Child care facilities and individual providers in Ohio have licensure requirements, all of which revolve around the safety and quality of attention and instruction provided to children. The state's licensing system ensures that facilities and providers meet specific standards and regulations set through legislation. From the physical and emotional well-being of children to professional development and instilling parental confidence, licensees must follow a stringent set of requirements or risk the state's licensing agency enforcing action through its grievance procedures. Therefore, it's important to take the situation with the seriousness it deserves, as the loss of a license could spell the end of the ability to administer child care.
Authorities have the potential to revoke licensures for failure to pay fees and being found responsible for severe misconduct, but rule infractions are wide-ranging. Complaints can come from any source, and Ohio's licensing agency will investigate each situation, no matter what it is. But defending yourself is no easy task.
Licensing agencies use administrative proceedings to investigate, adjudicate, and sanction alleged misconduct, which work much differently than legal proceedings in a courtroom. It could take years for child care facilities and providers to regain their credentials, so it's imperative that you get the help you need to keep your Ohio child care license before the disciplinary process begins. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team has a passion for defending child care providers against discipline from state licensing agencies. They understand the difficulties of administrative investigations and how sanctions can disrupt the care they provide to children. For guidance, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today or go online immediately for help.
Ohio Child Care Facility and Provider Licensing Standards
For facilities and individual child care providers, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) oversees and administers this licensing process. ODJFS also maintains specific standards and regulations to provide safe educational environments for children aligned with the state's best practices. Ohio offers three types of child care licenses, each adapted for different settings and services, which include the following:
- Type A: Facilities that serve a large number of children with full-day care, schooling, and other educational programs, as well as a myriad of other services.
- Type B: Facilities with a smaller number of providers that typically run as family or home-based centers.
- Type C: Facilities that offer more temporary care for school-age children, like during summer or winter vacations or before and after school, that offer limited education and recreational activities.
The licensing process for child care facilities and providers in Ohio involves several steps. The first is staff orientation, with training provided by ODJFS regarding child care center licensing rules that must be completed within 30 days of hire and before being left alone with children. Training covers an array of topics integral to upholding state law and the Child Care and Development Block Grant that includes but is not limited to:
- Prevention and control of infectious diseases, including immunizations and medications.
- Safe sleep practices for children.
- Child management techniques to identify and prevent abuse.
- Emergency preparedness and response planning.
- Child development practices and responsibilities.
Providers working in facilities must complete training regardless of whether they are in day camps, in-home aides, or general facilities. The application process is completed through the Ohio Child Licensing and Quality System (OCLQS), which is developed and overseen by ODJFS and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to perform licensing and Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) operations.
All individuals involved in child care, whether they are staff or volunteers, must undergo criminal background checks and fingerprinting. Individuals are required to complete and submit a request with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and have the results sent to ODJFS. The agency determines eligibility for continued ownership, employment, or residency by reviewing results from the background check components. Facilities will also be thoroughly checked. ODJFS utilizes a child care inspection model involving both differential and risk assessment monitoring.
Child care centers receive at least one unannounced inspection each year, and facilities with Type A and Type B licenses receive at least two inspections after the initial license is approved. On-site inspections assess compliance with licensing standards, which include health and safety, staff-to-child ratios, the physical environment, and record-keeping practices. Licenses need to be renewed periodically, and providers must keep their information updated to reflect any changes in their programs or staffing.
Otherwise, OCLQS is where all facilities and providers may engage with licensing requirements, including the following:
- Applying for a license
- Managing program licensing tasks
- Completing ODE Preschool and school-age child care licensing and SUTQ tasks
- Signing a provider agreement for Publicly Funded Child Care
Ohio Child Care License Compliance
ODJFS child care licensing regulations are designed and implemented to reduce threats and the risk of harm to children while they are participating in out-of-home care. The agency has identified various rule areas that could lead to the greatest risk of harm, analyzed through fulfilling three criteria. Instances of non-compliance with licensing regulations must be:
- Observable, not inferable
- Truly lead to the greatest risk of harm to children
- Be defendable
Licensing non-compliances have point values assigned, which follow the level of possible risk to a child's health and safety. Values are rated as follows:
- Serious risk non-compliances (SRNC): These are extremely harmful offenses such as child abuse, staff injuries, or providers giving false information to ODJFS or other agency officials. SRNCs are rated with six points.
- Moderate risk non-compliances (MRNC): These are lesser infractions, such as a provider's lack of a safe route to an off-site space, inadequate protective surfaces, or materials not secured or anchored. MRNCs are rated with three points.
- Other non-compliances: Defined as various “low-risk” situations. All non-compliances that are not SRNCs or MRNCs are rated with one point.
A licensed child care facility or provider will not be eligible for a star rating, or it may be reduced or removed if a program has a six-point serious risk or a total of 24 points or more of serious and moderate risk non-compliances in a 12-month period. Nevertheless, issues can also arise outside of annual or semi-annual inspections through the ODJFS complaint process.
The Grievance Process for Ohio Child Care Facilities and Providers
Complaints alleging rule violations or misconduct from Ohio child care facilities and providers can come from numerous sources. For instance, facility staff, parents, officials during a routine inspection, or anyone with knowledge of a breach of standards. Whenever a complaint arises, ODJFS personnel and additional county or city agency licensing specialists are mandated to investigate the situation.
Initial investigations are relatively informal and will involve determining the facts, which may include interviewing the complainant, the alleged individual, group, or issue involved in the infraction, and anyone else with corroborating knowledge. After completing an investigation, the licensing specialist determines whether the allegation is substantiated, unsubstantiated, or unable to be determined. ODJFS asserts the following as evidentiary standards:
- Substantiated allegation: Investigators find "enough evidence" to support the claim.
- Unsubstantiated allegation: One wherein "clear evidence" is discovered to determine the allegation was false or did not occur.
- Unable to be determined allegation: This result is reached when the licensing specialist fails to determine whether the allegation is true or false.
If a child care facility or provider is found to have engaged in misconduct, violated licensing standards, or licensing agents determine non-compliance with any provisions listed in Ohio's Administrative Code regarding child care facilities and providers, a provisional or continuous license may be revoked. Moreover, license revocation can occur for the following reasons:
- A staff member has been determined not eligible for employment or residence to own a child care program or to be employed or reside in a licensed family child care home as a result of the background check requirements.
- The provider fails to submit documentation or information requested by the county agency or ODJFS or refuses entry to licensing specialists during operating hours.
- Submitting misleading or false reports to ODJFS or other municipal agencies.
- The behavior or health of a resident in a home-based child care center may endanger the health, safety, or well-being of children.
Under extreme circumstances, ODJFS may revoke a license without offering an adjudicatory hearing. However, license holders may request one through the Bureau of State Hearings.
ODJFS Adjudicatory Hearing
Unless prohibited by the state code, prior to license revocation, Ohio provides an adjudicatory hearing process to license holders. The agency will send a notice to the defendant, including a statement regarding the charges, the laws or rules violated, and their rights during the hearing. For hearing offered by ODJFS, they will be conducted within 30 days. But license holders requesting a hearing are given a hearing within 15 days, but no less than seven.
Adjudicatory hearings may require the attendance of witnesses, their individual depositions, cross-examination, and producing evidence, and the official record will reflect all submitted documents and testimony.
ODJFS will appoint a "referee" or "examiner" to conduct the hearing, with full administrative agency powers, but must be admitted to the practice of law in Ohio. The referee or examiner must submit their findings of fact and conclusions of law and a recommendation of the action to be taken by the agency within five days. Parties have the ability to file written objections to the report and recommendations within ten days to the agency. Afterward, the recommendation of the referee or examiner may be approved, modified, or disapproved by the agency.
If the hearing involves the denial of a child care facility or provider application, no new application may be reviewed until completion of the denial process. For revocation of a provisional or continuous license for a child care center, Type A and Type B facilities may not reapply until five years have elapsed from the date of revocation. After an intent to revoke notice is sent to the facility or provider, all enrolled children and their parents must be informed of the decision within 48 hours.
Decisions may be appealed to the Office of Legal Services, which reviews the determination and issues an administrative appeal decision stating whether or not the hearing decision was correct. Administrative appeals are the final decision of the ODJFS but can be further redressed through the Ohio court system.
Why You Need the Lento Law Firm to Help Protect Your Ohio Child Care License
Any complaint against you is a threat to your Ohio child care license. But even serious allegations that wind up dropped or not pursued can affect your livelihood. For instance, unsubstantiated allegations can affect the way in which parents and the public view your child care facility or provider center. Moreover, adjudicatory hearings are conducted by legal and administrative professionals with more extensive knowledge of the procedures than most child care licensees.
Without a robust representation, license holders are left vulnerable to adverse action. Therefore, teaming with a Lento Law Firm attorney who understands how licensing boards manage discipline is a valuable career investment in your child care facility.
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team knows what kind of stress investigations and sanctions can place on licensees. You've worked tirelessly to obtain the credentials necessary to care for children, so let the Lento Law Firm provide the defense you need to continue providing constructive child care. Not only will they make sure you are represented by agencies involved, but they will also:
- Review the complaint and other relevant information to create a strong defense strategy.
- Assist in correspondence and drafting responses to the ODJFS or other authorities involved.
- Collect pertinent evidence and gather witness testimony on your behalf.
- Lead negotiations with ODJFS and state officials to manage potential sanctions.
- File appeals with the Ohio state court system if needed.
Child care professionals may understand how to instruct children and have the necessary qualifications for their care, but it's important to leave the legal work for a Lento Law Firm attorney. Doing so will give you the assurance that you have a team fighting for your right to keep your child care license.
Areas the Lento Law Firm Serves in Ohio
Ohio is home to a plethora of child care facilities and providers covering an array of urban, suburban, and rural settings. They offer a range of programs, from infant care to preschool education, and often focus on activities that support social, emotional, and cognitive growth. Parents in Ohio can find child care facilities that suit their specific needs, whether it's full-time care, part-time care, or early education.
Within ODJFS, the Bureau of Child Care Licensing and Monitoring splits Ohio into five regions, each with multiple licensing supervisors and specialists that manage and inspect child care facilities. Below is a general overview:
Akron: The Bureau's Akron region is comprised of the following counties: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Mahoning, Tuscarawas, Portage, Stark, and Summit.
Cleveland: The Bureau's Cleveland region is comprised of the following counties: Ashland, Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Erie, Geauga, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Richland, Trumbull, and Wayne.
Columbus: The Bureau's Columbus region is comprised of the following counties: Athens, Fairfield, Gallia, Franklin, Knox, Delaware, Logan, Marion, Jackson, Hocking, Fayette, Lawrence, Champaign, Meigs, Licking, Madison, Clark, Monroe, Noble, Pike, Pickaway, Ross, Muskingum, Union, Scioto, Perry, Vinton, Morgan, Washington, and Morrow.
Dayton: The Bureau's Dayton region is comprised of the following counties: Adams, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Darke, Greene, Hamilton, Highland, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, and Warren.
Toledo: The Bureau's Toledo region is comprised of the following counties: Allen, Auglaize, Crawford, Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Lucas, Mercer, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby, Van Wert, Williams, Wood, and Wyandot.
Consequences of Losing an Ohio Child Care License
Losing a child care license is a serious event with far-reaching implications. Since child care licensees must provide vital information through OCLQS made available to the public, all sanctions, including investigations, can be found online. Nevertheless, once a license is suspended or revoked, the following consequences may affect your facility or provider center:
- Termination of Child Care Services: The most immediate consequence is the inability to provide child care services. Once a license is revoked or not renewed, the provider is no longer legally permitted to operate a child care facility. This can disrupt the care arrangements for families who rely on these services as they will have short notice to vacate the center, also disrupting the routine and stability of children who were attending the facility.
- Financial Impact: Child care providers who lose their license may face financial repercussions. If their source of income is halted, it can quickly lead to financial difficulties, especially if administering child care is their primary livelihood.
- Reputation Harm: News of license revocation may negatively impact their standing in the community and make it challenging to reenter the child care industry in the future.
- Legal Consequences: Depending on the reasons for the license loss, providers may face legal consequences, including fines or legal action, especially if the loss of the license is due to violations of state regulations or harm to children in their care.
- Impact on Employees: Child care facilities employ staff members who may lose their jobs when a license is revoked.
- Challenges in Re-licensing: If a provider wishes to reenter child care after losing a license, regaining trust and meeting regulatory requirements can be a lengthy and difficult process.
- Increased Oversight: Facilities or providers who have lost their license may face heightened scrutiny and oversight if they attempt to operate a child care facility in the future.
With license revocation, there is a waiting period before an individual or facility can apply for a new license. As mentioned before, applications will be denied until the proper stipulations of denial are seen through, and for former license holders, five years must pass before reapplying. Moreover, previous disciplinary action is often used as a reason to deny reapplication. With these considerable consequences, any child care licensee should consult with the Lento Law Firm to understand their rights, obligations, and possible strategies for defense.
Professional License Defense Ohio Child Care Facilities and Providers
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is dedicated to helping Ohio child care license holders navigate complaints against them. After gaining an education, pushing through licensure requirements, and maintaining state agency guidelines, you need a team that can represent you effectively, understand state license regulations, and broker a resolution with ODJFS or other state or licensing officials.
Local lawyers may try to convince those undergoing the disciplinary process that they can use their courtroom experience to help argue their way out of sanctions. However, administrative hearings—those used by state licensing agencies—have different processes and standards of evidence than those occurring in the courtrooms. Moreover, local attorneys often use forceful tactics as a first line of defense. If you're a licensed child care facility or provider, you need stress-free, comprehensive assistance in retaining your authorization to operate a child care facility, not aggressive legal tactics that fail to serve your best interests.
Get the assistance you need to properly defend yourself and maintain your child care credentials. Call the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team at 888-535-3686 today for help, or schedule a consultation online.