If you hold a valid New Hampshire childcare license, you should be proud. Not everyone can earn this prestigious license since the state's authorization process is complex and rigorous. As a license holder, you may operate a daycare center or a childcare program in a home. Regardless, you take your responsibilities seriously. That's why you need to act if you are facing an accusation of wrongdoing. A formal complaint from the state, a parent, a coworker, or another individual can put your job or business on the line. A complaint can lead the state of New Hampshire to investigate and possibly suspend or revoke your license, so you should take any accusations seriously. If you are seeking a license, problems may arise during the application process, and your chances of obtaining the permit may be at risk. In either situation, do not wait and do not go it alone. You must stick up for yourself, and to do that, you need an experienced law firm to help you through the maze of the state licensing and enforcement process.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can help. The team has vast experience defending child care workers and other licensed professionals who face claims of misconduct in New Hampshire. An attorney with the Professional License Defense Team can review your case, answer any questions you may have, explain what happens next, go over your options, and pursue the most favorable resolution of the matter. Experience and knowledge are important, and the Lento Law Firm is ready to assist you, regardless of your location in New Hampshire. From Manchester to Nashua to Concord and everywhere in between, as well as nationwide, the Lento Law Firm is your best choice for legal assistance. Call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.
Childcare Licensing in New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services' Child Care Licensing Unit (CCLU) manages the licensing process for childcare programs in the state. The CCLU issues licenses to individuals and businesses that intend to provide care for one or more children who are unrelated to the program's operator. The agency issues licenses for several types of child care programs:
- A “family childcare home” is a residence where the caregiver lives and cares for up to six preschool children from unrelated families for less than 24 hours a day;
- A “family group childcare home” is a residence where the caregiver lives and provides care to seven to 12 preschool children from unrelated families for less than 24 hours a day;
- A “night care program” is a family childcare home, a family group childcare home, or a center where care is provided between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.;
- A “group childcare center” is a facility where care is provided to one or more preschool children ages three to six and up to five school-age children who are enrolled in a full-day school program. These centers are sometimes called day nurseries, nursery schools, daycare centers, or Montessori schools;
- An “infant and toddler program,” also called a nursery, is a daycare facility where care is provided, for any part of the day, for five or more children under the age of three;
- A "preschool program" is a daycare center providing care and a structured program for children three years old and older who are not attending a full-day school program; and
- A “school-age program” is a family childcare home, a family group child care home, or a daycare facility providing care for up to five hours before and/or after regular school hours and all day when school is not in session.
Applying for a Childcare License in New Hampshire
An individual or company desiring to open a childcare facility in New Hampshire must submit an application to the CCLU. There is one application for the family-based child care programs and another application for the various types of child care centers. The CCLU offers instructions on how to submit these applications.
An application must be filed with additional documents. These include copies of any papers filed with the New Hampshire Secretary of State regarding trade names and corporate structure, a child care personnel health form, a health officer inspection report, a life safety compliance report (also called a fire code compliance report), a zoning verification form, and a child care program staff and household list.
As part of the application process, each person over the age of 18 who is listed on the staff and household list must submit a criminal history record information authorization form and a complete set of fingerprints to the New Hampshire Department of Safety. The Safety Department will then send any criminal records to the CCLU for review.
An applicant for a license must also submit documentation proving that any family or family group childcare provider between the ages of 18 and 21 meets certain education requirements. For center-based programs, the applicant must submit documentation showing that the center director, site coordinator, or site director meets the applicable experience and education mandates for the specific child care program at issue. Further, all family child care providers, center directors, site coordinators, and site directors must submit, together with the license application, documentation demonstrating completion of certain professional development requirements.
New Hampshire also requires over 20 additional forms as part of the licensing process, as well as an inspection of the premises. The state will notify a provider if the application packet is incomplete and will deny a new license if the omissions are not supplied. License renewal or revision applications will also be denied, suspended, or revoked if a provider does not supply the missing information.
Background Checks as Part of New Hampshire Childcare Licensing
As part of the licensing process, the CCLU requires a background check for staff and household members. (The background check is similar to, but not the same as, the criminal records review initiated through the staff and household list discussed above.) The CCLU performs the check to ensure the safety of children who attend care programs. The check must be conducted before an individual becomes responsible for the care of children or has regular contact with them. (Note that after successfully passing a background check, all individuals must repeat the check every five years.) The CCLU conducts the check on both New Hampshire residents and those who have lived in other states for any part of the past five years. In addition to performing checks as part of the licensing process, the CCLU requires background checks when new household members are added and when a staff member or household member turns 18 years old.
As part of the background check process, childcare providers must give the Department of Health & Human Services (the department) the names, birth names, aliases, birth dates, and addresses for the last five years for all owners, household members, directors, and staff. All these individuals must submit a set of fingerprints. The department will use the information to search criminal records, the New Hampshire sex offender and abuse and neglect registries, and the sex offender registries of each state where the individuals resided in the past five years. The department will also check the National Sex Offender Registry. Anyone who refuses the background check or knowingly makes a materially false statement in connection with a check is ineligible for childcare employment.
Passing the background check is crucial. New Hampshire will not issue a license to an applicant or program owner and will revoke a license if that individual:
- is registered, or required to be registered, on a state sex offender registry or the national registry;
- has been convicted of a felony consisting of murder, child abuse or neglect, an offense involving child sexual abuse images, trafficking, spousal abuse, a crime involving sexual assault or rape, kidnapping, arson, physical battery or assault, or a drug-related offense committed during the previous five years;
- has been convicted of any other violent or sexually-related misdemeanor against a child, including child abuse, child endangerment, sexual assault, or a misdemeanor involving child sexual abuse images; or
- has been convicted of a crime, such as a violent crime or a sexually related offense against an adult, which shows that the person might be reasonably expected to pose a threat to a child.
If an individual is not the owner or applicant and is found to fall into the offense categories listed immediately above, the department will notify the childcare provider that the person is ineligible for employment. The department will give the provider a chance to take immediate action to remove the individual from the agency. The daycare provider will also have the chance to make a corrective action plan to ensure that the individual will not be on the premises and will have no contact with children enrolled in the care program. The department must approve the plan. The department will deny, suspend, or revoke a license if the care program does not take this corrective action or fails to comply with an approved plan.
Further, if any individual undergoing a background check has been convicted of a felony offense that is directly or indirectly harmful to children in daycare, or a crime against minors or adults (other than those listed in the bulleted list above), or is the subject of a valid complaint of child abuse or neglect, the state may deny, revoke, or suspend a license. The action against the license will be in place until the provider implements a corrective action plan approved by the department.
The department will investigate to determine whether the individual in question poses a present threat to the safety of children. As part of the investigation, the individual can present evidence to show that he or she does not pose a threat. If the department finds, through a background check, that an individual does not pose a present threat to children, the state will issue a childcare employment eligibility card to that person. The card is valid for five years provided that no disqualifying convictions are subsequently submitted and the individual remains otherwise eligible for employment.
The department may require an additional background check if it learns that the individual has been subsequently convicted of a crime. In addition, the department will suspend an individual's employment eligibility card if it learns criminal charges are pending against that person. The daycare provider that employs this individual must immediately remove the person from the program and develop a corrective action plan. The plan, which the department must approve, must make sure the individual will not be on the premises or have contact with enrolled children while the charges are pending.
Complaints and Investigations of Childcare Licenses in New Hampshire
Anyone holding a license may, at some point, be the subject of a complaint about the care provided to children or another aspect of the business. The department will respond to a complaint if:
- the alleged violation occurred within the past six months;
- the complaining party has first-hand knowledge of the allegation or received the information directly from a child with first-hand knowledge;
- There is enough specific information for the department to determine that the allegation, if proven, would constitute a violation of New Hampshire law; or
- The complaint is received at any time from any source and alleges physical injury or abuse, verbal or emotional abuse, or a danger of physical injury to children.
The department will investigate, and if the complaint is valid, it will draft a statement of findings listing the violations. New Hampshire will not issue a license or renew or revise an existing license if a care program does not correct the violations listed on the statement.
Here are some examples of violations:
- Caring for children at night without a night care license;
- Caring for more children than permitted under a specific license;
- Failing to make records available to the department;
- Failing to notify parents of a child's injury or corporal punishment;
- Failing to report child abuse or neglect to the state;
- Fire code violations;
- Improper administration of medication;
- Inadequate amount of floor square footage per child;
- Lack of supervision for children;
- Making false statements to the state or falsifying documents;
- Open windows without barriers; and
- Stairways without railings.
A provider of childcare must prepare a corrective action plan for each violation and submit it to the department. The plan must discuss the steps that have been or will be taken to fix the violation, as well as actions that will ensure future compliance with the law. A provider can also submit a separate “reasonable response” to the department's findings. The response cannot contain personal identifying information, derogatory statements, or repeat the information in the corrective action plan. Instead, it must explain the circumstances surrounding the department's findings.
If a corrective action plan is not acceptable, the department will issue its own plan. The department will also make its own plan, without giving the provider the opportunity, when it finds an imminent threat to the health or safety of children. Further, the department will skip a plan and move directly to an enforcement action if a program has repeatedly violated licensing rules or state law, or such a violation resulted in, or placed a child at risk for, physical or mental injury.
Enforcement Actions Against Childcare License Holders in New Hampshire
The department can take several courses of action when a license holder or license applicant has violated laws or rules.
Conditions on a Childcare License
The state places conditions on a license when an applicant or licensee is in violation of rules or laws. Conditions are imposed when necessary to protect children, to help achieve legal compliance, or to avoid a license suspension or revocation. Conditions may include, for example, prohibiting a licensee from enrolling more children into a program or mandating the hiring of more staff.
Fines as an Enforcement Action Against a Childcare License Holder
The department can pursue other enforcement actions even if conditions are issued. Fines starting at $100 and running into the thousands may be imposed if a care provider violates state licensing rules or laws governing the safe operation of a care program. For example, a provider may face a fine for using corporal punishment.
Suspension, Revocation, and Denial as an Enforcement ActionAgainst a Childcare License Holder
The department may suspend or revoke a license, or deny or refuse to renew a license, in certain situations. A license will be at risk, for example, if a provider neglects or abuses children, violates the specific provisions of the license, fails to comply with the law, makes false statements, or fails to maintain sanitary premises. A license will also be in jeopardy if a provider does not comply with a department-approved corrective action plan or refuses to admit department staff for an investigation or visit.
The state can issue a suspension instead of a revocation when a care program does not have a history of repeat violations of statutes or licensing rules, and the violation in question is related to a temporary, correctible environmental health or safety issue. For example, a suspension may be put into place when there is a septic system problem that can be fixed. The department can also issue a suspension when the care program does not have a history of repeat violations, and the violation is related to a criminal conviction or a finding by the state of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment, and the conviction or finding is under appeal.
New Hampshire can also revoke, suspend, or deny an application for a new license or a license renewal or revision. This may occur, for example, if an applicant or licensee has been found guilty of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of any person, or has been convicted of child endangerment or fraud.
Enforcement actions are serious business. In the event of a suspension, revocation, denial, or refusal to renew a license, the department can order a care program to shut down immediately. The state does this when it finds that continued operation would jeopardize the health, safety, morals, or welfare of children. If this order is issued, the program cannot operate during any appeal period, either.
Further, when a care program's license application has been denied, or a license has been revoked, or a license renewal has been denied, the applicant, licensee, center director, or site director will not be eligible to reapply for another license for five years. In addition, these individuals cannot be employed as a center director, site director, or family childcare provider, or hold any corporate office or controlling interest in any licensed program for at least five years.
New Hampshire law provides an appeals process for anyone who wants to challenge a department enforcement action. The process involves administrative hearings and can move into the civil court system as well. So, if your license is at risk, or the state has taken action against it, there are ways to fight and preserve your livelihood. However, you generally only have 10 days to start your challenge, so you cannot wait until the last minute.
Criminal ChargesAgainst a Childcare License Holder
In addition to the department's roster of enforcement actions, prosecutors can also press misdemeanor criminal charges against anyone who operates a care program without a license or, holds themselves out, or advertises that they are licensed when they are not. Prosecutors can also file misdemeanor charges against anyone who makes materially false statements to obtain or retain a license. In addition, it is a misdemeanor criminal offense to advertise for a care program that is not authorized under any license held. Further, and most importantly, felony charges will be filed if anyone operates a licensed or unlicensed childcare program and a child dies or suffers permanent brain function impairment, permanent paralysis, or another permanent debilitating injury due to the program's negligent operation.
Hire The Lento Law Firm for Childcare License Defense in New Hampshire
There are a number of situations that can arise and call a childcare license, or an application for a license, into question. No one wants this to occur, but sometimes it happens. And when it does, you cannot take any chances. You cannot dismiss allegations you believe are groundless. You need a strong defense, and the Lento Law Firm can supply that defense. We can help you in any of New Hampshire's 10 counties. Our Professional License Defense Team can help you with the CCLU, the department, and the appeals process. Reach out to us at 888-535-3686 or fill out this form online.