As a childcare professional in Kansas, you are dedicated to creating a safe and nurturing environment for children, providing their parents peace of mind and comfort. As you know, the path to obtaining a childcare license in Kanas is laden with strict procedures, policies, and regulations that result in countless phone calls, emails, mounds of paperwork, and inspections. The complex regulatory environment of state licensing laws demands exact compliance with state and federal laws. Keeping up with these standards can be challenging, especially while running and operating a daycare facility.
As dedicated as you are to your career and the children under your care, mistakes and misunderstandings occur, and you may find yourself challenging a license denial, suspension, or revocation from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. If the KDHE is investigating your facility for possible misconduct or regulatory violations, our Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help. We have experience standing up to the Kansas bureaucracy and can help you create a strategic defense to challenge the accusations KDHE may have against your facility. Contact us today by calling 888-535-3686 or filling out our convenient online contact form.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is a state agency that “works to protect and improve the health and environment of all Kansans.” The Department takes on various roles, from licensing hospitals and childcare facilities to monitoring air quality and landfills to operating the state's Medicaid program. The Department consists of several divisions and departments, such as Community Health Systems, Disease Control, and even Organic Chemistry.
Childcare Licensing Under the KDHE
The Childcare Licensing Section of the KDHE administers licensing laws for daycare facilities in Kansas and issues licenses for care facilities. In instances of misconduct, the Section also conducts investigations and, when necessary, denies, suspends, or revokes daycare facility licenses and daycare professionals.
The Basis for Childcare Regulation in Kansas
Since 1919, Kansas has required active licenses for daycare facilities, acknowledging the state's responsibility to take action against dangerous environments that pose a health and safety risk to children. State licensing laws exist under a legal concept known as Parents Patriae, which means that the state, at times, acts in place of a parent to protect minor children within its borders. The state further recognizes that it must balance “its authority to protect public health” with the “safety and well-being” of those who wish to offer diverse services.” By setting minimum standards for qualifications, health and safety inspections, and adult-to-child ratios, the state hopes that daycare facilities will rise above these requirements to meet the additional health and safety needs of their clients.
In 2010, Kansas passed Lexie's Law, a pivotal legislation that tightened restrictions for home-based childcare facilities within the state, requiring home-based daycare facilities to operate by state health and safety regulations. The law was passed in response to a tragic accident where a 13-month-old baby, Lexie, passed away due to injuries she suffered at a home daycare. Since then, individuals providing care in their homes for non-relatives regularly must be licensed by the state to ensure proper health and safety measures.
The Different Types of Licensed Daycare Facilities in Kansas
Although most people think of daycare as care provided to young children in a commercial setting, various childcare settings exist and must be regulated in Kansas. At a minimum, each type of licensed care facility must meet the following base requirements:
- Staff must be 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or a GED.
- Staff must demonstrate an “understanding of children” and hold certifications in CPR, First Aid, and “childcare-related training in health and safety topics.”
- All staff must pass a federal and state criminal background check.
- All facilities and, when appropriate, staff must pay the state licensing fee and all other applicable local fees.
- Pass an inspection and compliance inspection every 12 months to ensure the home or commercial setting meets all health and safety requirements.
While these are the basic requirements that facilities must meet, additional requirements may exist depending on the type of care provided. The various types of childcare agencies the state acknowledges are discussed below.
Licensed Day Care Home
A licensed daycare home is a childcare facility in a care provider's home that provides childcare for a maximum of 10 children, all under the age of 16. If the care provider has children under 11 in the house, they are also included in the maximum quota of children allowed. This license can also be valid in a commercial setting instead of a home, although it is most used by care providers who provide services from their homes. To qualify for a home childcare facility license, the applicant must meet the minimum license requirements and pass additional health and safety requirements pertinent to the home setting.
Group Day Care Home
A group day care home is very similar to a Licensed Day Care home but allows a care provider to provide care for a maximum of 12 children under 16. Depending on the children's ages in the house, additional care providers may also be required to meet a staff-to-child ratio. To qualify for a Group Day Care Home license, the applicant must meet the minimum license requirements and pass additional health and safety requirements pertinent to the home setting.
A childcare center facility is a daycare that primarily provides care and educational activities for 13 or more children under 16 years old. To qualify as a childcare center, care must be provided for at least three but no more than 23 hours daily. In addition to the other qualifications required by all daycare facilities, these programs must employ a qualified program director who works full-time. Each facility unit, for example, preschool versus grade school children, must also have qualified staff appropriately trained to work with their specific division.
Kansas law defines a preschool as a childcare facility for children who have not attained the eligibility age to enter Kindergarten as prescribed in K.S.A. § 72-1107(c). A preschool session must not exceed 3 hours per session, and each child attending the Preschool must only be allowed to participate in a maximum of one session at the facility daily. In addition to the other requirements required for each childcare facility, preschools must be led by a full-time director.
School Age Program
A school-age program is a childcare program in Kansas that provides care for only school-aged children. School-aged programs can range wildly and may include a year-round program in a commercial setting or seasonal programs such as summer camps. In addition to all the requirements that every childcare program must meet in Kansas, these programs must be led by a full-time director and staffed by “qualified group leaders and assistant group leaders” when children are in care.
A Drop-In Program
A Drop-in Program is a childcare program in Kansas that provides care to school-aged children in a non-home setting. A lack of care schedule characterizes these programs because they require the program's operator to allow children to “drop in” or leave at their “own volition and at unscheduled times.” Drop-in programs must meet all of the requirements necessary for programs in Kansas.
Day Care Referral Agencies
A Day Care Referral Agency is not a licensed care provider in Kansas but is usually a company or an individual who helps families locate and find homes for children under 16 who need daycare.
What Types of Daycares Don't Need Licenses?
In most instances, a license to operate a daycare facility must be issued by the state. However, there are certain instances where home-based care may be exempt. In these instances, charges may be exempt when childcare is arranged between relatives, such as when a grandparent, aunt, etc., watches children. Licenses are also unnecessary when childcare is “arranged between friends or neighbors on an irregular basis.” The state will likely require permits when the provider provides care for two or more non-relatives more than 20 hours a week.
The Value of a Kansas Daycare License
The value of a Kansas Daycare License is immense and worth fighting for. Although investigations may feel like the state's bureaucracy is stacked against you, license holders have successfully challenged the state's claims against them, saving their careers and reputations from personal ruin.
From a financial perspective, childcare is a wise career choice and provides stability, especially during times when other jobs are becoming automated or outsourced overseas. Year by year, the demand for childcare is rising, meaning that care facilities can charge higher prices to meet the ever-rising care needs for two-income households where parents must work. While other providers may want to enter the work scene, families continue to trust community providers with a proven care reputation and consistency, making long-standing daycare facilities an obvious choice and worth the price.
A license to work in or operate a daycare facility also carries a certain amount of trust and respect. It's well-known that childcare facilities are understandably highly regulated by the federal and Kansas state governments, meaning that anyone who successfully obtains a license has proven themselves in health, safety, and child development standards. In smaller communities, which is essentially the case in states like Kansas, community members know each other well and revere those who educate and care for their children. It is common for the same daycare provider to care for multiple generations of a family.
In all, a license to work in or operate a daycare facility in Kansas is about much more than a piece of paper or a status with the state. In many cases, the license becomes intertwined with someone's identity and view of themselves. Many childcare workers go into the profession because of their love of children and community and feel a great deal of satisfaction knowing that they have made a difference.
What Types of Conduct Can Place My Kansas Daycare License at Risk?
Under K.S.A. §§ 65-501 through 516, the KDHE can limit, modify, suspend, or revoke daycare licenses for violating licensing laws or aiding, abetting, or permitting others who violate state licensing laws. While failure to comply with any state or federal law can endanger a center's license, some types of misconduct are especially egregious and can expose license holders to greater liability.
Health and Safety Violations
Daycare facilities in Kansas must meet federal and state health and safety standards within the state to maintain their KDHE daycare license. Failure to meet these standards can result in license investigation, denials, suspensions, or revocations. Some examples of health and safety violations may include:
- Failure to maintain sanitary cooking and restroom facilities. Sanitary cooking methods must also extend to proper meal safety protocols. Some violations of meal safety protocols may include failure to provide adequate and timely food to children, failure to prevent foodborne illnesses, and failure to monitor children with known food allergens.
- Failure to develop and follow emergency protocols within the state, such as failure to develop appropriate emergency evacuation plans and properly secure areas, failure to maintain working smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, etc.
- Failure to maintain safe environments for children by failure to secure doors, access to water, dangerous items in a kitchen or office, etc. Environments may also not be safe in instances where facilities provide broken or age-inappropriate toys for children.
Failure to appropriately supervise children may occur when daycare facilities fail to maintain adequate staffing levels to meet the staff-to-child ratio or are poorly trained or not qualified. Staff may not be qualified if they fail to hold the necessary permits or licenses, such as CPR, first aid, etc. Staffing violations may also occur if daycare operators hire a team without conducting a routine background check or employ staff who do not pass a standard background check.
Certain criminal activity can result in license denial, suspension, or revocation. Federal law requires Kansas to conduct background checks on all childcare employees. A background check must be comprehensive and include the following checks:
- State criminal and sex offender registries
- A fingerprint check and National Crime Information Center run by the FBI.
- A National Sex Offender Registry conducted by the Department of Justice.
- A state child abuse and neglect registry
Kansas also conducts name-based checks, which scan juvenile criminal records and Kansas Criminal Records. Background checks must be run every five years for staff members, and name-based background checks are conducted automatically by the state every 2.5 to three years.
Poor Disciplinary Methods
Daycare facilities should have appropriate disciplinary methods that are constructive and free of abusive or neglectful tendencies. Ways that are harsh, punitive, or emotionally abusive for children, especially considering their age, may result in health and safety standard violations. This is especially the case for facilities that house or care for special needs children, such as students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or facilities that care for or house minors with social or emotional disabilities, such as Disruptive Mood Disorder.
Inadequate Sleeping Arrangements
For facilities that provide care for toddlers and especially infants, proper sleeping arrangements must be consistently in place and monitored to ensure the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS can result from using soft bedding for infants, placing babies on their stomachs to sleep, allowing them to sleep in car seats, etc.
KDHE may also issue disciplinary consequences before a hearing by temporarily suspending a license when they feel the action is necessary to protect children from physical or mental abuse, harm, or other forms of abandonment.
The Disciplinary Process for Daycare Violations in Kansas
The KDHE has the authority to investigate possible misconduct violations and, when necessary, deny, suspend, or revoke licenses. Throughout the entire disciplinary process, however, Kansas must ensure that accused violators receive Due Process, a legal term that means that a charge has the right to be notified about the allegations against them and to present their side of the story before a neutral decision maker. To ensure Due Process is given, the disciplinary process will typically occur in the steps below.
The Complaint Phase
Members of the public or staff can file complaints with KDHE against a childcare facility by calling the Child Care Licensing Hotline or submitting a complaint through the state's online complaint portal. The individual making the complaint must acknowledge that the information is “accurate,” meaning they are not knowingly making a false complaint. Although complaints are initially confidential, the identity of the person calling may be revealed if they are later called to testify in a legal setting. Once a complaint has been submitted, it cannot be withdrawn.
The Investigation Phase
After a complaint has been lodged against a care facility, KDHE must notify the center of its intention to conduct an administrative hearing to deny, suspend, or revoke a license. At this time, KDHE will conduct a formal investigation to gather evidence substantiating the complaint. KDHE representatives may visit the care facility and interview staff, parents, or community members. Staff employees may also be asked to cooperate with an investigation by providing statements, documents, or other relevant information about the reported misconduct. Although KDHE representatives are expected to treat accused persons or centers appropriately and respectfully, this may not always be true. KDHE representatives may conduct incomplete rather than thorough investigations that do not capture the whole story.
Fortunately, our Professional License Defense Team can help you navigate the investigation phase by communicating with KDHE representatives, helping you craft responses, and monitoring the investigation to ensure proper policies and methods are employed.
Administrative Hearing Phase
After the investigation, the KDHE will conduct an administrative hearing where a neutral hearing officer will examine the arguments of both sides and issue a decision. Administrative hearings are very serious and operate akin to a small trial, demanding an understanding of federal and state laws and a mastery of civil procedure and laws of evidence. Failure to follow administrative procedures during these hearings can have drastic consequences, even barring the admission of testimony and evidence that could clear your name. During these hearings, both parties can submit evidence, call witnesses, make arguments of law and fact, and testify on their behalf.
The Decision and Appeal
After the hearing, the hearing officer will issue a decision that either dismisses the allegations or substantiates them. Disciplinary consequences can range from a warning to fines or even license suspension or revocation. If the hearing outcome is unfavorable, the employee or center will have the right to appeal the decision to a district court. It should be noted, however, that appeal timelines are exacting procedures and must be strictly adhered to, or the right to appeal a decision will not be allowed.
Although you may be tempted to represent yourself throughout the disciplinary process, this is ill-advised. KDHE will be represented by staff members who regularly try to win administrative cases, all with the force of the state's entire bureaucracy at their avail.
Facing an Investigation from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for Daycare Violations?
If you hold a position as an owner, operator, director, or staff member at a childcare center in Kansas and your daycare license is at risk, seek legal help immediately! While federal and state laws mandate Kansas staff to treat your facility with fairness and equity, there have been instances where some staff members may not adhere strictly to legal protocols during their review processes. Our Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm is well-versed in Kansas state daycare facility law and will hold the KDHE accountable throughout the disciplinary process. Contact us today, anytime, day or night, for a consultation by calling 888-535-3686 or using our online contact form.