Daycare providers, preschool teachers, daycare facilities, and workers keep Wyoming running. Without the people behind the scenes caring for and teaching our children, our economy would come grinding to a halt. Whether you're in Cheyenne, Casper, Laramie, Gillette, Rock Springs, or somewhere in between, if you're a licensed daycare provider or preschool teacher, your profession is essential to the community and the care of our children. But, those who care for and teach children in Wyoming are heavily regulated. If someone alleges that you've violated the law or a regulation, you may face an investigation from the Department of Family Services, the Professional Teaching Standards Board, or Child Protective Services.
If you're facing an investigation, you need the skilled Professional License Defense Team from the Lento Law Firm on your side as soon as possible. The investigation and disciplinary process can happen quickly, and you need us to protect your rights and your license. Call 888.535.3686 or contact us online to schedule your consultation today.
Licensing for Child Care Facilities in Wyoming
Childcare licensing is under the purview of the Wyoming Department of Family Services. Any provider caring for more than two children not related to them must obtain a license. Operating a childcare facility without a license is a crime unless you qualify for an exemption. Exemptions to the licensing requirements include:
- A legal parent or relative of a legal parent caring for a child,
- Occasionally caring for a friend or neighbor's children if it isn't regular care,
- Parents using cooperative childcare with other parents,
- Caring for no more than two unrelated kids,
- Caring for children in the home of their parent or guardian,
- Nonprofit summer camps,
- Ranches or farms, as long as they don't offer services for intellectually disabled, homeless, or delinquent children,
- Facilities operated by state or local governments, school districts, state or local agencies, or subdivisions of government agencies,
- Caring for the immediate children of only one family, even if there are more than two children,
- After-school programs for care primarily when school isn't in session, such as during school breaks, summer, or before and after school, and
- After-school programs created to “promote childhood learning, child and youth development, educational, enrichment, recreational or character-building activities.”
After-school programs must still meet all local fire, safety, and health codes and regulations.
There are three basic classifications of childcare facilities in Wyoming, including:
- Family Child Care Home: These facilities care for three to ten children in a private home with no additional staff.
- Family Child Care Center: These centers can care for up to 15 children in a private home or another building with unrelated staff. These facilities need at least one more staff member if there are more than ten children.
- Child Care Center: A childcare center can provide for 16 or more kids, provided the center has adequate staffing for the number of children.
While the application to become a licensed childcare provider in Wyoming is straightforward, you'll also need to provide additional documentation, including:
- Child abuse and neglect checks from Wyoming's Central Registry and every state you've lived in for the last five years,
- Fingerprint information for a criminal background check,
- A DCI waiver and release form,
- TB screening,
- Approval from local zoning, if needed,
- A physician's statement indicating you don't have any physical conditions that will prevent you from caring for children,
- Proof of education or training, and
- The application fees.
You'll also need to provide sample forms for attendance, child records, staff records, and an emergency preparedness plan.
How Day Care License Investigations Work in Wyoming
The Wyoming Department of Family Services has Child Care Licensors throughout the state. They conduct pre-licensing inspections as well as annual announced and unannounced visits. Child Care Licensors also handle childcare complaint investigations and monitor facilities for compliance.
Complaints about childcare facilities and providers typically go through the regional Child Care Licenser for DFS. Common complaints include:
- A child left alone with no adult supervision,
- Children not being fed or not being fed nutritious meals,
- Inappropriate discipline,
- Too many kids per employee at the facility,
- Unsafe daycare conditions, and
- Abuse or neglect allegations.
People also often contact DFS with complaints about daycare hours, fees, payment policies, enrollment, termination, and whether a facility will administer medication. However, DFS does not have jurisdiction over these complaints and will not investigate them.
When making a complaint, people are asked for information about the facility, the incident, when it happened, who was involved, and any other information the complainant has. After receiving a complaint, the childcare licenser for your area will make an unannounced visit to discuss the complaint with you or the owner of your daycare facility. The Child Care Licenser may also begin monitoring the provider or facility, depending on the nature of the allegations.
Potential Disciplinary Actions
If the Child Care Licenser finds the complaint substantiated, they may take corrective action against your facility or provider, including:
- Additional follow-up visits to ensure the facility corrected the situation and it doesn't occur again,
- Submitting a corrective action plan that explains the action the facility or provider will take to correct any problems, or
- Additional actions against the child care facility or provider's license, including suspension and revocation if appropriate.
Under Wyoming's Child Care Regulations, facilities or providers can face suspension or revocation of their license if:
- They willfully or continuously violate Wyoming statutes or rules that are a hazard to the “health or safety of children,”
- A staff or household member, employee, sub, or volunteer has a criminal conviction, the deferred prosecution of a felony or serious misdemeanor pending.
- A staff member, employee, household member, or volunteer is under the influence of drugs or alcohol that may impair their ability to care for children, including prescription drugs, while children are present. This includes incidents on the facility property, off the facility, and while transporting children.
- A staff member, employee, household member, volunteer, or sub misuses over-the-counter or prescription medications while caring for the children,
- A staff or household member, volunteer, substitute, or employee who is “substantiated for the abuse/neglect of a child or vulnerable adult and is placed on Central Registry,”
- A staff member, volunteer, or employee who makes a false statement or report to a licenser,
- Any staff, employee, or household member who fails to keep the childcare premises safe and sanitary,
- Failing to complete all required training,
- Any illegal drugs are found on the premises or in any vehicle on the property or that transports children,
- Not cooperating with an investigation or interfering with an investigation,
- Not admitting authorized Department of Family Services representatives for investigating, inspecting, or monitoring when the childcare facility is open,
- Not complying with a Corrective Action Plan,
- An owner or director of the facility committed fraud against DFS, and
- Not complying with the licensing or renewal process.
Felony convictions that can result in the denial or loss of a license include:
- Abusing, neglecting, abandoning, “exploitation or endangering children or vulnerable adults,”
- Sexual offenses,
- Allowing sexual offenses against a child,
- Violent crimes like rape, sexual assault, kidnapping, or homicide,
- Crimes against a child or a vulnerable adult,
- Domestic violence,
- A drug or alcohol offense in the last ten years, or
Misdemeanor convictions that can result in the denial or loss of your childcare facility license include:
- Violent misdemeanors as an adult against a child,
- Domestic violence, battery, or assault within the last five years,
- Any sexual offense,
- Allowing a sexual offense against a child or adult,
- Child endangerment in the last five years,
- A drug or alcohol offense in the last five years.
However, there is an exception for a first misdemeanor DUI. You can also face a license suspension or loss for “any other crime that causes the Department to be concerned for the safety or well-being of children or others.”
If a Child Care Licenser or an investigator from Child Protective Services decides emergency action is needed to protect the health, safety, or welfare of the children in a child care facility, they may immediately suspend your license. However, the decision must be made by an administrator for DFS after reviewing all the information from the investigation. The notice of suspension must include notice of the following:
- The law or regulation DFS is using as authority to suspend your license,
- A statement that the suspension is immediate,
- You have the right to have a lawyer represent you, and
- The penalty if you continue to operate an unlicensed daycare.
If the state revokes a facility's childcare license, you cannot reapply with the same owner or director for three years. After the second revocation, the owner or director cannot reapply for a child care license again. Any history of disciplinary actions against your license will be available by request through DFS. Because the consequences of a license revocation can be serious, you need the experienced License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm to protect your rights during the process.
Agency Contested Hearings
If DFS takes action to suspend or revoke your childcare license, you have a right to a hearing. The state must follow “Contested Case Hearing Rules,” which allow you due process. You or your lawyer must make a request to your local Child Care Licenser office within 30 days of the agency's decision, and the agency will forward it to DFS.
- Informal Conference After receiving your request, DFS will schedule an informal conference between you and the regional office supervisor. However, you can waive the informal conference. At the conference, they will review the legal authority and the facts and circumstances that led to your license suspension or revocation. You and your lawyer can also provide additional facts and legal authority to counter the agency's. If you and the agency can come to an agreement about the allegations against your childcare facility, the supervisor will provide a letter to DFS noting the outcome. If you cannot agree, the letter will note this and request that DFS schedule a contested hearing. However, the Lento Law Firm's License Defense Team and the department can settle the matter informally at any time before the outcome of the contested case.
- Contested Hearing During a contested hearing, you will have the right to request that the DFS director remove and replace the hearing officer for good cause. You have the right to have an attorney or advisor represent you during the hearing. However, the agency may also request that the Wyoming Attorney General's office assist in the contested hearing. However, the burden of proof will be on the agency to show by a preponderance of the evidence that your license should be suspended or revoked. At the hearing, you can call witnesses and present evidence. The hearing officer may also allow the parties and their witnesses to appear by telephone for convenience. After the close of the hearing, the hearing officer will make proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law within 20 days and forward them to the Director for their final decision. If each party plans to submit briefs, the deadline can be no more than 30 days. Each party may file “exceptions to the recommended decision” with or without briefs within ten days after the hearing officer submits their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Within 15 days of the hearing officer's recommendation, the Director will enter the final decision on the record and serve it on all the parties.
Child Protective Service Investigations in Wyoming
People may often complain about daycare facilities and providers to another agency – Child Protective Services. When someone reports an allegation of abuse or neglect in a daycare facility, CPS will investigate. Likewise, if someone alleges abuse or neglect about a childcare facility to DFS, they may initiate a joint investigation with CPS and law enforcement, if necessary.
Under Wyoming law, abuse and neglect have specific definitions. Abuse is defined as:
Inflicting or causing physical or mental injury, harm, or imminent danger to the physical or mental health or welfare of a child other than by accidental means, including abandonment, unless the abandonment is a relinquishment substantially in accordance with W.S. § 14-11-101 through 14-11-109, excessive or unreasonable corporal punishment, malnutrition or substantial risk thereof by reason or intentional or unintentional neglect, and the commission or allowing the commission of a sexual offense against a child as defined by law.
Neglect is defined as:
Failure or refusal by those responsible for the child's welfare to provide adequate care, maintenance, supervision, education, or medical, surgical, or any other care necessary for the child's well being. Treatment given in good faith by spiritual means alone, through prayer, by a duly accredited practitioner in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination is not child neglect for that reason alone.
The investigation will include, at minimum:
- A record of the complaint,
- An unannounced visit by DFS to the childcare facility, and
- A summary of the investigation by DFS.
After completing the investigation, you will receive a copy of:
- The investigation findings and any areas of noncompliance,
- The corrections you must make and the deadlines for compliance, including:
- Training needed,
- Facility records, written statements, and reports, and
- Anything else needed to show compliance.
For investigations of serious child abuse and neglect, any provider found responsible could also face criminal charges. However, allegations that don't rise to the level of criminal conduct will follow the same process as DFS investigations of childcare facilities, complete with a determination by DFS, a potential informal resolution, and a formal hearing overseen by the Office of Administrative Hearings if you request one.
Licensed Teachers in Wyoming Day Care Facilities
To work in a licensed daycare in Wyoming you must meet minimum requirements, including:
- Be at least 19,
- Have a high school diploma, or
- Have a GED and six months of documented work experience in a daycare, or
- Five hours of daycare training, or
- A professional daycare credential from a nationally recognized organization.
However, some workers in daycares are licensed early childhood educators and preschool teachers. If you are a licensed early childhood educator or preschool teacher in Wyoming working or operating a childcare facility in Wyoming, your teaching license can also be in jeopardy after accusations of misconduct in your childcare facility.
Licensed Early Childhood Educators
To become a licensed early childhood educator in Wyoming, you must hold at least a bachelor's degree, have completed a teacher prep course for early childhood education, and have passed a criminal background check. Licensing for early childhood educators is overseen by the state Department of Education.
Licensed Preschool Teachers
Licensing for preschool teachers requires approval by the Department of Family Services. DFS requires that you:
- Complete at least ten college credits in child development, early childhood education, nursing, or another child-related field,
- Have a high school diploma or a GED,
- Have at least a year of experience in a preschool or childcare setting,
- Be at least 21, and
- Pass a criminal background check.
However, an allegation of serious misconduct investigated by DFS or CPS can place your license as a preschool teacher or early childhood educator in jeopardy. As a licensed preschool teacher, investigations or misconduct allegations are investigated in much the same manner as daycare and childcare facilities, with DFS's investigators taking the lead. However, investigations of misconduct with a licensed preschool teacher may be handled in conjunction with the State Board of Education and the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board.
Licensed teachers are held to a higher standard than most preschool or daycare workers and must conform to professional standards of conduct. The PTSB can revoke or suspend your license for:
- A felony conviction,
- “Immorality and other reprehensible conduct,”
- “Gross neglect of duty,” or
- “Knowing misrepresentation of information on an application or resume.”
Before suspending or taking away your license, PTSB must conduct a formal hearing, similar to Contested Hearings held by DFS, unless you waive your right to a hearing. Because an allegation of misconduct in a daycare or preschool setting can also affect your teaching license, you need the Professional License Defense Team from the Lento Law Firm involved as soon as possible.
Appealing an Adverse Licensing Decision in Wyoming
If DFS or the PTSB revokes or suspends your license after a contested hearing, you can still appeal to the court once you've exhausted your administrative remedies. You and your lawyer will need to submit an appeal to the district court in the county where the agency action against you took place. Or you can file your petition in the Wyoming district court where you live or have your principal place of business. You must file your appeal within 30 days of the agency's final decision.
The district court will not be permitted to retry the entire case. Rather, the court can:
- Decide relevant questions of law,
- Make constitutional and statutory interpretations,
- Decide whether the terms of an agency action properly apply, and
- Interpret the terms of an agency action or decision.
The court will review the agency's actions with respect to its conclusions of fact and interpretations of law based on the entire record or the parts cited by the parties. In its decision the court can:
(i) Compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed; and
(ii) Hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings and conclusions found to be:
(A) Arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law;
(B) Contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege or immunity;
(C) In excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority or limitations or lacking statutory right;
(D) Without observance of procedure required by law; or
(E) Unsupported by substantial evidence in a case reviewed on the record of an agency hearing provided by statute.
It's important to note that, even if you win, DFS or the PTSB can still appeal the decision. That's why having the experienced Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm by your side is essential during the entire process.
How the Lento Law Firm Can Help Defend Your Child Care License
If you are a daycare provider or a childcare facility director facing an investigation from the Department of Family Services, the Professional Teaching Standards Board, or Child Protective Services in Wyoming, the consequences can be serious. You could lose your business and your profession. For more serious cases, you could even face jail time. That's why you need the Lento Law Firm's experienced Professional License Defense Team. They've been helping business owners and licensees with professional license defense issues for years, and they can help you too. Call 888.535.3686 or contact us online to schedule your consultation today.