In New Mexico, there are many childcare centers and professionals that are dedicated to caring for children before they enter school. This is an incredibly important job, as some households rely on these childcare providers to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children. If you are a childcare worker or own a childcare facility, you most likely have a passion for caring for young children.
In addition to having a passion for providing childcare, there are many state rules and regulations that must be adhered to in New Mexico. Failure to meet these requirements may result in the revocation of your childcare license or registration.
You must comply with all these regulations, as well as answer complaints and inspections of your premises on a regular basis. Unfortunately, many grievances come from errors or misunderstandings or from parents who are unaware of what is needed from childcare centers. If you are a childcare center owner who has had their license suspended or a worker who is not up-to-date on their training and qualifications, you could be facing the loss of your career as a childcare professional.
Childcare Licensing in New Mexico
Daycare and childcare centers in New Mexico are regulated by The Early Childhood Education & Care Department (ECECD). The ECECD Child Care Services Bureau provides licenses and registrations for childcare providers in the state, as well as training, assistance, and resources for childcare providers. The ECECD Child Care Services Bureau also monitors and inspects childcare centers to ensure they meet quality standards.
The types of licenses that childcare providers can obtain in New Mexico are:
- Annual license
- Temporary license
- Amended license
- Provisional 2-Star license
- Military license
- Tribal government license
The childcare provider must post the valid license on the premises mentioned in the license in an area that is readily visible to parents, staff members, and visitors. The standard license for a childcare provider in New Mexico is the annual license, which must be renewed every year. ECECD can issue a temporary license to facilities that meet some of the requirements but not all. The temporary license can't exceed 120 days, and your facility can't have more than two consecutive temporary licenses.
Childcare Licensing Star Levels
Each childcare provider that has a license in New Mexico has a star rating assigned to it. These levels represent different requirements or standards that childcare facilities can obtain, including the FOCUS standards. The levels go from one star to five stars:
- 1-star level: Childcare programs not receiving a childcare subsidy and must meet and maintain licensing requirements at all times.
- 2-star level: Meeting and maintaining licensing requirements at all times.
- 2+ star level: Meeting and maintaining licensing requirements plus FOCUS basic criteria.
- 3-star level: Meeting and maintaining licensing requirements plus FOCUS level 3 criteria.
- 4-star level: Meeting and maintaining licensing requirements plus FOCUS levels 3 and 4 criteria.
- 5-star level: Meeting and maintaining licensing requirements plus FOCUS levels 3, 4, and 5, plus ECECD national accreditation status
Only the 1-star and 2-star levels are required to operate a licensed childcare program in New Mexico. The rest of the levels are only voluntary. The FOCUS program is the primary tool that ECECD uses to assess the quality and achievement of early childhood programs. It's not required to enroll in FOCUS, but it does have an impact on which star level your childcare license is at. Also, the loss of ECECD national accreditation automatically results in a reduction of star status.
Childcare licenses in New Mexico must be renewed every year. You have to send the correct forms and fee at least 30 days before the license is set to expire. You also have to get background checks run on your employees and volunteers every year in order to renew your license. If you don't submit your license renewal materials on time, ECECD can require you to cease operation of the childcare program until your license is in order.
Legal Basis for Suspending or Revoking Childcare Licenses in New Mexico
ECECD has the authority to take disciplinary action against your childcare license, including revocation or suspension, for any of the following violations:
- Failing to let authorized licensing representatives onto the premises
- Misrepresentation or falsification of any information on an application form or other form required by ECECD
- Allowing any person to be active in the childcare facility who would not currently pass a background check (including teenagers and adults living in a family childcare home even if they aren't active in the childcare operation)
- Failure to get timely background checks
- Failure to protect the health, safety, and welfare of children due to impaired health or conduct
- Hiring or continuing to employ any person whose health or conduct impairs their ability to properly protect the health, safety, and welfare of the children
- Allowing more children in the childcare care facility than what is stated in the license capacity
- Substantiated abuse or neglect of children by an educator, staff member, volunteer, or household member
- Failure to comply with licensing regulations
- Discovery of repeat violations of failure to correct deficiencies of survey findings
- Discovery of prior revocations or suspensions that may be considered when reviewing a facility's application for licensure or renewal
- Possessing or knowingly permitting non-prescription controlled substances or illegal drugs to be present or sold on the premises at any time, regardless of whether the children are present
- Making false statements or representations to ECECD with the intent to deceive
- Background clearance suspension or denial
As soon as ECECD learns about a violation in your childcare program and launches an investigation, it could be grounds for immediate suspension of your license until the investigation is over. After the investigation ends, your license could be reinstated, but it may also be permanently revoked. It depends on the outcome of the investigation.
In addition to following licensing regulations at your childcare facility, you must also follow laws concerning public health, food safety, building and fire safety, and potential child abuse and neglect. You must also ensure that the workers you hire for your childcare program have annual background checks and follow all the required regulations.
As a childcare worker or facility operator, you have a lot to keep track of. One alleged violation can lead to the closure of your daycare facility. If you want to defend your license so your program can stay up and running, you need the help of the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. We'll work diligently on your case to help you avoid major license restrictions or penalties so you can keep focusing on running your childcare program.
Who Can File Childcare Licensing Complaints in New Mexico?
Anyone can report a complaint about a childcare facility in New Mexico by contacting the ECECD Intake Hotline or by sending a complaint email. ECECD processes all complaints and assigns them a priority level based on their nature and severity. The priority level determines how soon after receiving the complaint the investigation should start.
The priority levels for complaints are:
- Priority 1: Investigation starts within 24 hours.
- Priority 2: Investigation starts within three working days.
- Priority 3: Investigation starts within five working days.
As a childcare license holder, you're required to cooperate with an ECECD investigation following a complaint about your facility. If you don't cooperate or try to obstruct the investigation, it could lead to sanctions against your license.
The complaint intake process is so wide open that your program could get a complaint about nearly anything, and the ECECD would have to investigate. A parent may misunderstand one of your policies or hear about something that happened at daycare from their child that isn't completely accurate, and it could lead to a formal complaint, investigation, and possible sanctions for you.
When you've been notified by ECECD that your facility is under investigation following a complaint, you should contact a Professional License Defense Team like the Lento Law Firm. Having an attorney by your side from the beginning will help make the process go more smoothly.
Is Telling the Truth Enough?
In the past, we've helped licensed professionals protect themselves from accusations. We've often seen that simply providing your side of the story isn't enough to prove innocence. If you're personally accused of something, you can argue your case, but without legal assistance, you may not have many options. And if your childcare facility is in danger of losing its license, simply speaking the truth is unlikely to be enough to avoid any ramifications.
When it comes to safeguarding the well-being of minors, ECECD is typically inclined to believe the person filing the complaint. Each allegation is taken seriously and considered carefully. The top priority for ECECD is to resolve the matter promptly and effectively.
Even if you are telling the truth, it does not guarantee that ECECD will make an accurate decision about your childcare provider license. ECECD may do any of the following:
- Not carry out a comprehensive examination
- Believe the accuser's statements more than yours
- Ignore evidence that could help your case
- Fail to reach a just verdict based on the facts at hand
If you are a childcare professional in New Mexico, you need to understand that any conflict or misunderstanding with a parent might result in the cancellation of your license. The Lento Law Firm is here to ensure that you are treated fairly and allowed the chance to protect yourself. Our attorneys will strive to attain a favorable result for you and your childcare license.
Potential Sanctions on a Childcare License in New Mexico
If your childcare program is deemed in violation of any of the licensing requirements or other applicable laws, the ECECD can take any of the following actions against your license:
- Reduction of star status
- Denial of an initial or renewal application
- Imposition of monetary sanctions
- Put conditions of operation in place
- Issue a cease and desist letter
- Imposition of other sanctions or requirements as seen fit
- Reduction of childcare assistance reimbursement to the base level (if it's not already at the base level)
If the ECECD thinks the safety and welfare of a child is at risk or has reason to believe that you cannot reasonably safeguard the health and safety of children, it can suspend, revoke, or place conditions on your childcare license immediately.
Depending on the severity of the violation, the ECECD may issue you a civil monetary penalty, which could be between $100-$5,000. The penalties are classed by Class A, Class B, and Class C, with Class C being the least severe and carrying the lowest penalty amount. When issuing monetary penalties, ECECD considers the following:
- Death or serious injury to a child
- Abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a child
- Regulatory violations which pose an immediate risk to the health and safety of a child
- Numerous violations that combine to jeopardize the health and safety of a child
- Repeat violations of the same nature found during two or more consecutive on-site visits to the childcare facility
- Failure to correct violations found during a previous onsite visit
- Intentional misrepresentation regarding the condition of the facility
- How significantly a monetary penalty impacts a childcare program financially
- Other extenuating circumstances
As you can see from this list of sanctions, having trouble with your license could lead to disastrous consequences for your childcare program. If an alleged violation is serious enough, you may have to cease operations immediately without time to prepare. Not only does it prevent you from operating your facility, but it also forces parents and guardians to look elsewhere for childcare while your program is closed. It also prevents your employees from being able to work.
If you want to avoid these devastating sanctions for your childcare license, you should work with a Professional License Defense Team, like the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm. We help licensed childcare professionals throughout New Mexico and nationwide. We can assist you with defending yourself from excessive sanctions against your license or work to reduce the penalties so they aren't as severe.
Adjudication Process for Childcare Licensing Issues
Issues concerning childcare licenses in New Mexico are handled by ECECD and go through a three-step adjudication process.
Step 1: Complaint and Investigation
The process starts when someone makes a complaint about your childcare program. ECECD starts an investigation after receiving the complaint, and when it's over, you'll receive a written letter with the results.
Step 2: ECECD Action
If the complaint is unsubstantiated, no further action is taken on the matter. If the complaint is substantiated, it goes in your file at ECECD, and you may have to do one of the following:
- Submit and implement a corrective action plan
- Receive sanctions such as license suspension, revocation, or restriction
- Be subject to criminal charges or civil penalties
Step 3: Administrative Review
If you don't agree with the action that ECECD takes, you can obtain an administrative review. If the action against you is immediate, you have five working days to file an appeal. If it's not immediate, you have 10 working days. ECECD will schedule a hearing and appoint an officer. At the administrative hearing, you may defend your case and have an attorney present with you.
Once the hearing ends, the hearing officer will make a decision regarding your childcare license issue. The decision at this step is final, and you cannot appeal it further.
Can an Attorney Help with your Childcare Licensing Problem?
If you're a childcare provider and you're threatened with penalties, you might wonder if it's truly essential to get a lawyer. Your childcare license being revoked could have a terrible effect, not only for you and your income, but also for the kids you look after. We would advise that you call our firm for the following reasons:
- The low threshold for sanctions: When it comes to allegations of misconduct by childcare providers, ECECD assumes you're guilty until proven otherwise. It's up to you to demonstrate that you have met all of the requirements and regulations. To make sure that your license is not revoked, you'll need to be proactive in defending yourself.
- Resources at ECECD's disposal: If there's a grievance with your childcare establishment, you'll likely have to face an ECECD Child Care Services Bureau licensing specialist. The state department is vast, with many lawyers and advisors they can turn to. You may not have the same resources as ECECD, but by employing a lawyer, you can even the playing field.
- Our experience defending professional license holders: Our team has a proven history of helping licensed childcare providers in various cases. With our extensive experience, you can rely on us to work diligently until your issue is resolved.
We'll take care of your license defense so you can concentrate on your job at the childcare facility while the complaint against you is ongoing.
What Our Firm Can Help With
At Lento Law Firm, our goal is to protect your reputation and minimize the potential sanctions that you might face. If the sanctions are unavoidable, then we will do our best to make sure that they are as lenient as possible. You can expect the following when you hire our Professional License Defense Team:
- Identifying the ideal outcome: When you explain your situation to us, we'll undertake an extensive examination to decide the best result that you can reasonably expect. Depending on the gravity of the accusation against you, the ideal outcome might vary.
- Gathering evidence: While the ECECD investigation is ongoing, our team will run its own inquiry. We're sure to double-check every detail and don't depend solely on outside sources to get the truth. Having the proper evidence and witnesses can make all the difference in your case.
- Looking at alternative settlement options: We can start a dialogue with ECECD to come up with an answer that doesn't require a hearing or adjudication proceedings. Often, talking with the ECECD lawyers can result in an arrangement favorable to all involved.
- Accompanying you to proceedings: We'll be with you every step of the way throughout the process. We'll attend any hearings or meetings with ECECD and make sure you're fully ready for them beforehand.
- Taking further legal action: If necessary, our team can provide you with assistance in filing a lawsuit. We can talk about these possibilities for litigation if and when they become applicable to your situation.
Our nationwide legal staff is knowledgeable in dealing with professional licensing authorities and their lawyers. We always keep your unique situation and work toward a favorable solution for you.
We Serve Childcare Providers Throughout New Mexico
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can assist with your licensing problem wherever you are in New Mexico, including in the following cities:
- Las Cruces
- Rio Rancho
- Santa Fe
Even if you're working in or operating a childcare facility in a city not listed above, our team can help you with your New Mexico childcare license.
Call the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team
Preparing a defense for your Childcare license can be difficult on your own. Our team at the Lento Law Firm is ready to help. Give us a call at 888-535-3686 for a consultation or fill out our contact form, and a staff member will reach out to you.