To administer child care in the State of Oklahoma, any program, whether an individual or group-led center, must apply for and maintain a state-sponsored license. Authorization revolves around preserving the safety, educational instruction, and general well-being of children. The state's licensing procedures ensure providers meet detailed standards and regulations, from staff professional development and emergency measures to nutrition guidelines and instilling parental confidence. Like other states, licensees must follow the aforementioned requirements or risk the agency grievance process that can quickly revoke credentials, ending the ability to administer child care.
State authorities reserve the ability to hand down sanctions for failing to respond to agency requests or pay annual fees, but rule violations have a wide scope. Moreover, licensee complaints can originate from any source. Oklahoma's licensing agency will investigate all instances of alleged misconduct, and defending a license status can be an intimidating process.
Licensing agencies use administrative proceedings to manage misconduct, which work much differently than how a courtroom is conducted. Therefore, respondents may not be afforded the same due process rights. If the state revokes your license or enforces disciplinary action, it may take years for a provider to regain their child care credentials.
Getting the help you need to navigate the disciplinary process is essential—especially before the agency seeks action. To defend your Oklahoma child care license, contact the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team today. Our team is passionate about assisting child care providers through state procedures, including the grievance process. They understand the difficulties of agency investigations and how sanctions can disrupt the care they provide for children. For guidance, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today or go online immediately for help.
Oklahoma Child Care Facility Licensing Requirements
For facilities and individual child care providers, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) directs Child Care Services (CCS) to develop policies, requirements, and standards for child care programs under the Oklahoma Child Care Facilities Licensing Act. In Oklahoma, there are licensing requirements for various types of child care programs, including the following:
- Child Care Centers: programs operating 30 or more hours per week.
- Community Hope Centers: programs operating more than 15 hours per week, serving children ages five through 17 years, providing access to mental health professionals and resources and additional community resources for families.
- Day Camps: programs operating during school breaks for 12 hours or less per day, serving children at least five years old, and using the outdoors as a major program component for at least 50 percent daily.
- Drop-In Programs: programs operating 30 or more hours per week with individual children attending six hours or less per day and 24 hours or less per week, with an allowance for three extra six-hour days per 12 months per child.
- Out-of-School Time Programs: programs operating when school is not in session, serving children at least three years old.
- Part-Day Programs: programs operating more than 15 but less than 30 hours per week.
- Programs for Sick Children: programs serving children with illnesses or symptoms preventing them from comfortable participation in activities in a program caring for children without illnesses.
There are some child care providers exempt from licensing. OKDHS asserts the following are not required to be licensed:
- Programs providing care in a child's own home or by their relatives.
- Occasional informal arrangements.
- Drop-in programs where parents remain on the premises and are readily accessible.
- Single activity programs.
- Other programs that administer care for 15 hours or less per week.
OKDHS maintains one type of license for all child care centers, but there are a few slight differences. Primarily, variations lie in the capacity of each facility or provider center or if child care occurs in a home setting, community care setting, or a traditional center.
OKDHS Licensing Process
The Oklahoma child care licensing process involves several steps to ensure that the facility or other setting is appropriate for children. Prospective providers must ensure their facility complies with state regulations and then submit an application to OKDHS. All individuals involved in child care—apart from some minor exceptions—must undergo criminal background checks and fingerprinting through the Office of Background Investigations to confirm they do not have disqualifying criminal convictions.
OKDHS explains that training and staff orientation must be completed within 30 days of hire and before staff are left alone with children. Training covers numerous topics that include but are not limited to:
- Behavior management standards
- Confidentiality agreements
- Resident grievance processes
- Emergency and evacuation plans
- Suicide awareness and mental health protocols
- Emergency medical procedures
- Facility organizational structures
- Program philosophy
- Personnel policy and procedures
- Mandatory child abuse reporting
Child care centers receive three inspections each year to assess compliance with licensing standards, which include health and safety, staff-to-child ratios, family involvement, the physical environment, record-keeping practices, vehicle maintenance, and others. Licenses need to be renewed annually, and providers must keep their information updated to reflect any changes in their programs or staffing.
Oklahoma Child Care Center Star Certification
Part of maintaining good standing with licensing authorities is sustaining a star rating through the OKDHS quality rating and improvement system (QRIS). Rated components include:
- Management and administration
- Workforce qualifications and professional development
- Learning and development
- Family partnerships
- Program evaluation and continuous quality improvement
QRIS provides ratings from one to five stars for all operating child care facilities. The values are as follows:
- One-star center: A program operating on a permit or license is automatically given one star.
- Two-star center: A program that meets the minimum number of master teachers as required and is not eligible for master teacher probationary periods.
- Three-star center: A program with current licensing status and compliance, accredited by a CCS-approved national accrediting organization or Head Start grantee and compliant with Head Start Program Performance Standards.
- Four and five-star centers: Programs exceeding minimum expectations required in the aforementioned categories and without rule infractions within the last 24 months.
Prior to approval, the agency star outreach specialist reviews all information and consults with licensing staff, including monitoring visits as well as submitted and substantiated complaints for the last 24 months of operation. Request for additional stars may be denied when the program has committed the following:
- Numerous, repeated, or serious non-compliance.
- Single serious incident resulting in injury or imminent risk of harm to a child.
- Emergency Order or notice of proposed request for license denial or license revocation issued.
- A serious substantiated complaint.
- Failed to employ a qualified director for six months or more.
- Signed a consent agreement.
Pending complaint investigations may also impact star certification request approval. But licensees have the opportunity to defend themselves against alleged misconduct.
Complaints Against Oklahoma Child Care Licensees
Complaints alleging rule violations or misconduct in Oklahoma child care facilities can come from numerous sources. For instance, facility staff, parents, officials during a routine inspection, or anyone with knowledge of a breach of standards. OKDHS will screen all complaints to determine a risk level before conducting a full investigation. Risk levels are used to ensure investigations occur in a timely manner, detailed as the following:
- Risk Level I: Complaints indicate a child is at imminent risk of serious physical harm, with investigations initiated immediately or no later than 24 hours after receipt of the complaint. Non-compliances with licensing requirements include, but are not limited to:
- Alleged physical or sexual abuse.
- The presence, use, or distribution of illegal drugs while children are in care.
- Children were left in the facility or in a vehicle without anyone present.
- Unsafe infant sleep environments or a lack of safe sleep training.
- Threatening or impaired behavior from a center caregiver.
- Severe understaffing or severe over-licensed capacity.
- Emergency order violation.
- Failure to obtain background investigations.
- Leaving children with underage personnel.
- Alleged physical abuse from personnel no longer working in the facility.
- Inappropriate discipline, without injury.
- Hazardous equipment violations.
- Minor understaffing or minor over-licensed capacity.
- Inadequate meal service.
- Lack of play equipment.
- Failure to conduct quarterly vehicle maintenance.
- Poor program records and documentation.
- Inappropriate television or media use.
- Improper facility cleanliness.
Investigations typically include a review of the complaint to ensure staff are familiar with the details and specific information. State licensing staff will also review all appropriate records to obtain other preliminary information prior to an unannounced visit to the center. OKDHS processes assert that the purpose of the visit and allegation descriptions are initially discussed with the operator, and prior to the complaint investigation conclusion, the full allegation is explained and discussed with the director or primary caregiver.
Based on the severity of the allegation or other information gathered during the complaint investigation, licensing staff discusses appropriate methods of protecting children. With CCS approval, licensing staff may request the owner or operator to voluntarily cease administering child care or require specific restrictions of contact with children for the alleged subject of the complaint pending the investigation outcome. Licensing staff will also conduct interviews with the complainant, witnesses, the complainant's children, and others with relevant information. Interviews are no longer conducted when sufficient information is obtained to determine a finding that is one of the following conclusions:
- Substantiated: when some credible evidence indicates the facility violated licensing requirements or child care regulations.
- Unsubstantiated: insufficient evidence exists to fully determine whether a violation occurred or no violation of licensing requirements or regulations occurred.
Substantiated claims are then handled by state authorities with enforceable action. Licensing staff advises the facility to correct the violations immediately.
The Grievance Process for Oklahoma Child Care Facilities
Grievances involving the application of any written or unwritten policy, rule, or regulation must be pursued within 30 calendar days of the documented non-compliance, star criteria violation, or substantiated complaint allegation. OKDHS encourages individuals to seek informal resolution by contacting the appropriate licensing supervisor or programs supervisor, and each review level may have assigned designees.
When a resolution cannot be reached at the local level or through verbal communication with CCS officials, individuals can submit one written grievance request with the licensing or program supervisor within 15 calendar days. Afterward, the licensing supervisor and regional programs manager (RPM) conduct a review within ten OKDHS business days, rendering a decision on the matter. If a further resolution isn't reached, grievants may request RPM review, with the statewide licensing coordinator conducting an assessment if resolution fails to be reached again, which may involve authorities from the Child Care Advisory Committee (CCAC) Peer Review Board review and the director of CCS, DHS, or OKDHS.
Why You Need the Lento Law Firm to Help Protect Your Oklahoma Child Care License
Any complaint against you is a threat to your Oklahoma child care license. But even serious allegations that are dropped or failed to be pursued can affect your livelihood. For instance, unsubstantiated allegations can affect the way in which parents and the public view a child care facility. Without a robust representation, license holders are left susceptible 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 alleged license or facility violations, complaints, and other relevant information to create a strong defense strategy.
- Assist in correspondence and drafting responses to the OKDHS, CCAC, CCS, or other authorities involved.
- Collect evidence and gather witness testimony on your behalf.
- Lead negotiations with OKDHS and state officials to manage potential sanctions.
- File appeals with the Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma
Oklahoma is home to hundreds 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 Oklahoma can find child care facilities that suit their specific needs, whether it's full-time care, part-time care, or early education.
OKDHS splits the state's child care centers into six distinct regions that include the following:
Region 1: Encompassing the north-central part of Oklahoma, the region includes Alfalfa, Blaine, Creek, Canadian, Garfield, Grant, Hughes, Kay, Kingfisher, Logan, Osage, Noble, Pawnee, Payne, and Washington counties.
Region 2: Located in Oklahoma's western and northwestern sectors, the region includes Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper, Woods, Major, Woodward, Ellis, Roger Mills, Dewey, Beckham, Carter, Cotton, Custer, Harmon, Greer, Jackson, Tillman, Cotton, Jefferson, Kiowa, Love, Marshall, Murray, Johnston, Carter, Stephens, Murray, Comanche, Grady, Caddo, McClain and Washita counties.
Region 3: Oklahoma's eastern and southeastern region includes Adair, Atoka, Bryan, Cherokee, Choctaw, Cleveland, Coal, Delaware, Haskell, Latimer, LeFlore, Lincoln, McCurtain, McIntosh, Muskogee, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Ottawa, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Pushmataha, Seminole, Sequoyah, and Wagoner counties.
Region 4: Situated in the northeastern part of the state, this region includes Craig, Mayes, Nowata, Rogers, and Tulsa counties.
Region 5: The only county in this region is Oklahoma County, located in the central part of the state.
Region 6: Positioned west and south of Region 5 is the area encompassing Canadian, Cleveland, and Grady counties.
Consequences of Losing an Oklahoma Child Care License
Losing a child care license has far-reaching implications. 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 and is placed on the state's Restricted Registry. 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.
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. Moreover, facilities employ staff members who may lose their jobs when a license is revoked. News of license revocation may also negatively impact a center or employee's standing in the community, making it challenging to reenter the child care industry.
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. 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. Additionally, licensees who have lost their credentials 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. Applications will be denied until the proper stipulations of denial are seen through, and for former license holders on the state's Restricted Registry, 60 months (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 Oklahoma Child Care Facilities and Providers
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team is dedicated to helping Oklahoma child care license holders navigate complaints against them. After 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 OKDHS, CCS, or other state or licensing officials.
Local legal advocates and attorneys may try to convince license in the disciplinary process that they can use their experience arguing before a judge or jury as a helpful tactic to get them out of sanctions. However, administrative hearings—those used by state licensing agencies—have different processes and evidentiary standards than courtrooms. Moreover, local lawyers often employ forceful tactics as a first line of defense. If you're a licensed child care facility or provider, you need helpful, comprehensive assistance in retaining your credentials, 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.