In Rhode Island, there's an abundance of childcare workers and centers. Taking care of kids before they reach school age is a crucial job, especially for those households that aren't able to do it themselves. As a childcare professional, you no doubt have a passion for helping children and you may even operate your own childcare program or center.
Enthusiasm for your job isn't enough to let you keep running a childcare operation in Rhode Island, however. You must also comply with the laws and rules set forth by the state. Failure to do so could result in revocation of your license to provide childcare.
Not only is it essential to comply with all relevant regulations, but you must also be ready to respond to inspections and grievances regularly. Often, these complaints come from misunderstandings, incorrect information, or parents who aren't aware of the required standards for childcare facilities. If you are a childcare facility operator or worker who fails to keep up with these complaints or with required certifications and training, it could lead to a loss of your license.
If you are facing an investigation or complaint regarding your child care license, reach out to the Lento Law Firm. Our Professional License Defense Team is here to help. You can dial 888-535-3686 or fill out our form and we will get back to you.
Childcare Licensing in Rhode Island
Childcare providers in Rhode Island must have a license to operate unless they fall into a legally exempt category. Licensing for childcare is regulated by the State of Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS), Child Care Licensing Unit (CCL). CCL approves or denies applications for childcare licenses and assesses childcare providers who already have a license to ensure they're still meeting state standards.
DHS also has an Office of Child Care, which provides materials and resources to childcare providers throughout the state. The Office of Child Care manages the Starting RIght Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) as well. The CCAP helps subsidize the cost of childcare for families in Rhode Island. Childcare providers can choose to participate in CCAP, but it's not required. To be a CCAP-eligible provider, you have to meet certain requirements.
Legal Basis for Discipling Licensed Childcare Providers in Rhode Island
Rhode Island state law lists the violations that could lead to sanctions on your childcare provider license. Some prohibited actions that can get your license suspended, revoked, or subject to other disciplinary action include:
- Maintaining or conducting a program or facility without first having obtained a childcare license
- Providing falsified or misleading statements to DHS
- Not passing required building inspections and certifications (i.e. fire safety, water potability, food safety)
- Physical restraint of children
- Hitting, spanking, shaking, slapping, twisting, pulling, squeezing, or biting a child
- Demanding excessive physical exercise of a child
- Compelling a child to have soap, food, spices, or foreign substances in their mouth
- Exposing a child to extreme temperatures
- Isolating a child in an area where they cannot be seen or supervised
- Binding, tying, or taping to restrict movement
- Using or withholding food as punishment or reward
- Toilet training methods that demean or humiliate a child
- Rejecting, terrorizing, ignoring, or isolating a child
- Using abusive, profane, or sarcastic language or verbal abuse with a child
- Any form of public or private humiliation of a child
- Taking away physical or outdoor activity time as punishment for a child
- Smoking and use of tobacco products in the program or program grounds
- Smoking in any vehicle used by the program for transporting children
- Possessing, using, or being under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol in the program or on program grounds
- Possessing or using firearms or weapons of any kind in the program or on the program grounds
CCL also uses a risk level assessment when inspecting childcare centers in the state. Risks can be low, medium, or high. Risks consider the following:
- The probability a child is harmed
- The severity of harm that could come to a child
- How often a violation is repeated and the risk it poses to a child
Although risks categorized as high should be taken more seriously than medium or low risks, all must be dealt with. The consequences of not addressing the risk on time could be suspension or loss of your childcare license.
What Happens If Your Childcare License Gets Suspended?
If DHS takes action to suspend or revoke your license, you must comply with the following requirements:
- Post a notification from DHS near the entrance to your childcare center.
- Notify the parents and guardians of the children enrolled in your childcare center.
- Provide the names and contact information of parents and guardians of children enrolled in your childcare program to DHS.
As you can see, the consequences for your Rhode Island childcare program could be serious if your license is in jeopardy. The suspension or revocation order doesn't have to be final—you still have to give official notice to parents concerning the impending actions. When parents find out that your childcare license is under investigation, they may decide to enroll their children in a different childcare program.
What Qualifies as a Childcare Provider in Rhode Island?
In Rhode Island, there are three types of childcare providers that must be licensed or registered with DHS:
- Child day care centers: According to state law, this type of provider refers to any “person, firm, corporation, association or agency who, on a regular or irregular basis, receives any child under the age of sixteen (16) years, for the purpose of care and/or supervision, not in a home or residence, apart from his parent or guardian for any part of a twenty-four (24) hour day irrespective of compensation or reward.” It includes childcare programs offered to employees at their place of work but does not include nursery schools or other education-based programs.
- Family daycare homes: This type of provider is “any home, other than the child's home, in which child day care in lieu of parental care and/or supervision is offered at the same time to four (4) or more children who are not relatives of the caregiver.”
- Group family daycare homes: This type of childcare provider is any “residence occupied by an individual of at least twenty-one (21) years of age who provides care for not less than nine (9) and not more than twelve (12) children, with the assistance of one or more approved adults, for any part of a twenty-four-hour (24) day.”
Childcare professionals who work in these kinds of programs or facilities must also be licensed if they provide care for children for four or more hours per day.
Who Can File Childcare Licensing Complaints in Rhode Island?
Anyone can file a complaint about a childcare provider in Rhode Island. They can call the DHS Licensing team or email them with the complaint. The complaint will be handled by either CCL at DHS or the Child Protective Services agency at the Rhode Island Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF). Both agencies have the authority to conduct an investigation into the complaint and take action concerning your childcare license. If the complaint is concerning potential child abuse or neglect, DCYF will take charge of the case.
Is Simply Telling the Truth Enough?
We've assisted licensed professionals in defending themselves in the past, and we know that simply giving your account of what occurred isn't always sufficient to exonerate yourself. If there's an accusation made against you as an individual, you will be able to give your defense but you won't have a lot of legal options. Likewise, if it's your childcare facility that is facing the possibility of having its license revoked, speaking the truth alone is not likely to prevent any penalties.
When it comes to children's welfare, DHS usually leans towards trusting the person making the complaint. Every claim is taken seriously and examined closely. The priority for DHS is to address the issue at hand and resolve it as efficiently as possible.
Although you may speak truthfully, it may not necessarily result in a correct ruling concerning your childcare provider license. DHS often fails to conduct a thorough investigation, is inclined to side with the complainant, dismisses certain evidence that may be beneficial to your case, and does not make a fair judgment based on the presented facts.
If you're a childcare provider in Rhode Island, it's essential to be aware that any miscommunication or altercation with a parent could lead to the revocation of your license. Here at the Lento Law Firm, we'll make sure you are treated justly and given the opportunity to defend yourself. We'll work hard to guarantee the best possible outcome.
Potential Sanctions for Childcare Providers in Rhode Island
If CCL finds that your childcare center has violated a regulation and assigns it a risk level, you are usually given a resolution timeline to address it. If you don't resolve the risk within the given timeline, you could face penalties such as:
- Civil penalties
- License modification
- License suspension
- License revocation
- Written notice of noncompliance
- Education and training
- Suspending new enrollment in the childcare program
- Assessing fines
Per Rhode Island state law, childcare provider license suspensions cannot exceed six months. While the license is suspended, you cannot operate your childcare facility or program. You must also submit an action plan within 30 days describing how you corrected the violations or noncompliance that led to your license suspension. If your childcare license gets revoked, you must wait three years before you can reapply for a new one.
There are also penalties for childcare providers that continue to operate after their licenses have been suspended or revoked. If you don't follow the suspension or revocation order, you could be convicted of a misdemeanor and fined $500 for each week that your program or facility continued to operate without a license.
The potential sanctions that DHS can take against your childcare license are severe enough to put your childcare program out of business. Even before the action is final, you have to notify parents about the investigation. If you do lose your license, you have to cease all operations immediately. If you do manage to get your license back later on, starting up your childcare program again could be extremely difficult—you'd be starting from square one again.
We at the Lento Law Firm understand how dire the consequences can be when your Rhode Island childcare license is in jeopardy. Our Professional License Defense Team will do everything we can to prevent these outcomes from happening.
Adjudication Process for Childcare Licensing Violations
If your childcare license comes into question, you typically have a chance to correct the violation before the license is suspended or revoked. However, you have to fix the problem according to a timeline set by DHS, and it's not always doable. Other than working to correct the alleged violation, there's not much we can do until DHS takes formal action.
Once DHS does take action concerning your childcare license, you can go through the adjudication process, which is outlined below.
Notice of Violation
If a licensing administrator finds your childcare program to be in violation, you'll receive written notice. This notice must include a Corrective Action Plan, which is a set of instructions for correcting the violation along with a timeline to complete the correction. If you haven't made the correction by the time the deadline passes, the licensing administrator will start an action to suspend, revoke, or suspend your license on probationary status.
For any action DHS takes, you have the right to appeal and receive a fair administrative hearing. You'll have to fill out an appeal form and submit it to the Executive Office of DHS to request a hearing. You have 30 days from the date of the DHS decision to notice to submit your request.
At the administrative hearing, you can have an attorney represent you. You'll also have an impartial hearing officer who will listen to your arguments and make a decision regarding your request.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
At any time during the adjudication process, you can pursue an informal dispute resolution, which allows you and DHS to come to a solution without having a hearing. Participation in the informal process is completely voluntary, but it might be a good option for you depending on your situation.
If, during the informal process, it comes to light that the decision against your license was due to an error, you may be able to get the action corrected or withdrawn. This solution is referred to as a disposition related to agency errors.
The final alternative option to a hearing is a pre-hearing settlement conference. You can request a meeting before the hearing takes place—but this is considered a formal procedure. There will be a presiding settlement conference officer. You also have to propose a formal settlement and negotiate with the other party (the agency) in order to reach an agreement.
Any decision that comes from an administrative hearing or an alternative resolution process is considered a final order from DHS. Despite it being a “final” order, you still have another recourse if you don't agree with it. You can file for judicial review in the superior court of Providence County and take the matter to court.
The adjudication process for childcare license issues in Rhode Island is complex. There are multiple options for resolving the matter and you may not be aware which is the best one for you. If you've never been to an administrative hearing before, you'll also be unfamiliar with how to present your arguments or conduct yourself. At the Lento Law Firm, we have experience dealing with state departments and agencies over licensing issues. We can provide guidance and support at each step in the process so you never feel lost.
Do You Need an Attorney for a Childcare Licensing Problem?
If you are a childcare provider currently experiencing sanctions, it might seem like a waste of money to hire a lawyer. However, the consequences of losing your license could be severe, not only for you and your income, but also for the children in your care. We recommend using our services because:
- There's a low sanctions threshold. When it comes to handling grievances about childcare providers, DHS typically assumes you to be at fault until you can prove otherwise. It is your responsibility to demonstrate that the accusations are false and that you follow all relevant regulations. It's essential that you devise a defensive plan in order to protect your license from being revoked.
- DHS has ample resources. If you're facing a complaint about your childcare facility, you're likely to be dealing with a DHS licensing administrator. You may not have the same resources as the department, but you can even things out by seeking legal counsel. DHS is a giant department that has a lot of attorneys and specialists to handle childcare licensing matters.
- Our team has a track record of defending childcare providers. Our experience in dealing with licensed childcare providers is extensive, and our success rate speaks for itself. We are committed to providing you with the best possible service until your situation has been resolved.
We'll take care of the matter with your license defense so that you can concentrate on running or managing your childcare facility while the complaint against you is being processed.
Our Firm Can Assist You
At Lento Law Firm, our purpose is to protect you from any potential penalties. If there is no way to avoid them, then we will do our best to minimize the consequences. You can rely on us to:
- Find the ideal outcome: When you come to us, we'll assess your case carefully to decide what the best resolution could be. Depending on the severity of the accusations against you, the ideal outcome could vary.
- Investigate your case: We'll be conducting a full investigation of our own. We take the time to confirm all the details ourselves rather than relying solely on outside sources for the truth. Having the correct proof and people to testify can alter the result of your case.
- Explore alternative options: We'll engage with DHS to find a resolution without the need for a hearing or adjudication. Often, communicating with the DHS lawyers can lead to a beneficial outcome for all involved.
- Go with you to proceedings: We will be with you for every hearing and conference with CCL or DHS. We'll make certain that you are adequately prepared for these meetings as well.
- Take further legal action if necessary: If needed, we can provide you with assistance in filing a lawsuit. Our group can review these alternatives with you when they relate to your situation.
Our legal experts throughout the country work with licensing entities and the lawyers representing them. We take into account all the details of our clients' situation and strive to get the best results.
We Serve Childcare Providers Throughout Rhode Island
At the Lento Law Firm, our team helps childcare facilities and professionals working throughout the state, including in the following cities:
- East Providence
Even if you are working in or operating a childcare facility in another city in Rhode Island that isn't listed above, our team can help.
Call the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm
It can be difficult to protect your childcare license without any help. At the Lento Law Firm, we're prepared to start on your case and build a defense for your childcare license. To talk about your licensing issue, contact us at 888-535-3686 for a consultation. Alternatively, you can fill out our contact form, and one of our team members will contact you.