Being a childcare provider and operating a childcare facility is an incredibly difficult job. Every day, you put the needs of others before your own, whether it be the needs of parents rushing to get to work on time or the needs of each child trusted in your care. When you have devoted your life to the happiness, safety, and well-being of the children in your care, it can be shocking to learn your childcare facility license is under attack.
Learning you have a disciplinary action being brought against you or your facility is terrifying. You have worked so hard through countless mandatory trainings, health, safety, fire inspections, endless piles of paperwork, and many of those tasks to ensure all your staff meet the appropriate qualifications. Because of all the time, energy, money, and work you have put into turning your childcare facility from a dream into a reality, you cannot afford to let disciplinary action threaten your license.
Disciplinary actions can potentially ruin your livelihood and the livelihoods of those who work for you if you don't have the best strategy for defending yourself and your license. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team appreciates your hard work and selflessness in caring for Nebraska's children. We want to help you through this scary and difficult process. Our team can help you understand every step of the disciplinary process and advocate for you to receive the best outcome possible. Call Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 or contact us online for a consultation.
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Licensing and Disciplinary Actions
Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Children's Services Licensing Division handles all children's services, including the licensing and regulating of childcare facilities and providers.
Nebraska law requires any person who provides care to four or more children from different families to be licensed by DHHS as a childcare provider. There are five types of childcare facilities that require licensing in the state of Nebraska:
- Family Child Care Home License I. Home I is a license to provide a child care program in the licensee's home to at least four, but not more than eight children, except that a licensee may be approved to serve up to two additional school-age children during non-school hours if no more than two of the other children in care are under 18 months of age.
- Family Child Care Home II. Home II is a license to provide a child care program for at least for, but not more than 12 children, either at the licensee's residence or another location.
- Child Care Center. A Child Care Center license is provided for childcare programs for 13 or more children, either at the licensee's home or another location.
- Preschool. A Preschool license applies to facilities that provide a partial-day early child care program comprised of primary education services to any number of children aged three or older and where the children do not nap and are not served a meal. They can be located in the licensee's home or another location.
- School-Age-Only Center. A School-Age-Only license applies to childcare programs that serve 13 or more children who are attending school in kindergarten or higher. The program can be located in the licensee's home or another location.
DHHS offers the public various services to confirm the licensing information for childcare providers and facilities and any disciplinary actions against them. One of these services allows the public to purchase a Children's Services List with the names, addresses, and businesses that hold different licenses, including childcare individuals and facilities. The list includes the individual or facility's license number, type, issuance date, expiration date, and active status, among other information. The public can also access detailed license information for free by using a DHHS search tool to look at information specific to a single individual or facility.
Additionally, DHHS has maintained a public list of disciplinary actions against childcare providers throughout Nebraska for the past ten years. The list includes information on the individual or facility's allegations and the disciplinary action taken against them.
Relevant Laws and Regulations
Numerous Nebraska laws and regulations govern childcare providers and facilities; violations of these laws and regulations can result in disciplinary action against the provider or facility's license. Five main Nebraska state laws outline DHHS duties related to child care; these are:
- The Child Care Licensing Act. This act requires DHHS to develop state-wide regulations and standards for the physical well-being, safety, and protection of children. Part of the Act is to provide standards for persons providing child care programs and provide DHHS with the authority to coordinate the enforcement of standards on licensees.
- The Child Protection and Family Safety Act. This act authorizes DHHS to use the state child abuse and neglect registry for purposes of licensing providers and child care programs.
- The Clean Indoor Air Act. This act addresses smoking in or around licensed childcare programs.
- The Quality Child Care Act. This act establishes a DHHS responsibility to develop regulations for mandatory training for childcare providers designed to meet the health, safety, and developmental needs of the children.
- The Sex Offender Registry Act. This act permits the disclosure of Sex Offender Registry information to childcare providers and programs in the confidential background check process of potential employees.
Additional laws and regulations that establish requirements for childcare providers and detail the disciplinary process include:
- The Nebraska Administrative Procedure Act
- Family Child Care Home I License Regulations
- Family Child Care Home II License Regulations
- Child Care Centers License Regulations
- Preschool License Regulations
- School-Age-Only Centers License Regulations
The Disciplinary Process
Each of the five types of childcare licenses issued by DHHS is subject to its own rules and regulations regarding the exact disciplinary process. The disciplinary process for each may look different for each, but they will all follow the similar structure discussed below.
DHHS will accept complaints of alleged licensing violations from any person who witnessed a violation or from the parent or guardian of a child who has witnessed the alleged violation. Because anyone who witnessed the violation can submit a complaint, there is a very real possibility a complaint can be filed against you by your staff or colleagues, not just parents.
Instructions on filing a complaint can be found on the DHHS website. To submit a complaint, a person must fill out the Complaint Form and submit it to DHHS electronically, by mail, or by fax. The complaints are not accessible to the public.
In addition to receiving external complaints, DHHS may also find violations that warrant investigation and disciplinary action during their own legally mandated unannounced annual license inspection. Other authorities conducting inspections, such as fire departments, can also report any potential violations they see during the course of their own facility inspections.
If DHHS believes the allegation is credible, it will pursue an investigation. The investigation will involve speaking with people knowledgeable about the incident, childcare facility employees, parents, and more. Especially if the claim against your license is baseless, it might seem like a good idea to meet with DHHS and explain your side of the story alone and get it over with quickly. Meeting with DHHS without getting advice from counsel first is never a good idea. You cannot be sure what questions the agency might ask you; they may be trying to confuse or make you contradict yourself. If you retain the Lento Law Firm, your attorney will guide you through all questioning with DHHS and ensure your rights are preserved during all steps of the investigation and disciplinary action process.
While DHHS investigates the complaint against you, you may continue to work in child care if DHHS determines who has the present character and fitness to work with children. Essentially, depending on the nature of the complaint, you may still be able to operate your childcare facility during the investigation.
DHHS will consider a variety of factors in determining what type of disciplinary action to impose on an individual or facility. These factors include:
- The gravity of the violation, taking into account the probability that death or serious physical or mental harm will result, the severity of the actual or potential harm, and the extent to which applicable laws, regulations, and rules were violated.
- The diligence exercised by the child care program in identifying or correcting the violation.
- The degree of cooperation exhibited by the licensee in the identification, disclosure, and correction of the violation.
- Any previous violations committed by the child care program.
- The financial benefit to the program of committing or continuing to commit the violation.
After taking the above factors into consideration, DHHS will decide which disciplinary action or actions to take against you from a list of actions detailed in the Child Care Licensing Act. These disciplinary actions are as follows:
- Issue a probationary license.
- Suspend or revoke a provision, probationary, or operating license.
- Impose a civil penalty of up to $5 per child, based on the number of children for which the program is authorized to provide child care on the effective date of the finding of the violation, for each day the program is in violation.
- Establish restrictions on new enrollment in the childcare program.
- Establish restrictions or other limitations on the number of children or the age of the children served in the program.
- Establish restrictions or other limitations on the type of services provided by the program.
If you disagree with the disciplinary action taken against you, you are entitled to a review. You must request review through a petition, which must be made in a timely manner after you have received the DHHS determination of action against you. Having an attorney at this stage is crucial; the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team has extensive experience in the review process and can ensure you meet the requirements for the petition and submit it within the appropriate time frame. If you do not submit your request promptly, you may be forfeiting your right to a review.
Once you have requested a review, DHHS will schedule a hearing, where you may share your side of the story and present your defense. Administrative hearings are open to the public, and the schedule for hearings is posted on the DHHS website. You should take this hearing just as seriously as any court action, meaning you should not be at a hearing without the attendance and guidance from your Lento Law Firm attorney.
After your hearing, DHHS will determine whether to uphold the original disciplinary action, alter the disciplinary action, or drop the action against you. If you do not agree with this outcome, you are entitled to another opportunity to appeal. This time, the appeal will be in court in the relevant jurisdiction. There is no circumstance where you should go to court alone. Lento Law Firm attorneys have represented clients in licensing appeal cases throughout the state of Nebraska on numerous occasions. They are familiar with all aspects of the court procedures, deadlines, rules of evidence, and more required to present your case and maximize your chance of success.
IF DHHS revokes your license for any reasons other than nonpayment of fees, you are eligible to reapply for your license after two years, as long as you meet the qualifications for a provisional license. If you meet these qualifications, you may then apply for a provisional license. Through this process, you will also need to demonstrate to DHHS that you have the ability and willingness to comply with all licensing regulations.
What Offense or Actions Could Put Your License at Risk?
DHHS has the authority to bring disciplinary action against your childcare facility license for violations of many of the abovementioned laws and regulations. Nebraska law provides an extensive list of offenses that can result in disciplinary action against childcare providers and facilities. These offenses include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Conviction of substantial evidence of committing or permitting or aiding another to commit physical abuse of children or vulnerable adults.
- Conviction of substantial evidence of committing or permitting or aiding another to commit endangerment or neglect of children or vulnerable adults.
- Conviction of substantial evidence of committing or permitting or aiding another to commit sexual abuse, assault, or misconduct.
- Conviction of substantial evidence of committing or permitting or aiding another to commit violent crimes.
- Conviction of substantial evidence of committing or permitting or aiding another to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute a controlled substance.
- Conviction of substantial evidence of committing or permitting or aiding another to commit property crimes, fraud, embezzlement, and theft by deception.
- Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect as required under Nebraska Law.
- Conduct any practices detrimental to the health or safety of an individual served by or employed in the child care program.
- Providing childcare without a license or without the appropriate license.
- Failure to allow DHHS to inspect, investigate, or collect information.
- Failure to meet sanitation, fire safety, and building code requirements.
- Failure to pay fees required under the Child Care Licensing
- Failure to meet any requirement or a violation of any requirement detailed in the Child Care Licensing Act, or any rules and regulations adopted under it.
- Any violation of a DHHS order under the Child Care Licensing Act.
Why You Need a Nebraska Child Care Facility License Defense Attorney
When you have a child care license defense attorney for the Lento Law Firm's Professional Defense Team, you are guaranteed the best representation in defending your child care facility license. DHHS has no shortage of employees to investigate your case; they have the time and resources and will not hesitate to use them against you. Any time an allegation involves the safety and welfare of a child, the government will take it with the utmost seriousness. You cannot battle a whole agency alone and you don't have to when you can have the best fighting for you.
How a Nebraska Child Care Facility License Defense Attorney Can Help You
The Lento Law Firm attorneys offer comprehensive support regardless of where you are in the disciplinary process. While it is always best to retain an attorney the moment you hear anyone has filed or may file a complaint against you, we can jump into a case at any step, even as far along as the appeals process.
When you retain a Lento Law Firm child care facility license defense attorney, we will first learn about the ins and outs of your case for you in your own words. We need to understand your story and how the allegations against you came about. Our team will then work with you to gather evidence to support your case. We use all this information to develop a solid and persuasive defense strategy.
Your attorney will also communicate with DHHS to represent you at all relevant meetings and hearings and draft any required legal documents. The Lento Law Firms has worked on many cases just like yours, which means we have personal experience working with DHHS. Our previous relationship with DHHS allows us to openly communicate with the agency, which can often diffuse hostile situations and increase your chances of finding a resolution through a negotiation.
Areas the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team Serves
There are approximately 1,164 preschools and childcare centers in Nebraska. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team serves childcare providers throughout the state of Nebraska, although our primary service areas are in the larger counties. The major counties we serve include:
Douglas County, Nebraska, has over 586,000 residents, 25 percent of which are minors under the age of 18. The biggest city in the state, Omaha, falls within the Douglas County boundary. This county also holds the highest number of childcare facilities in the state, with approximately 424 licensed childcare facilities.
Lancaster County is home to the state capital, Lincoln, Nebraska, and is the second-most populous county in the state. Of the county's 324,756 residents, 21 percent are under 18. Lancaster County has about 193 licensed childcare facilities.
Sarpy County, Nebraska's smallest county by geographic size, is between the cities of Omaha and Lincoln, only 241 square miles. While it may be small, Sarpy is the third largest county by population, with over 196,500 residents. Twenty-six percent of these residents are under the age of 18. Approximately 104 licensed childcare facilities are operating in Sarpy County.
Even if your childcare facility isn't within one of these counties, the Lento Law Firm can help you.
Lento Law Firm License Defense Team for Nebraska Child Care License Disciplinary Actions
Fighting for your child care facility license is the most important thing you can do to protect the livelihood and reputation of not just yourself, but everyone involved in your child care operation, from your staff to parents and children. You want to give parents the confidence that they are leaving their children in the best possible hands, meaning you must take every allegation against you seriously and resolve it as soon as possible.
We will do everything we can to get you the best possible outcome, hopefully retaining your licensure and minimizing restrictions on your license, fines, and other penalties you may be facing. We know your passion is caring for children, and we will help you get back to living that passion. To retain The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team, call 888.535.3686 or contact us online today.