Child care workers, directors, and administrators are the unsung heroes of early childhood education, providing a safe and nurturing environment that fosters the cognitive, emotional, and social development of our children. Their significance in the lives of Pennsylvania's youth cannot be overstated. They play a pivotal role in building the foundation for a lifetime of learning.
In a field where the stakes are high and the responsibility immense, these professionals must undergo extensive preparation to ensure they are capable of nurturing and educating the state's youngest residents. However, what is at stake is not just the quality of care they provide but their very livelihoods because one accusation of professional wrongdoing can put their hard-earned professional licenses and careers in jeopardy.
If you are a child care worker, director, or administrator, and someone has accused you of professional wrongdoing, you owe it to yourself to lawyer up with a Professional License Defense Team that has your best interests at heart. Contact the LLF Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online to discuss your case and hear how we will fight for your Pennsylvania child care license and credentials.
Legal Powers the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning Has to Discipline You
The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) is jointly overseen by the Department of Education (PDE) and the Department of Human Services (DHS). As a Bureau within OCDEL, the Bureau of Certification Services regulates all child care centers, group child care homes, and family child care homes in Pennsylvania. They oversee all aspects of operating a licensed child care facility, including the process for opening a facility, the status and compliance history of facilities, and complaints regarding child care facilities.
The Bureau of Certification ensures that every licensed child care provider is complying with the applicable Regulations, or Pennsylvania Codes, for operating a licensed child care facility.
Regulations for child care facilities address areas such as:
- Health and safety measures to help protect children and staff from injury and illness
- Ratio and group sizes
- Background checks of adults that work in the child care facility
- Physical environment of the program
- Education and ongoing required training
- Program management
They conduct this oversight through various actions, including surprise inspections of child care facilities and the investigation of complaints against facilities and individual workers.
Any complaint or issue is directed to and can lead to an investigation by DHS or OCDEL, and, depending on the outcome, result in sanctions against a child care worker, director, or administrator. These sanctions may include suspending or revoking their child care credentials and/or license. The repercussions of being subjected to an investigation and losing a professional license can be devastating, harming your career, reputation, and livelihood. Don't take an accusation of professional wrongdoing lightly when your future is on the line.
The LLF Law Firm Represents Child Care Workers and Owners in Cities Across Pennsylvania
The LLF Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team understands how hard you worked to get where you are in your career and how devastating it is when your license and livelihood are threatened. Our team of experienced professional license defense attorneys is standing by to support you during this uncertain time. Our team represents child care workers, administrators, and directors across the country, including here in Pennsylvania. Here are just a few of the Pennsylvania cities we cover:
- Cranberry Township
- Penn Hills
- Reading City
- Upper Darby
- Lower Merion
- State College
Child Care Worker Requirements in Pennsylvania
The DHS and the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are committed to ensuring the safety of children in the state's child care facilities and hold all child care workers to high education and training standards.
Child care workers in Pennsylvania must be at least 18 years old and have one of the following levels of education:
- A Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university in early childhood education, child development, special education, elementary education, or the human services field.
- A Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, including 30 credit hours in early childhood education, child development, special education, elementary education, or the human services field, plus one year of experience working with children.
- An Associate's degree in early childhood education, child development, special education, elementary education, or the human services field, plus two years of experience working with children.
- An Associate's degree from an accredited college or university, including 30 credit hours, in early childhood education, child development, special education, elementary education, or the human services field, plus three years of experience working with children.
Additional training may be required for some staff members to help ensure the safety and well-being of young children in their care. This additional training may be in areas such as pediatric first-aid and pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), fire safety, lifeguarding, and water safety instruction.
DHS also requires that, within 90 days of being hired, all Pennsylvania child care workers to complete professional development in certain safety areas. These areas include the prevention and control of infectious diseases, prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the use of unsafe sleep practices, administration of medication consistent with standards of parental consent, prevention and response to emergencies due to food and allergic reactions, building and physical premises safety, prevention of shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma, emergency preparedness and response planning, and precautions when transporting children. Childcare workers must also undergo continued professional development.
The Pennsylvania Director Credential is a higher standard that child care workers can work to achieve. This standard is used to measure directors and administrators of early childhood and school-age programs. There are four pathways to obtaining the Director Credential — Initial, Renewal, Alternative Pathway, and Portfolio. The minimum educational qualification for the award is an Associate's degree, though many directors achieve a Master's degree. Each pathway also requires one to five years of supervisory and/or administrative experience in an early childhood education or school-aged program, among other requirements.
As of September 30, 2019, all new hires within a child care facility are required to have the following:
- A Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance
- Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Criminal History Clearance
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) clearance required by the PA Department of Human Services
- National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) Verification Certificate
- Out-of-state clearances if they resided outside of Pennsylvania in the past five years.
As of July 1, 2020, all current facility persons, volunteers, household members, and Director/Operator must have obtained the NSOR verification.
Child Care Center Requirements in Pennsylvania
Child care providers operating a program for four or more unrelated children must be licensed (also referred to as “certified”) by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services in order to operate in the state.
- Child Care Center: A child care facility in which seven or more children who are not related to the operator receive child care.
- Group Child Care Home: A child care facility in which seven through 12 children of various ages or in which seven through 15 children from 4th grade through 15 years of age who are not related to the operator receive child care.
- Family Child Care Home: A child care facility located in a residence in which four, five, or six children who are not related to the caregiver receive child care.
All certified facilities must participate in additional professional development and be subject to annual, unannounced inspections by the Childcare and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) for compliance with health and safety standards. They must also regularly maintain fire detection devices and fire drills at least once every 60 days. In addition, certified child care center administrators and directors must demonstrate that they have the means to ensure the supervision of children when they are taking a restroom break or preparing snacks or meals for the children in care. Also, family child care homes that provide 24-hour care must employ a second caregiver because an administrator or director is not permitted to work or supervise children alone for more than 16 hours in 24 hours.
Grounds for Sanctions Against Child Care Workers in Pennsylvania
DHS regulations are designed to ensure the safety and well-being of children in child care settings. While specific grounds for sanctions against child care workers can vary, they typically include violations of these regulations. Some common reasons for sanctions against child care directors in Pennsylvania may include the following:
- Failure to Maintain Licensing Requirements: Child care directors must ensure that their facilities comply with all licensing requirements, including those related to staff-to-child ratios, health and safety standards, background checks for staff, and physical facility standards.
- Child Abuse or Neglect: If a child care director or staff member is found to have engaged in child abuse or neglect, they can face sanctions, including revocation of their license.
- Misrepresentation or Fraud: Providing false information on license applications, inspection reports, or other required documents can result in sanctions.
- Failure to Report Incidents: Child care directors are typically required to report incidents such as accidents, injuries, illnesses, or other emergencies to the appropriate authorities. Failure to do so can lead to sanctions.
- Health and Safety Violations: Any violations of health and safety regulations, such as inadequate supervision, unsafe physical conditions, or failure to meet nutrition requirements, can lead to sanctions
- Criminal Convictions: Child care workers who are convicted of certain crimes may face sanctions, particularly if the convictions are related to child abuse, neglect, or other offenses that raise concerns about their suitability to work with children.
- Inadequate Staff Training: Child care directors are responsible for ensuring that their staff members receive appropriate training and clearances. Failure to do so can result in sanctions.
- Financial Mismanagement: Child care workers may be subject to sanctions if they engage in financial mismanagement or misuse of funds allocated for child care services.
- Repeat Violations: Repeated violations of licensing regulations, even if not serious on their own, can result in sanctions if they demonstrate a pattern of non-compliance.
Complaints Against Pennsylvania Child Care Directors
Complaints against Pennsylvania child care workers are typically overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) and OCDEL through a structured process. This helps ensure that any concerns or issues are addressed appropriately. Here's a general overview of how complaints are typically handled in Pennsylvania:
Filing a Complaint
Anyone can file a complaint, including parents, guardians, staff members, or concerned individuals. Complaints can be submitted to DHS or the regional OCDEL office.
Once a complaint is received, it is reviewed by DHS and/or OCDEL. They will assess the nature and severity of the complaint and determine whether or not an investigation is warranted.
If the complaint appears to be valid or raises concerns about child safety or welfare, an investigation may be initiated. This may involve interviews, on-site inspections, and a review of records.
Child care workers have the right to due process during the investigation. This means they should be informed of the complaint and given the opportunity to respond to the allegations.
Findings and Corrective Action
After the investigation, the DHS will determine whether the complaint is substantiated or unsubstantiated. If issues are identified, the agency will work with the child care worker and facility to implement corrective actions. These actions may include addressing safety violations, staff training, record-keeping improvements, or other necessary changes.
If the investigation finds serious violations or ongoing problems, the child care worker may face sanctions. Sanctions can range from warnings and fines to suspension or revocation of their child care license or registration.
Reporting to Authorities
In cases where the complaint involves child abuse or neglect, the state agency must also report the incident to the appropriate child protective services or law enforcement authorities.
Child care facilities that have been the subject of complaints may be subject to increased monitoring and follow-up inspections to ensure that corrective actions are implemented and that children's safety is maintained.
The Adjudication Process for Child Care Directors Facing Licensing Issues in Pennsylvania
The adjudication process for child care directors facing licensing issues in Pennsylvania involves a legal procedure to determine whether the worker's child care license should be granted, renewed, suspended, or revoked. Since these cases are run similar to a court trial, it is strongly advised that the child care worker retain legal representation to advise them through the process, protect their rights, and improve their chances of a positive resolution. Here's a general overview of the adjudication process:
Notice of Licensing Issue
The process typically begins when DHS or the regional OCDEL notifies the child care director of a licensing issue. This notification may come in the form of a notice of violation or non-compliance with regulations.
Opportunity to Respond
The child care worker is given the opportunity to respond to the licensing issue. This may involve providing written documentation, attending meetings or hearings, and presenting their side of the story.
If the issue cannot be resolved through communication or if the child care worker contests the allegations, an administrative hearing may be scheduled. Administrative hearings are formal proceedings where both parties present evidence and witnesses.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) presides over the hearing and makes recommendations based on the evidence presented. The ALJ is a neutral third party who evaluates the case and may suggest actions or sanctions to be taken.
Based on the hearing, the ALJ makes a written decision, which is submitted to the appropriate licensing authority. This decision may recommend sanctions, modifications to the license, or the continuation of the existing license.
Final Licensing Action
The final decision on the licensing issue is made by the licensing authority, which may be the OCDEL or the DHS, depending on the specific circumstances. This authority considers the ALJ's recommendations but is not bound by them. The licensing authority may choose to accept, modify, or reject the ALJ's recommendations.
If the child care worker disagrees with the final decision, they may have the right to appeal the decision through the Pennsylvania court system. This involves taking the case to a higher court, and the court will review whether the licensing authority's decision was legally sound.
Sanctions for Child Care Workers and Directors in Pennsylvania
Child care workers, administrators, and directors in Pennsylvania can face various sanctions when they violate regulations, engage in misconduct, or fail to meet required standards. DHS imposes these sanctions to ensure the safety and well-being of children in their care. The specific sanctions can include:
- Warnings: Child care workers or directors may receive verbal or written warnings for minor violations or issues. Warnings serve as alerts and reminders to improve compliance with regulations.
- Fines: Monetary fines may be imposed for certain violations. The amount of the fine can vary depending on the severity of the violation and may increase for repeat offenses.
- Probation: Child care directors, administrators, or workers may be placed on probation, which involves close monitoring of their activities and compliance with regulations for a specified period.
- Suspension: Child care licenses or certifications may be temporarily suspended, preventing the operation of the child care facility or the individual's ability to work in a child care setting for a specific duration.
- Revocation: In cases of serious or repeated violations, child care directors' licenses or certifications may be revoked, effectively ending their ability to operate or work in a child care facility.
- Corrective Action Plans: Child care directors or administrators may be required to develop and implement corrective action plans to address specific issues or violations. These plans outline the steps they must take to rectify the problems.
- Training or Education Requirements: Child care workers may be required to undergo additional training or education to address deficiencies in their knowledge or skills.
- Criminal Charges: If child care workers, administrators, or directors engage in criminal behavior related to their role, they may face criminal charges, leading to legal consequences.
- Administrative Hearings: Child care directors can request administrative hearings to challenge the sanctions imposed. During these hearings, they have the opportunity to present their side of the case and contest the proposed sanctions.
- Reporting to Child Protective Services or Law Enforcement: In cases involving child abuse or neglect, the relevant authorities, such as child protective services or law enforcement, may be informed, leading to further investigation and potential legal action.
Reasons to Hire an Attorney from the LLF Law Firm Professional License Defense Team When Facing License Sanctions in Pennsylvania
Hiring an attorney from the LLF Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can be crucial when facing license sanctions. Our license defense attorneys are well-versed in the specific laws and regulations governing the child care profession in Pennsylvania. We can navigate the complex legal landscape, ensuring that your rights are protected. We have extensive experience dealing with Pennsylvania's licensing boards and regulatory agencies. We understand the procedures, rules, and expectations, which can be critical in defending your license.
Our team can tailor their defense strategies to your unique situation. We will analyze the specific circumstances of your case and develop a plan that maximizes your chances of a positive outcome. Importantly, we will ensure that your constitutional and legal rights are upheld throughout the process. This includes ensuring due process, fair hearings, and the right to appeal.
Protecting your professional reputation is paramount. The LLF Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can help minimize the damage to your reputation and career, allowing you to move forward more smoothly. Don't delay. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we can begin building a strong case in your defense. Your professional license, career, and livelihood hinge on the outcome of your case. Don't let an accusation of professional wrongdoing take down your career and your financial security. Call the LLF Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or through our online form to discuss your case and hear how we will fight for you and your future.