If you are an owner, operator, director, or staff member of an Idaho daycare facility, you have made many sacrifices during your career to obtain your childcare license and gain the respect of the community around you. The long hours, demanding physical work, and emotional toll childcare can take on your body are often worth knowing that parents can have peace of mind and work while their little ones are under your watchful care.
As a licensed care provider, you know that the path to state, county, and city licensure is not easy. Licenses come at the expense of mounds of paperwork, never-ending inspections, and exacting requirements you must constantly be on the alert for. Understanding and keeping up with the federal, state, and local laws that apply to your facility can feel overwhelming for any provider. When you think you understand the requirements, they can change, leaving your career and license at risk.
If mistakes or misunderstandings have placed your Idaho childcare license at risk and you are being investigated by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, our Professional License Defense Team can help! We have experience navigating complex childcare laws and regulations. We can challenge any accusations the IDHW may have against you or your facility. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or fill out our convenient online contact form.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
State-issued licenses for childcare providers are issued by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) by state licensing laws required by the Idaho Statutes and the Idaho Administrative Procedures Act (IDAPA).
Title 39, Chapter 11
Title 39, Health and Safety, Chapter 11, Basic Day Care License Sections 1101 through 1120 contain the framework for state licensing requirements within Idaho. The broad law contains information on criminal history checks, fees, visitation rules, document retention, and training requirements. The law also addresses the authority of IDHW to deny, revoke, or suspend state-issued licenses in instances of professional misconduct and noncompliance. The various sections of Chapter 11 are summarized and discussed more below.
How are Daycare Licenses Issued in Idaho?
The state of Idaho sets the “basic framework for licensing” in the form of minimum health and safety standards that daycares must follow. However, local city and county governments can draft and enforce their licensing requirements that may extend beyond the state's standards. For example, an individual or daycare center may be exempt from specific licensure requirements under the state's minimum standards but still be required to fulfill those requirements under their county's licensing requirements.
Customer support specialists employed by the IDHW called “IdahoSTARS,” assist applicants throughout the licensing process by helping them collect the necessary documentation. After an IdahoSTAR helps an applicant complete the required paperwork, they refer the applicant to their local public health department, which processes outstanding application fees.
The state ensures that applicants processed through an IdahoSTAR representative are assured to:
- Pass fire, health, and safety inspections.
- Have staff who have completed all background checks and receive annual training about childcare health, safety, and quality.
- Have children enrolled who meet all vaccination requirements.
The IdahoSTARS program also helps families connect with childcare providers by operating a childcare database of available and licensed providers in the state.
When an application for licensure is denied, the applicant will be sent a signed letter stating the basis for denial. Applicants must wait at least one (1) year to reapply for a license. It's important to note that failure to complete an application within six months of starting one will result in a denial of the application itself, meaning that the applicant will also have to wait a year to reapply.
What are the Licensing Requirements for Daycare Providers in Idaho?
Licensing requirements may vary in each instance, and different licensing requirements depend on whether you are applying for a license as a facility, director, or staff member.
Criminal Background Compliance
Under state law, each owner, operator, or applicant seeking state-issued daycare licenses at a daycare facility or family day care home must complete and pass a criminal background check. Any volunteers over the age of 13 must also complete and pass the background check.
Insurance and Fire Inspection
Every commercial and home daycare must provide proof of liability and fire inspection. Applicants must also pass a fire safety inspection.
While minimum state standards are required, counties and cities will likely have other health and safety inspections applicants must pass to ensure the business operates by local building, electrical, planning, and zoning codes. When applying for a state-issued license, applicants must submit proof of compliance with local and county regulations.
Applicants must also pass a public health inspection. Daycares, in particular, must show compliance in food safety, sleeping and pay areas, water supply, and medication storage and administration. Regarding food safety, daycare operators must show that they have a sanitary environment to prepare and serve food on clean and sanitized surfaces to prevent food contamination. Food must also be stored safely to prevent contamination and foodborne illnesses.
Daycares with younger children must demonstrate that they have a proper diaper-changing method to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Sleeping, play, and restroom areas must also be maintained clean and sanitary, especially for centers that provide infant care. Facilities that fail to give the children disposable towels and a sanitary handwashing area can also be cited for noncompliance.
Representatives and employees must also conduct themselves in a healthy, safe, and sanitary manner by washing their hands and remaining home if they have any infectious diseases. Smoking or alcohol consumption is also strictly prohibited during work hours.
To comply with a state-issued license, all daycare operators must keep records about staff and children during their time with the daycare and up to 12 months after their departure. To stay in compliance with some additional record-keeping requirements, daycare operators must
CPR and First Aid Requirements
At a minimum, all state applicants must hold certificates in pediatric rescue breathing, infant-child CPR, and first aid treatment. Certification cannot be completed online, and applicants must complete an in-person course offered by a certified instructor.
Applicant directors and applicant owners are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that each staff member in their facility completes at least 4 hours of training once a year. Training can vary but generally refers to ongoing childcare and child development education. County and city ordinances may require additional training requirements for staff members.
Directors are also responsible for making employment decisions that ensure children under their care are safe. The state expects directors to achieve this by thoroughly examining an applicant's criminal history to ensure that they do not have any disqualifying offenses,
How Do I Know if I Need a State-Issued License?
Whether or not you need to hold a license as a childcare provider can vary from provider to provider and depend on numerous factors such as what county and city you reside in, how many children you provide care for, whether you get paid for your services, where you provide the care, and what type of care you provide.
At a minimum, however, the state requires a provider to hold a state-issued license if they 1) provide care for seven or more children and 2) receive compensation for providing care for at least one of those children.
What Type of Childcare is Exempt From Licensure Requirements?
Whether or not you are exempt from holding a license will depend on a variety of factors, but generally, the state allows exemptions in the following circumstances:
- Providing “occasional or irregular” care for a child belonging to a neighbor, relative, friend, or person “not ordinarily in the business of childcare.”
- Private or religious schools that provide educational care for children at least four years old and/or enrolled in kindergarten.
- Occasional care while parents are “simultaneously” in the building. This could potentially occur in a church setting, work setting, etc.
- In the operation of day camps programs or any religious schools or activities that occur either 1) less than 12 weeks of a calendar year or 2) not more than once a week.
- Providing care for any child within a second-degree relationship, such as a child's parents, stepparents, grandparents, step-grandparents, uncles, aunts, first cousins, nephews, nieces, and siblings.
- Any other facility licensed by a city or county but does not require an Idaho-issued daycare license.
As noted above, while childcare providers may be exempt from holding a state-issued license, they may still be required to have a permit under more demanding city or county licensure requirements.
Do Workers at an Idaho Daycare Facility Need to Have a Degree In Child Development?
Idaho does not explicitly require staff members at a daycare facility to hold a degree in child development. However, due to the various and numerous health and safety requirements, it is common for the more extensive or expensive facilities to employ individuals with child development or social work degrees. Education and experience requirements vary from center to center, with highly sought-after centers frequently using educated and experienced staff.
Conduct That Places an Idaho Childcare License At Risk
Daycare facilities must understand the various state and federal laws they must consistently meet to maintain a proper Idaho-issued license. Although failure to comply with any state or federal law applicable to daycare facilities can result in a license investigation, some serious allegations of misconduct can.
Under § 39-1113 of the state's general statutes entitled, “Denial, Suspension or Revocation of A license,” the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare can deny, suspend, or revoke a license if the applicant or licensee fails to comply with the statutory provisions. Under this section, the following types of behavior or conduct can result in disciplinary consequences.
A past or current history of committing certain criminal offenses can place your Idaho license at risk. For instance, claims can be denied or revoked if the applicant/licensee commits the following types of offenses:
- Felony injury of a child
- Sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child.
- Ritualized abuse of a child.
- Lewd conduct with a child under the age of 16.
- Sale or barter of a child for adoption.
- Murder in any degree.
- Assault with the intent to murder.
- Involuntary manslaughter.
- Rape or incest.
- Abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
- Kidnapping, robbery, domestic violence, or any felony drug-related offenses.
In instances where a daycare operates out of a home, licenses can be revoked if a registered sex offender resides in the premises where daycare services are provided. Both in-home and commercial daycare centers can also lose their license if they simultaneously engage in criminal conduct.
Health and Safety Violations
As addressed above, daycare facilities in Idaho must comply with various health and safety regulations mandated under federal and state law. Failure to comply with these standards can result in license suspension and revocations. Some examples of health and safety violations may include:
- Failure to keep a clean environment.
- Failure to post emergency protocol and follow proper procedures for smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, secured areas, etc.
- Failure to comply with proper food storage and preparation requirements.
Daycare centers are also expected to provide IDHW with all health and safety records that IDHW requests and failure to do so may result in further misconduct.
Inadequate Staffing Levels or Poorly Trained Staff
Daycare facilities may also place their license at risk if they fail to maintain the proper staff-to-child ratios in their centers. Even if centers have the appropriate ratio, they must continue to ensure that their staff have the necessary licenses, which may include certificates in first aid, CPR, or food handling licenses.
Improper Supervision of Children, Abuse, and Neglect
Instances of abuse and neglect qualify as conduct that can result in license suspension and revocation. Although IDHW employees will thoroughly investigate every instance of alleged child abuse or neglect at a center, the center must demonstrate that they have proper reporting methods in place and that they work with IDHW to report and terminate any employees or contractors who pose a risk to children. Failure to comply with this type of investigation may result in license revocation.
Financial Abuse or Negligence
Aside from the different types of conduct that may pose a health or safety risk to children, daycare centers must be financially transparent with parents and honest in their accounting. Any center that fails to “exercise fiscal accountability” towards their clients or IDHW regarding payment for services may be found guilty of misconduct.
The Disciplinary Process In Idaho for License Suspensions and Revocations
If a daycare facility fails to comply with all ongoing licensing requirements, IDHW can deny, suspend, or revoke a license if corrective action is not taken. To ensure that the applicant or licensee receives Due Process, a legal term that affords them the right to be notified about the allegations against them and present their side of the story to a neutral decision-maker, the disciplinary process will typically take place in the following steps:
The Investigation Phase
Once IDHW receives a complaint from an IDHW employee, member of the public, parent, director/staff member of a daycare facility, etc., they will begin an investigation to determine if disciplinary consequences are appropriate. Throughout the investigation, IDHW may contact the reporting person, schedule announced or surprise visits to the daycare facility, and conduct interviews with any victims, parents, guardians, staff members, or children who know about the incident. Depending on what they discover during the investigation, IDHW will either dismiss the complaint, decide if further disciplinary action is needed, or refer the matter to law enforcement. Law enforcement referrals may be appropriate in instances of substance abuse, sexual assault, white-collar crimes, etc.
It's important to note that throughout the investigation, applicants and licensees must comply with IDHW's requests to “furnish any data, statistics, records, or information requested,” failure to do so may be considered further misconduct.
The Hearing Phase
If the accused party does not choose to accept the consequences against them or reach some other form of settlement with IDHW, the matter may proceed to an administrative hearing. These hearings are run like mini-trials, requiring vast knowledge of federal and state laws, local policies, and rules of evidence and procedure. Both parties will be expected to make opening and closing arguments and be permitted to submit evidence, testify, and cross-examine witnesses.
Although it may be tempting to represent yourself at one of these hearings, this is not advised. These hearings are complex and time-consuming, even for attorneys who routinely work in this arena. In Pro Per parties (parties who represent themselves) also face the uneven playing field of challenging state attorneys who routinely do this type of work and have the entire state's bureaucracy at their disposal as a resource.
Sometime after the hearing, the parties will be notified of the decision. Hearing results can range from dismissing the case for lack of evidence to fines, penalties, or license suspensions and revocations.
The Appeal Phase
Hearing decisions can be appealed under IDAPA 16.05.03, entitled Contested Case Proceedings and Declaratory Rulings. The rules contained in the appeals statutes must be precisely followed and do not leave room for error. If an appeal is unsuccessful, you may be able to appeal the matter to a District Court after you have exhausted administrative review of the case.
If you are currently deciding whether you want to pursue an appeal, you should also consider the consequences that may result if you do nothing. Not only will a suspended or revoked license wreak havoc on your personal life and professional reputation, but it may also challenge your ability to ever work in childcare again, a deeply personal loss for directors and staff members who cannot picture doing any work. In fact, under state law, you will not be allowed to apply to any childcare center for employment for five years after losing your license or appeal.
What if a license Is Suspended for Circumstances Beyond a Daycare Operator's Control?
Sometimes, a license may be suspended due to “acts of God” or circumstances that were simply beyond the control of a daycare operator. Illnesses such as the COVID-19 Pandemic or natural disasters such as fires or floods can temporarily force a daycare to close. In these instances, the state or local government may suspend licenses until it is safe for the public to attend. Still, centers will not face disciplinary consequences if they observe the suspension requirements.
How the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm Can Help
Our Professional License Defense Team routinely represents daycare facilities fighting license misconduct claims from the Idaho IDHW. We know how to work with and challenge the state's bureaucratic framework to your defense. Working with our team gives you peace of mind, knowing that you are presenting the best possible strategy for your future. You don't need to feel like you are unmatched in this battle before you begin.
Trouble with IDHHS? Contact the Lento Law Firm Today!
If you are an owner, operator, director, or staff member at a childcare center in Idaho and your childcare license is on the line, you should seek legal assistance immediately! IDHW will not rest in its exacting requirements and will vigorously work to suspend or revoke your license. Although IDHW workers are obligated under federal and state law to ensure that your facility is treated fairly and equitably, some IDHW staff members operate outside of this required framework. Fortunately, our Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm is well-versed in Idaho state daycare facility law and will help you navigate the steps ahead. Contact us today, anytime, day or night, for a consultation by calling 888-535-3686 or using our online contact form.