The state of South Carolina has many childcare workers and facilities throughout the state. Caring for children before they reach school age is a vital profession, as many families don't have the means to do it themselves. As a childcare worker, you no doubt have a passion for helping and caring for children and maybe you even started your own childcare facility.
Running a childcare operation takes more than passion, however. The state of South Carolina has many laws and regulations concerning child care and if your facility or your staff members don't meet them, you could lose your license or registration to provide child care.
Not only do you have to follow all these rules but you must also respond to complaints and inspections of your facilities on a regular basis. Often, complaints arise from misunderstandings or miscommunications, or concerned parents who aren't familiar with what's actually required of childcare facilities. If you're a child care facility operator who loses their license or a child care worker who doesn't stay current on your training and certifications, it could cost you your livelihood.
At the Lento Law Firm, our Professional License Defense Team will help you deal with complaints and investigations against your child care license. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or submit your details in our form and we'll reach out to you.
Child Care Provider Licensing in South Carolina
Child care in South Carolina is regulated by the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS), Division of Early Care and Education (referred to as SC Child Care). SC Child Care is responsible for licensing childcare facilities and providers and ensuring all licensed or registered entities and individuals meet all standards and are properly trained.
South Carolina state law defines child care as “the care, supervision, or guidance of a child or children, unaccompanied by the parent, guardian, or custodian, on a regular basis, for periods of less than 24 hours per day, but more than four hours, in a place other than the child's or children's own home or homes.” Child care is, therefore, a state-regulated activity. It's important to note that even though an occasional babysitter or family member who watch your children may not meet the state's definition of a “childcare” provider, this type of childcare is still regulated in the state of South Carolina.
There are four types of childcare facilities in South Carolina:
- Child Care Centers
- Group Child Care Homes
- Family Child Care Homes
- Legally-Exempt Operations
Childcare facilities, homes, and programs that operate four or more hours per day, more than two days per week, or that care for children from more than one family must either be licensed, registered, approved, or legally exempt. Depending on which type of childcare facility you work in or offer, you may have to undergo certain training or licensing. The requirements differ based on your role as well; childcare directors have more requirements than childcare staff, for example.
The type of training you have to do also varies based on where you work. Some of the different types of childcare training that individuals might have to complete each year include:
- Child growth and development training
- Early childhood education
- Health and safety
- Pediatric first aid
- CPR training
- Bloodborne pathogen training
- Curriculum activities for children
- Program administration (for directors and Group Home operators)
- Special needs
- Child guidance
- Professional development
Like medical professionals who have continuing education requirements, so do childcare workers have to complete ongoing training on a yearly basis to ensure they're still fit to care for children and receive the latest updates on child care.
Legal Basis for Disciplining Licensed Child Care Professionals in South Carolina
When you want to work as a childcare provider or director in South Carolina, you must undergo a background check and several other checks as well. These checks include:
- Fingerprint-based background check conducted by State Law Enforcement Division (SLED)
- Fingerprint-based background check conducted by the FBI
- An Abuse and Neglect Central Registry check
- State and national sex offender checks
You must pass all these checks before you can be employed in a licensed, registered, or approved childcare facility. You also have to pass all of these checks again every five years. If you don't pass them, it could prevent you from becoming a licensed childcare provider or director.
In addition to not completing training, there are several violations that could prevent you from being a childcare provider or put your license to operate a childcare facility in jeopardy:
- Administering medication to a child without their parent's permission
- Crimes against the person such as homicide, attempted murder, manslaughter, assault, unlawful hazing, criminal sexual conduct, etc.
- Crimes against morality and decency such as bigamy, incest, adultery, prostitution, indecent exposure, child exploitation, child prostitution, etc.
- Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
- Unlawful conduct toward a child
- Cruelty to children
- Child endangerment
- Conviction of a drug or alcohol violation in the previous ten years
- Operating a motor vehicle on behalf of a child care facility if you've previously been convicted of driving without a license or permit
If you even apply for employment at a childcare facility and you've been convicted of one of the above crimes, it's considered a misdemeanor, and you could be fined $5,000 or sent to prison for up to one year.
Failing to meet the training requirements, failing to renew your license or registration every two years, or committing one of the violations listed above could prevent you from working as a childcare professional or cause you to lose your license for your childcare facility in South Carolina. If you suspect that your profession or license might be in jeopardy, you should contact a Professional License Defense attorney, like the team at the Lento Law Firm. We help licensed childcare professionals and facilities throughout South Carolina or nationwide.
ABC Quality Ratings
ABC Quality is a ranking system sponsored by SC Child Care and DSS. It provides ratings and suggestions for improvement for childcare and daycare centers, in-home care providers, and other caregivers for infants, babies, toddlers, and children. The scores are A+, A, B+, B, C, or P (for pending).
Providers can apply to have an ABC Quality rating for their facility—it's not required. If your facility does join ABC Quality, however, you have to continue to meet the standards and you'll be reassessed and issued a new ranking on a regular basis. Also, parents will have the right to submit complaints about your facility based on the ABC Quality standards.
What Qualifies as a Childcare Facility in South Carolina?
Many of the licensing laws around childcare pertain to childcare facilities rather than individuals. It's important to know whether you're operating a childcare facility or not, and if you're subject to these licensing laws.
South Carolina law defines a childcare facility as a facility that “provides care, supervision, or guidance for a minor child who is not related by blood, marriage, or adoption to the owner or operator of the facility whether or not the facility is operated for profit and whether or not the facility makes a charge for services offered by it.”
The types of childcare facilities that fall under this definition include:
- Nursery schools
- Childcare centers
- Group childcare homes
- Family childcare homes
Childcare facilities don't include schools or educational institutions, childcare services provided by a shopping center or similar facility, school vacation or holiday camps that run less than three weeks, summer camps, bible schools conducted during vacation periods, facilities for persons with intellectual disabilities or who are mentally ill, or childcare centers owned and operated by religious organizations.
Who Can File Child Care Licensing Complaints in South Carolina?
Anyone can file a complaint about a childcare facility or provider on the SC Child Care website. The person filing the complaint must find the address of their Regional Child Care Licensing Office based on which state the child care facility is in. They can call or send an email to complain.
What Can People Complain About?
SC Child Care won't investigate every single complaint it receives; the complaint must be within its jurisdiction. If someone wants to dispute the rates you charge, for example, SC Child Care won't investigate.
Some examples of complaints that SC Child Care does take seriously are:
- A provider or facility is keeping children without the proper license or registration.
- A provider puts more children in a room than the staff-to-child ratio allows.
- The playground equipment at the facility is in an unsafe condition.
- A staff member was hired by the facility without getting a background check.
- The provider doesn't provide age-appropriate activities.
- The provider doesn't have the children follow good handwashing practices.
- The provider isn't talking to the children appropriately.
If a Regional Child Care Licensing Office receives a complaint like one of those listed above, it will investigate, and it may lead to sanctions on the child care provider.
Can the Public See Sanctions on a Child Care Provider in South Carolina?
SC Child Care has a publicly searchable database of all licensed and registered childcare facilities in the state of South Carolina. For each facility, the public can find the following details on the SC Child Care website:
- Type of childcare facility
- ABC Quality rating
- Operator's full name
- Facility hours of operation
- Licensing type, number, issue date, and expiration date
- The name and phone number of the DSS licensing specialist responsible for the facility
- A list of all the complaints the facility has received in the last three years, including the complaint severity, date, deficiency type, and complaint resolution status
- Inspection reports
If your childcare facility receives complaints or sanctions, they will be displayed on the SC Child Care website. Ideally, you want all of your complaints to be marked as “Resolved” but getting to that point isn't always straightforward. You might have to meet certain requirements set by DSS or work with your DSS Licensing Specialist in order to get issues resolved.
Trying to deal with complaints and licensing problems can be overwhelming. You're running a childcare facility on a regular basis—you have other things to worry about. At the Lento Law Firm, our team can deal with the legal issues so you can focus on the day-to-day tasks of operating a top-notch childcare facility.
Can't You Just Tell the Truth?
Our firm has helped licensed professionals defend themselves before, and in our experience, simply telling your side of the story may not be enough to clear your name. If there is a complaint against you as an individual, you'll have the opportunity to defend yourself but you won't have much legal recourse. If it's your childcare facility that's at risk of losing its license, your chances of avoiding sanctions just by telling the truth are slim as well.
When it comes to caring for children, DSS often gives complainants the benefit of the doubt. Every complaint is taken seriously and put under investigation. Often, the concern is with ensuring the complaint is dealt with rather than due process.
Even if you tell the truth, it could lead to an erroneous ruling concerning your childcare provider license because:
- DSS doesn't do due diligence to uncover facts, testimony, and evidence that could potentially change the outcome of the case.
- DSS is biased in favor of the complainant and wants to be seen taking action.
- DSS chooses not to consider certain evidence or testimony even though it could make all the difference in your case.
- DSS doesn't reach an appropriate conclusion based on the information available.
A misunderstanding or an angry parent could be all that it takes to have your childcare provider license taken away. You shouldn't assume anything when it comes to childcare licensing matters in South Carolina. At the Lento Law Firm, we want to help ensure you receive due process and that you're given a fair adjudication proceeding. We'll exhaust every potential path toward a positive outcome.
Sanctions a Child Care Provider Can Receive in South Carolina
If DSS believes that your childcare facility violates state rules and regulations, you could receive a citation. If things are more serious, you might also get an injunction, which requires you to stop operating your childcare facility immediately.
DSS can only issue an injection if:
- The facility is operating without a license or statement of registration
- There is a violation that threatens serious harm to the children in your childcare facility
- If you have repeatedly violated the rules for childcare facilities
The Hearing Process for Licensing Issues for Child Care Workers
If SC Child Care or DSS believes your facility has committed a violation, you may be issued a citation. This citation could come with sanctions or requirements, such as forcing you to comply with standards in a certain time frame. If you get cited, you can request an administrative hearing with DSS.
The hearing and adjudication process goes as follows:
- You submit a request for a hearing within 30 days of receiving the citation.
- The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) at DSS receives your request and schedules a hearing.
- You must get notification of the hearing 30 days before it takes place.
- You will be asked to participate in a prehearing conference at least ten days after receiving notice of the hearing.
- The hearing is conducted and an administrative judge presides. You may have legal counsel present with you at the hearing.
- You receive the final order in the mail.
- If you don't agree with the final order, you can ask for a Motion to Reconsider within ten days. Another option is to request judicial review by the courts within 30 days.
After the Motion to Reconsider or the judicial review process, DSS is obliged to follow the final order.
Do You Need an Attorney for Your Child Care Licensing Issue?
If you're facing sanctions as a child care provider you might wonder if it's really necessary to hire an attorney. Losing your childcare license can have a devastating impact not only on you and your livelihood but also on the children you help care for. We advise you to consider hiring the Lento Law Firm Team for the following reasons:
- The low sanctions threshold: When dealing with complaints about childcare providers, the DSS tends to consider you guilty until proven innocent. The burden will be on you to disprove the complaint and show that you're compliant with all standards. You'll need an active defense strategy to ensure your license doesn't get taken away.
- The resources DSS has: DSS is a huge state department that has many lawyers and experts to call upon when dealing with childcare licensing issues. If there's a complaint about your childcare facility, you'll most likely have to deal with a DSS licensing specialist. You probably don't have half the resources that DSS has at its disposal. By hiring an attorney, you can level the playing field.
- Our team's track record defending licensed professionals: We have helped licensed childcare providers in many situations and our track record speaks for itself. There's no substitute for experience and our team won't rest until we've helped you resolve your case.
You still have to deal with operating or working at a childcare facility while the complaint against you is ongoing. We'll deal with your license defense matter so you can focus on your professional responsibilities.
How Our Firm Assists You
At the Lento Law Firm, our mission is to clear your name and help you avoid sanctions. If sanctions are inevitable, then we'll work to reduce the severity of those sanctions as much as possible. You can count on our firm to do the following:
- Identify the ideal outcome of your case: When you bring your case to us, we'll do a thorough assessment to determine what the ideal outcome will be. Depending on how serious the complaint is against you, your ideal outcome might look different.
- Obtain the relevant evidence and testimony: While DSS is conducting an investigation, we'll carry one out too. We verify all the information ourselves and don't simply rely on third parties to get the facts. The right evidence and witnesses can change the outcome of the case.
- Explore settlements outside of standard adjudication proceedings: We'll negotiate with DSS and any Offices of General Counsel (OGCs) to work toward a solution that doesn't require a hearing or adjudication proceedings. Often, speaking to DSS attorneys can lead to a favorable compromise for everyone.
- Accompany you to proceedings: If you end up having a hearing or other meetings with SC Child Care or DSS, we'll be by your side at each one. We'll also ensure you're well-prepared for these meetings.
- Take further legal action if necessary: If it comes to it, we can also assist you with bringing a lawsuit. Our team can discuss these options with you as they become relevant to your case.
Our nationwide legal team has experience negotiating with professional licensing agencies and their attorneys. We consider the unique circumstances of each of our clients and press for the best possible outcome.
We Help Child Care Providers Throughout South Carolina
No matter where you're working in South Carolina, losing the ability to operate your childcare facility can be devastating. We help childcare professionals throughout the state, including in:
- North Charleston
- Mount Pleasant
- Rock Hill
- Hilton Head Island
Even if your childcare facility is located in a city in South Carolina not listed above, our team can help.
Call the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team Today
Defending your Child Care license isn't easy to do on your own. Our team is ready to start working on your case and preparing a defense for your Child Care license. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 for a consultation to discuss your licensing issue. You can also fill out our contact form and a member of our team will reach out to you.