Finding reliable child care has been an ongoing issue in Nevada.
In the 2023 Childcare Policy Report prepared by the Governor's Office of Workforce Innovation (GOWINN) and the Governor's Workforce Development Board (GWDB), research showed that the demand for quality child care in Nevada was high, citing more than 65% of all children in the state coming from homes where both parents work.
Yet, while that number suggests a greater need for child care across the state, the study found that 74% of children ages 0-5 do not have access to suitable child care. And that may have as much to do with basic availability as it does the cost. The study cited a lack of infrastructure and licensed workers, combined with several legislative barriers that can make it difficult to pursue child care as a career.
And while it's recommended that child care not exceed more than 10% of a family's income, the study suggested the real expense ranged anywhere from 40% to a whopping 76%.
These factors make it even more important that existing Administrators and childcare providers are able to keep their doors open and continue caring for children in their communities.
Unfortunately, that can be difficult with so many challenges in the way, especially since a single complaint can result in expensive fines and potential restrictions on your business, not to mention the harm it can do to your reputation. That reputation is everything in the world of child care, making it critical that you're able to address those complaints as quickly and efficiently as possible.
And that's where we come in.
The Lento Law Firm has the experience you need to help you present your case and achieve the best possible outcome. Our Professional License Defense Team has worked with a wide variety of professionals and tradespeople alike, including social workers, medical professionals, and, yes, all types of childcare and child development providers.
In fact, we work with people from all walks of life, all across the country… and we can help you too!
Regulation of Child Care Facilities in Nevada
The Child Care Licensing Unit (CCL or Licensing Unit) in Nevada's Public and Behavioral Health Division (DPBH) is responsible for regulating child care within the state and uses various licensing and inspection procedures to enforce its requirements.
The childcare and regulations that govern these requirements are laid out in both the Administrative Code (NAC) and the Revised Statutes (NRS) of the state and are enforced by the Licensing Unit staff.
The CCL is responsible for a variety of oversight that can range from caregiver training and consumer education to the licensing of new facilities, investigation of complaints, and enforcing action plans to correct violations.
Nevada's CCL does not have jurisdiction over childcare facilities located in Washoe County, however. The county's Human Services Agency is the agency responsible for licensing and regulation of childcare facilities in Washoe County, and we will address the differences below.
It's also worth noting that while the CCL investigates complaints and can oversee action plans to establish compliance, the agency does not have the authority to fire an employee or administrator.
Are All Child Care Facilities At Risk?
Yes, and it's important to understand how the state determines whether you are subject to the regulations regarding childcare facilities. Under its Revised Statutes, Nevada defines a childcare facility as:
- An establishment operated and maintained for the purpose of furnishing care on a temporary or permanent basis, during the day or overnight, to five or more children under 18 years of age, if compensation is received for the care of any of those children
- An on-site child care facility
- A childcare institution
- An outdoor youth program
This definition would include in-home daycare providers unless it is:
- The home of a natural parent or guardian
- A foster home
- The home of a relative within three degrees of consanguinity (including siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.)
- The home of a friend or neighbor IF the person is not normally engaged in providing child care and if the arrangement does not exceed four (4) weeks
This definition also excludes after-school and “out-of-school” (OTS) programs if they are owned and operated by a government entity.
That means that it doesn't matter if you're a child care administrator working for a facility with locations in Las Vegas, Henderson, and Boulder City, or an individual provider offering care from your home in West Wendover – if you fall under the current definition of “child care facility” according to Nevada's statutes, you are governed by the rules and regulations set out by the state and the CCL.
Regulation of Child Care Facilities in Washoe County, Nevada
Nevada law allows its cities and counties to adopt and require standards and regulations that exceed those required by the state for the operation of a childcare facility. These standards and regulations must be approved by the CCL and can then be maintained and enforced by a division within the local agency.
Washoe County has chosen to take advantage of this option and requires facilities within county lines to be governed by and adhere to all regulations established by the Washoe County Human Services Agency.
It's important to note that because these requirements must at least “meet” those of the state, many rules and regulations will be generally the same but may have subtle differences.
Using the above definition, for example, the state sets the minimum requirement at “five or more children under the age of 18” to be deemed a childcare facility. Washoe County sets that minimum at two.
That means that a simple oversight of meeting the wrong set of guidelines could find you and your facility in hot water. Knowing how to navigate a violation or formal complaint can make a big difference in the outcome of your case.
What Type Of Allegations Can Endanger A Child Care Facility's License In Nevada?
As you might expect, Nevada takes the profession of child care very seriously, and its laws and regulations reflect that commitment. The state's goals are to ensure every child's safety and well-being while also promoting learning and development as they grow.
To achieve this goal, the state maintains strict guidelines for how childcare facilities can operate, and this includes a broad list of potential issues that can raise a red flag with the CCL.
These issues can include:
- Maintaining appropriate staff ratios
- Maintaining a structurally safe location
- Maintaining clean and safe toys and play equipment
- Providing nutritional meals
- Providing substantial indoor and outdoor play space
- Maintaining fencing around outdoor play areas
- Maintaining proper cooling, heating, and ventilation of the facility
- Unacceptable disciplinary actions
- Leaving children unattended
- Leaving medications unsecured and/or in reach of children
- Poisonous plants
- Unsanitary conditions
And that's just a short sample of a much longer list.
Childcare complaints can range drastically, from the cleanliness of the facility to a serious safety concern to the integrity of an employee or disciplinary actions taken with a child.
Inappropriate behavior, inadequate staffing, safety, and health violations are all concerns, but the laws governing childcare facilities in Nevada go much further. Also included are “aiding, abetting or permitting the commission of any illegal act” and violation of any “law of this State or of the standards and other regulations adopted thereunder.”
That means that it's not just your ability to run a childcare facility that influences your license; all of your behaviors and decisions can come into play.
In fact, childcare facilities and their employees are held to the highest standards and must pass extensive inspections and background checks to prove they are meeting those standards.
It should come as no surprise then, that many facilities fail to fully pass these checks for a variety of reasons, some small and insignificant, while others are much larger and much more serious.
Understanding The Complaint Process For Licensed Child Care Facilities In Nevada
Because childcare facilities are subject to such a vast range of complaints, the disciplinary process contains an equally vast range of potential resolutions.
The first thing to note is that the CCL can receive complaints in a number of ways because complaints can come from just about anyone. Parents and other family members can make complaints as they witness concerning issues or behaviors, for example, as can other state agencies and advocacy groups. Related organizations - such as professional boards and organizations, training facilities, and accreditation institutions, can also file a complaint if they become aware of an issue.
In fact, Nevada is a mandatory reporting state, meaning that anyone who has reason to believe that child abuse or neglect is occurring (or has occurred) is obligated to report the abuse to the appropriate authorities.
That includes doctors and dentists, emergency personnel, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, and child advocates.
Complaints can be made over the phone, via fax, email, snail mail, and online. Complaints can also come through the news media, public officials, and, of course, other state agencies and advisory boards. To encourage reporting, people making a complaint can remain anonymous, although the CCL will require contact information in order to investigate the claim.
Once a complaint is received, it is assessed by the CCL to determine the severity of the allegations, using a substantial harm, minimal harm, and no harm scale.
Complaints are also reviewed to determine if a law or regulation (NRS and NAC) has potentially been broken. The CCL then uses those determinations to prioritize their response, much like a hospital uses triage to prioritize care and treatment.
The potential “grading” of an allegation is as follows:
- Immediate: imminent harm (same-day response required)
- Priority 1: possible risk, not urgent (1- to 3-day response time)
- Priority 2: no perceived danger (10- to 15-day response time)
- Priority 3: NAC/NRS violations (30-day response)
The CCL will also consider the age of the complaint and any other factors that it may deem important under the circumstances, including whether this is an isolated incident or it represents a pattern of ongoing behavior.
It's also reasonable to think that complaints involving higher-profile issues might affect the CCL's initial grading process as well. In 2022, for example, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted an audit of Nevada's licensing and monitoring procedures surrounding the background checks of new employees.
The OIG found that Nevada had not sufficiently enforced the most recent changes in federal rules regarding criminal background checks for employees of childcare facilities. The findings prompted the state to implement new and more stringent requirements for background checks, along with training for childcare providers to ensure compliance.
Violations surrounding this issue could potentially be assigned a higher priority just because it's been on the state's radar in the past.
Once a complaint has been assessed, CCL investigators will initiate an investigation to determine the validity of the allegations.
This process can be a lengthy one, depending upon the specific allegation(s) and the various steps that might be needed. Investigators might need to review your facility's records, for example, or examine other documents that are pertinent to the claim. Some complaints might also require an on-site inspection, as well as interviews with parents and facility personnel. In some more serious cases, the CCL may work with law enforcement to conduct criminal investigations.
What Is The Disciplinary Process For Licensed Child Care Facilities In Nevada?
The CCL's investigation can produce one of three basic outcomes:
- The allegation is not substantiated. No Plan of Correction is required, and no Notice of Violation is issued.
- The allegation is substantiated, and a Plan of Correction is required. No Notice of Violation is issued.
- The allegation is substantiated, and a Plan of Correction is required. A Notice of Violation is issued.
In instances where a Plan of Correction is required, facilities can have penalties and restrictions imposed until the violations have been corrected, including:
- A reduction in the number of children the facility can oversee
- Appointing temporary management
- Preventing the facility from enrolling any new children
- Imposing a monetary fine of up to $1,000 per day for each violation, plus interest at 10% per annum
In addition, if a facility fails to pay any administrative penalties, your childcare license can be suspended.
Cases where a Notice of Violation is issued are typically more severe and can lead to suspension or revocation of your license.
It's important to work with a professional license defense team as soon as you know (or suspect) that a claim has been filed. The best time to prepare your defense is before the investigation is over, so don't try to navigate this process on your own. Having an experienced license defense team at your side gives you your biggest advantage and ensures you're able to present your best defense.
The Lento Law Firm Team has worked with childcare providers and other professionals around the country, and we're ready to go to work for you!
What Should I Do If My License Is Suspended Or Revoked?
Most importantly, stay calm.
When the CCL makes a determination that results in a fine or that causes the denial, suspension, or revocation of a license, it will notify all parties involved by certified mail.
This notice must be sent within 30 days of the decision, and will include all the pertinent information – i.e., the nature of the complaint, the laws or regulations that have been violated, and the action that has been taken. You then have 10 calendar days to file a notice of appeal with the DPBH/CCL.
The Administrator of the DPBH will then set a hearing within 20 days of receiving your notice, and you should be notified of the date for the hearing with a window of no less than 5 days.
Your appeal will be conducted as an administrative hearing, typically in front of a Hearing Officer who has been appointed by the Administrator of the DPBH. Once your request for appeal has been received (and assuming there are no extenuating circumstances), the disciplinary action will be stayed until the Hearing Officer has issued a ruling.
You are allowed (and encouraged) to bring legal counsel to this hearing. You can present your defense, file motions, and include evidence and testimony that supports your case. Witnesses are sworn in, and you can question any testimony from the other side of the aisle.
The entire proceeding will be recorded.
While the decision of the Hearing Officer is the ‘final word' of the DPBH, you are entitled to request a judicial hearing if the decision is not in your favor. This is essentially a civil appeal and is governed by related Nevada civil statutes and procedures.
What Happens In A Judicial Hearing Appeal?
Once your case reaches this stage, the burden of proof shifts to you. That means you're responsible for proving your case, and the original decision will stand until you do.
It's also important to understand that this appeal won't be on the original violations in question. That is, the district court won't be ‘re-hearing' your evidence. Instead, your appeal should be based on an error or violation, procedural or evidentiary, on the part of the Division.
Examples of this kind of appeal include cases where something within the initial hearing violated a constitutional or statutory provision, where the agency (DPBH) exceeded its authority, or where there is a clear conflict of interest or abuse of discretion.
Your judicial hearing will be in front of a district judge (no juries). You'll need to follow a formal procedure for filing your documents, and the decision can be upheld (affirmed), or it can be reversed or set aside in whole or in part, as the judge deems appropriate.
Should the judge not rule in your favor and you want to continue your appeal, the next step will be in the appellate court.
Contact The Lento Law Firm Team To Defend Your Child Care License
It's no surprise that you want to defend your childcare license. You've worked hard to get where you are, and your license is a key piece to your professional future. It also represents your reputation as both a childcare provider and a member of your community. The loss of that reputation could be devastating to your career and your standing within the community.
That's why it's so important to act now.
If your childcare license is in danger, it's crucial that you meet the allegations head-on and do what you can to mitigate the damage. That may mean negotiating a plan of action with the DPBH, or it might mean pulling out all the stops and demonstrating your commitment to working in the childcare industry as part of your defense.
To choose your best course of action, you need a law firm that understands the disciplinary process and knows how to work within the law to achieve the best possible outcome.
The Lento Law Firm has that experience, and we can help you prepare your best defense.
Here are just some of the ways our Professional License Defense Team can help you navigate every stage of Nevada's disciplinary process. We can:
- Prepare a response to the initial complaint
- Help you assess the potential risks and formulate a strategy
- Gather evidence to support your case
- Interview witnesses
- Negotiate terms for a Plan of Correction
- Demonstrate your compliance with CCL orders
- Defend you during a formal hearing
- File and present your appeal
- Negotiate for leniency in the various stages
We know this can be stressful, and we understand if you're feeling overwhelmed by all that has happened. That's perfectly normal… the question now is, how do you want to move forward?
Our Professional License Defense Team knows how to work with Nevada's disciplinary process. We have a full command of the law, and we have your best interests at heart.
Shouldn't you have the legal resources you need to present your best defense?
Let the Lento Law Firm help you protect your license and continue your child care service. Don't wait to take this very important step - call us today! Contact the Lento Law Firm Team at (888) 535-3686 or go online to schedule a consultation.