permanent residence or separate from the provider's living quarters. Care is provided to children for any part of the 24-hour day. State law places no limit on the number of children who can be enrolled, but there are local ordinances that limit the number of children in the program based on building capacity.
Who Can File Childcare License Complaints in Missouri?
Anyone can submit a complaint about a childcare provider's potential health or safety violation to CCC. All they have to do is submit a form on the DESE website or call their childcare regional office by phone. DESE investigates and maintains a record of all complaints. These complaints can be publicly available when asked for, meaning any person can request to see previous complaints about your childcare facility—even if the matter was resolved.
Is Simply Telling the Truth Enough?
We've supported licensed professionals in the past as they sought to defend themselves. We've observed that merely giving your perspective isn't always sufficient to clear your name. If you find yourself facing allegations, you can present your argument, but you're still bound by the rules and protocols of DESE. Likewise, if your childcare center is at risk of license revocation, merely stating the facts might not be enough to evade potential penalties.
The welfare of children is a top priority for DESE, and they treat any reported violations seriously. Every complaint receives meticulous and comprehensive scrutiny. DESE's primary goal is to address issues swiftly and effectively.
Even if you've presented the truth, the decision about your childcare license might not always reflect the reality. There are instances where DESE might not conduct a thorough investigation, leading to an incorrect judgment. The department sometimes may lean more towards the accuser, possibly overlooking evidence that supports your case. Such oversights can result in a decision that feels unfair or inaccurate.
Childcare providers in Missouri should be aware that any miscommunication or dispute with a parent could jeopardize your license. At the Lento Law Firm, we are committed to ensuring you receive a just hearing and the opportunity to defend yourself. We will strive for the most favorable outcome for you.
Potential Sanctions for Childcare Providers in Missouri
If DESE determines that you've violated the rules set for childcare facilities in Missouri, the department can take action against your childcare provider license. These actions include:
- Asking for license surrender
- Formal letter of censure or warning
Your childcare facility could also have an injunction if you don't follow the basic fire, health, safety, and sanitation laws or if there is imminent bodily harm to the children in your care. The injunction can require your childcare facility to have supervision from DESE or prevent you from operating your childcare program entirely.
There's a lot at stake when it comes to your Missouri childcare license. You may have to suspend operations or shut down your facility completely. For any action DESE takes concerning your license, you must also notify parents, even for minor issues. If your license gets revoked because of failure to comply with DESE standards, you cannot reapply for 12 months. Trying to keep your childcare program going after this kind of incident or having to start it over completely is an enormous undertaking.
At the Lento Law Firm, we understand the pressure you're under as a licensed childcare provider. Any small mistake or complaint from a parent can ruin everything you worked so hard to build. We don't want you to lose your childcare facility over a licensing matter. Our team can help you defend yourself against DESE.
Adjudication Process for Childcare Licensing Violations in Missouri
The process for licensing issues for Missouri childcare providers includes three main steps: notice, hearing, and judicial review.
If DESE wants to deny, suspend, place you on probation, or revoke your childcare provider license, the department must provide you with written notice before taking action. Once you receive the written statement, you have 30 days to request a hearing before the Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC). Your request for a hearing must be in writing.
Submitting your request for a hearing on time is crucial. If DESE doesn't receive it within 30 days, the proposed disciplinary action (denial, suspension, placing on probation, or revocation of your license) will take effect the 31st day after you receive the original notice from DESE.
Once DESE receives your request for a hearing, they must submit it to the AHC within 90 days. AHC will then send you a notice of hearing with the time and place of the hearing. They must provide you with at least 10 days' notice before the hearing is scheduled to take place.
At the hearing, you will have the right to call and examine witnesses, introduce evidence, rebut evidence presented against you, and cross-examine opposing witnesses. You may also have an attorney represent you at the hearing.
Once the hearing ends, the hearing officer makes a decision. DESE will notify you of the final decision—but you can still appeal this decision.
If you do not agree with DESE's decision, you can use the judicial review process. You must file a petition in the circuit court of the county where your childcare facility is located within 30 days of your hearing. While the appeal is ongoing, the DESE decision doesn't take effect.
The county circuit court can either affirm, reverse, or modify DESE's decision. If you are still unhappy with the outcome after judicial review, you can appeal it as a civil case.
Notice of Immediate Suspension
DESE can also suspend your license with immediate effect if the department determines there is an imminent threat of bodily harm to the children in your care. You can appeal this action, but you must file the appeal within 10 days of receiving the notice of suspension from DESE. Once you do, DESE sets an appeal hearing that takes place within another 10 days. While the appeal process is ongoing, the license suspension is in effect.
How Can an Attorney Help with Your Childcare Licensing Issue?
It's essential to hire a lawyer if you're a childcare provider who's experiencing sanctions. Defending your license is not only a way to protect you and your income but also to safeguard the children in your care. We highly recommend that you take advantage of our services for the following reasons.
- You can easily be sanctioned. When it comes to addressing complaints against childcare providers, DESE usually leans in favor of the complainant until proof is provided to the contrary. Therefore, it's vital that you formulate a defense plan to prevent the revocation of your license. We can help you demonstrate that the allegations are inaccurate and that you have complied with all applicable regulations.
- DESE has many resources. If you're facing a problem or complaint concerning your childcare facility, you could be dealing with a representative from CCC or DESE. Although you may not have the same legal resources as DESE, you can even the playing field by getting a lawyer. DESE is a large department with many lawyers and experts who have a great deal of experience in childcare licensing issues.
- We have a successful track record defending childcare providers. We've helped many credentialed childcare professionals, and our proven results speak volumes. We're devoted to putting in the effort on your case to secure the ideal outcome for you.
We'll manage your license defense for you so you can spend your time running or overseeing your childcare facility while the complaint against you is in progress.
The Services Our Firm Can Provide
At Lento Law Firm, we are committed to protecting you from any potential penalties. If the sanctions are unavoidable, we'll do our best to minimize the severity of the consequences for you. We provide the following services:
- Identifying your ideal solution: When you contact us, we'll examine your case carefully to decide on the best action. We'll assess your situation and let you know which outcome you can reasonably expect based on the severity of the charges against you.
- Thoroughly investigating your case: We'll conduct our own research for your case without relying solely on outside information. We'll track down the evidence and witnesses you need to bolster your arguments. Having the right evidence and witnesses can make a huge difference in your case outcome.
- Exploring alternative resolutions: We can try to collaborate with CCC to reach a resolution without having to go to a formal hearing. It may be possible to find a favorable result for all parties involved by negotiating with their legal team.
- Accompanying you to proceedings: We will go with you to all hearings and meetings with DESE and AHC and make sure that you are fully prepared for these occasions.
- Taking the next steps: If all else fails, you could consider taking legal action. Filing a lawsuit should only be done if all other possible solutions for protecting your license have been exhausted. Our team can review the specifics of your situation and advise you on the best course of action.
Our nationwide group of lawyers works with licensed childcare providers to help them defend their licenses. We take into account all elements of our client's situations to gain the most favorable result.
We Help Childcare Programs Throughout Missouri
Our Professional License Defense can help childcare providers throughout Missouri, including in the following cities:
- Kansas City
- St. Louis
- Lee's Summit
- Saint Joseph
- Saint Charles
- St. Peters
- Blue Springs
- Jefferson City
- Cape Girardeau
Even if you don't see your city listed above, our team can provide you with guidance and support in dealing with your childcare provider licensing problem.
Contact the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm Today
Defending your childcare license can be difficult without help. The Lento Law Firm can give you the support you need. To discuss your licensing issue, please contact us at 888-535-3686 for a consultation. You can also complete our contact form, and a member of our staff will get back to you.