When parents choose to leave their child at a child care center, they're choosing to place a significant amount of trust in the directors, care providers, and staff who work there. That's why, in NJ, you typically need a license to operate a child care or day care center. The license serves as proof that you take your responsibilities seriously and that parents should trust you with their children.
However, just a single complaint can be enough to jeopardize the business – and reputation – you have worked so hard to establish. Even if the complaint is ultimately dismissed, it can still have repercussions for your ability to run a child care center in NJ.
At the Lento Law Firm, we understand how much your license means to you. If you're facing day care license revocation in NJ, we're here to help. To tell us about your case and discuss representation, call our Professional License Defense Team at 888.535.3686. Alternatively, provide us with a few details via our contact form.
Child Care Regulatory Bodies in New Jersey
Before we consider how to handle the threat of license revocation, it's crucial to understand which agencies you are answerable to and where they derive their authority from.
The Department of Children and Families
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) oversees child care centers in NJ. NJ's Child Care Center Licensing Act gives the DCF authority over day care centers in the state. The DCF has broad powers that are outlined in the Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers, but essentially, the DCF can:
- Issue licenses to facilities and/or individual providers.
- Inspect child care facilities (including files and records on the premises).
- Request building inspections to ensure care center compliance with health and safety codes.
The Office of Licensing
The DCF has overall responsibility for child care centers in NJ. However, the Office of Licensing is the branch of the DCF responsible for ensuring that child care centers comply with the relevant licensing requirements. The Office of Licensing can:
- Investigate complaints.
- Conduct interviews.
- Gather evidence.
- Discipline child care providers and/or facilities.
- Suspend, restrict, or revoke NJ child care licenses.
Child Care Provider Licensing Requirements
A “child care center” in NJ includes day care centers, day nurseries, employment-related centers, and night-time centers. You require a license to run such a facility if you supervise six or more children aged 13 or under for less than 24 hours at a time. Licenses are valid for three years, and you should display your license somewhere obvious at your facility.
If you supervise less than six children at a time, or they are all over 13, you may not require a license. However, this does not mean you may not face complaints from parents or accusations of wrongdoing. There may also be other legal responsibilities you are required to fulfill as a professional care provider.
If you're unsure whether you require a license, contact the DCF. You risk significant disciplinary action if you operate without a license when required – even if you've made an honest mistake. If you lose your license due to disciplinary action but wish to continue supervising children, you may be unable to do so. Our Professional License Defense Team will answer your questions and explain how the relevant laws apply in your specific case.
Complaints Against Child Care Centers
Child care center directors and staff must provide a certain standard of care and comply with specific performance standards if they wish to remain licensed. Should they fail to meet these standards, then they could lose their license or have their facility shut down. The most common reasons for complaints against child care centers in NJ include:
- Inadequate supervision, e.g., not enough qualified staff on the premises.
- Poor sanitation or hygiene standards.
- Child abuse or neglect allegations.
- Failure to create a safe environment, e.g., exceeding capacity limits.
- Providing inadequate activities or inappropriate activities for the development stage of the children attending.
- Operating without a license or failing to renew a license.
Even the smallest incident can result in a parent making a formal complaint. That's why grievances should be dealt with as quickly – and effectively – as possible.
License Investigations Against NJ Day Care Providers
Child care providers are expected to be of good moral character. They are expected to conduct themselves in a way that is suitable for looking after children. However, the Office of Licensing has the power to revoke, suspend, or restrict a child care license for allegedly poor professional conduct or on “good cause” grounds. Good cause includes:
- Using fraudulent means to obtain a license.
- Refusal to hand over documents or records as part of an investigation.
- Refusal to allow access for inspections or investigations (during regular operating hours).
- Performing activities that risk the safety, health, education, or welfare of a child attending the center.
- Behavior that suggests a person is unfit to run a child care center.
- Failure to comply with a background check.
- Failure to provide activities on the premises which meet the developmental requirements of the children attending.
These grounds are extremely broad and could cover a wide range of alleged conduct. Our Professional License Defense Team can help you understand the allegations against you and propose how you might counter the complaint.
Am I Facing Criminal Charges?
No – licensing investigations do not necessarily mean you face criminal charges. A license investigation is an administrative rather than criminal procedure. Administrative matters involve government and/or state agencies, and the penalties can include license revocation, suspension, and monetary fines. Although they are not criminal investigations, license investigations must still be taken seriously.
Could you face criminal charges? Yes. You may face criminal charges if there are serious allegations, e.g., child abuse. If you're dealing with criminal charges, the Lento Law Firm Team can help. Contact us urgently to discuss your case.
Child Care Provider Investigations
Child care center investigations are stressful and complex. A lot can happen at once, and you may be unsure what legal rights you have. While you should hire a lawyer as soon as possible, here is an overview of each major step in the grievance process.
Every disciplinary process begins with either:
- Failing an inspection.
- Concerned member(s) of the public making a complaint.
Parents, for example, can file a complaint online, although they're encouraged to raise concerns with the center first. All complaints can be submitted anonymously, which can make it challenging to defend yourself against the accusations.
The Office of Licensing investigates the complaint. Investigations may include interviews, visiting your premises, and inspecting your records. You should comply with the agency but seek urgent legal advice to learn your rights.
Once the Office of Licensing completes the investigations, they will either dismiss the complaint or propose action – including license revocation.
What's challenging about the Office of Licensing's procedure is that you only have the right to request a hearing after the agency reaches a decision. So, for example, if the agency decides to revoke your license, you'll be notified of this in writing and advised of your right to request an administrative hearing for review. In other words, you're trying to show why the decision is unjustified before it is finalized.
The hearing is your chance to present your side of the story. It takes place before an administrative judge who must fully consider both sides before reaching a final verdict. However, you're fighting somewhat of an uphill battle at this stage – which is why you need legal representation sooner rather than later. The quicker you hire an attorney, the more efficiently you can challenge the agency's verdict before it becomes final.
If the administrative judge decides against you, then you may have grounds for appeal. You can typically appeal an administrative decision if you can demonstrate that the judge made a procedural or legal error, e.g., they misapplied the law or failed to give evidence proper weight.
Administrative hearings and appeals should be conducted in line with NJ's Administrative Procedure Act. The laws are complex – you should consult an attorney for advice as it relates to your case.
Disciplinary Actions Against Child Care Providers in New Jersey
If your license is suspended or revoked, you must immediately return the license and/or related certificates to the Office of Licensing. Failure to do so could result in further action against you.
You may be required to outline the corrective actions you intend to take before the Office of Licensing will consider reissuing or reinstating your license. Our Professional License Defense Team can help you understand your obligations so you may outline an effective plan for moving forward.
There's no general requirement for you to inform parents if you're under investigation. However, if your license is suspended or revoked, you can't operate, and so you will be required to notify parents that your center is closed. Our attorneys can help you communicate with parents and anticipate any questions you may receive.
Alternatives to Losing Your License
You won't always lose your license following disciplinary action. Other penalties may be imposed instead, such as:
- Financial penalties: Rather than losing your license, you could be ordered to pay a fine.
- License suspension: You could temporarily rather than permanently lose your license. This often means you won't get your license reinstated until a certain amount of time elapses, or you comply with specific requirements imposed by the authorities.
- Restricted operations: Sometimes, you can continue to run a center with conditions attached. For example, there may be caps on the number of children you can supervise at one time.
The likelihood of receiving an alternative sanction depends on the nature of the investigation against you. Our Professional License Defense Team can help you understand what penalties may be applicable.
Consequences of Disciplinary Action
In the child care sector, reputation matters. Unfortunately, care providers face a range of (possibly severe) consequences following disciplinary action – even if they can keep their license.
- Parental Notification: The Office of Licensing is obliged to notify affected parents within 20 days of acting against a care provider. Meaning that even if you're cleared of any wrongdoing, parents will still be notified that there's a complaint pending against you.
- Public Record: Whether you lose your license or you're allowed to keep operating, the complaint becomes public record. Members of the public, then, can see the complaint if they look up your record online.
- License Revocation: Losing your license means you can't provide child care or day care services. Even if you successfully reinstate your license in the future, parents may be reluctant to leave their children with you.
- Operating Restrictions: Limits, such as restrictions on how many children you can supervise, can damage your business. It may not be financially viable for you to run the child care center this way.
Personal Consequences of Disciplinary Action Against Child Care Providers in New Jersey
Aside from the professional consequences of license investigations, there are significant personal consequences to be considered.
- If you lose your license, you may lose your livelihood. This could impact your ability to pay bills and provide for your family. In the longer term, you may face significant financial difficulties.
- You may feel ostracized by family and/or friends after license investigations. You could lose treasured relationships, even if the complaint against you turns out to be untrue or exaggerated.
- Even if you know the complaint is unfounded, you may lose confidence in your ability to run a facility or look after children. You may decide to pursue an alternative career path that is less fulfilling for you.
The threat of losing a professional license is enough to shake even the strongest among us. There's no doubt that feelings of stress and anxiety could remain with you long after investigations conclude.
Appealing License Suspension or Revocation
The Office of Licensing will typically move to suspend, restrict, or revoke your license prior to holding a formal hearing. You can, however, request an administrative hearing to dispute or appeal the result before it's finalized.
The hearing is your chance to show why the proposed action is unnecessary. You may put forward evidence in your defense, which includes witness testimony. Typically, you may continue to operate as a care provider or run your facility unless your hearing is unsuccessful. The exception is if the Office of Licensing believes that children are in danger or the center poses an imminent risk of harm.
Grievance procedures for day care providers and facility directors are inherently stressful. You're facing an uphill battle since the Office of Licensing proposes sanctions before you have the chance to formally dispute the allegations. That's why it's critical to get legal advice urgently. The sooner our Professional License Defense Team can help, the more empowered you will feel throughout the process.
Getting Your License Back After Suspension or Revocation
If the Office of Licensing suspends or revokes your license, you may appeal the decision as described. However, should your appeal be unsuccessful, it may be possible to reapply for a license in the future. This applies to centers and individual care providers.
As per the DCF rules, the affected individual(s) can reapply for a license one year from the date of license revocation or suspension. This means you must wait at least 12 months before you can reapply for a license. There's no guarantee that your application will be successful, but you can improve your chances by demonstrating that you have corrected any alleged deficiencies. Your attorney can explain what steps you might take to increase your chances of a successful reapplication.
Ultimately, however, there's no guarantee that you will regain a license to work as a care provider or operate a child care center in NJ. The sooner you retain an experienced attorney, the better you will understand your options for preventing license revocation.
Do I Need an Attorney to Get My License Back?
You may be reluctant to reach out for help if you're facing a license complaint. This is understandable. However, you must remember that the consequences of disciplinary action can affect your entire career. If you're unsure whether you need a lawyer to represent you during license proceedings, here are some points to consider.
- Once the Office of Licensing moves to revoke your license, it's difficult – although not impossible – to appeal their decision. Hiring an attorney early in the process may give you the best chance at avoiding license revocation in the first place.
- The Office of Licensing has the DCF (and its considerable resources) at its disposal. They will not hesitate to suspend, restrict, or revoke your license. A lawyer will defend and represent you with equal conviction.
- It's sometimes possible to resolve a complaint without turning to formal grievance procedures or administrative hearings. An attorney will strive to secure a favorable result informally to bring matters to a swift conclusion.
- Administrative law is complex. Even if you spend time researching the relevant rules and regulations, an attorney understands the nuances of each provision. They will ensure that you receive every legal right available to you and compel the DCF and the Office of Licensing to afford you due process.
Your child care license is precious. There's simply too much at stake to leave anything to chance. Although you do not need an attorney, there are many reasons why legal representation is strongly recommended.
How Our Professional License Defense Attorneys Can Help
The license grievance procedures you face are complex and difficult to navigate. Our Professional License Defense Team knows the challenges you face, and we understand what's at stake. If you retain us, here is how we can support you.
- We will use our experience to your advantage. We understand how the applicable laws and regulations work, and so we know what evidence is required to build a compelling case in your favor.
- Our team cares about helping you keep your license. From the moment you become our client, we will stand with you and advocate for your best interests.
- You can focus on taking back control of your career – and your professional prospects – while we work on the legal aspects of your defense. We handle the complexities so you can concentrate on getting through this challenging time.
- We care about mitigating the consequences of disciplinary action. Where possible, we will avoid adversarial tactics. We will negotiate and liaise with officials on your behalf, but if required, we can also robustly defend you in a hearing setting.
Given our comprehensive experience, our lawyers can also assist you if you face related civil legal action or criminal charges.
Experienced License Defense Attorneys Working Throughout New Jersey
At the Lento Law Firm, we bring justice to you. Our experienced attorneys work across NJ to help child care and day care providers retain their licenses. We represent professionals just like you in every New Jersey city, including:
- Jersey City
- New Brunswick
As a nationwide law firm, the Lento Law Firm serves every corner of the US. Don't hesitate to contact us wherever you are in New Jersey. We're standing by, waiting to support facility directors and care providers who need us.
New Jersey Child Care License Defense | Lento Law Firm
If you provide child care services in NJ, losing your license can be catastrophic. The consequences can impact every area of your life, from your home life to your finances. That's why it's crucial that you deal with a disciplinary issue sooner rather than later. Although there's no guarantee that you will retain your license, you stand the best chance of presenting a compelling case if you retain an experienced attorney without delay.
This is where our Professional License Defense Team can help. At the Lento Law Firm, we know how much your license means to you, and we want to help you preserve it if possible. We understand how hard you've worked to build your career and comply with the law, and we know that even a single complaint can jeopardize everything you've achieved.
If you retain our services, we will immediately begin working on your defense. Our attorneys will explain how best to handle the complaint against you and what evidence is required to strengthen your position. Whether we're negotiating with licensing authorities or representing you at a formal hearing, we will do our utmost to mitigate the consequences of disciplinary action on your career. Don't suffer through the complaints process alone – retain the Lento Law Firm. Call now at 888.535.3686 or tell us about your case via our contact form.