Almost all center-based, and most family child care, program options have to be licensed by a local or state Department of Health or Education in order to operate. This means that there is a set of rules they must abide by in order to safely remain open serving children. These rules vary from state-to-state, but most all cover basic health and safety standards. As a part of being licensed, programs will receive regular visits from licensing staff in order to assess if their program is meeting all of these various rules. It is important to keep in mind that every state differs in terms of how often, and to what degree, programs are monitored. When you first look at a program, I always recommend checking their licensing status to determine if they had any recent violations. This is a good way to determine how the program is performing on those basic health and safety rules. That being said, it is common for programs to receive licensing violations because they can range from a minor clerical issue, to a larger safety concern. Below is a list of some examples of minor vs major childcare licensing violations, so you are better prepared when reading licensing reports.
Minor Childcare Licensing Violations:
Staff training/forms expired
It is difficult to stay on top of every staff member’s training and personnel information, so it isn’t uncommon to see a violation for a staff member’s physical being expired or expired first aid/CPR.
Many childcare programs rent their facilities, so have to wait on repairs from a landlord. This may create a delay in repairs and lead to a licensing violation. Don’t be too worried about violations for things such as broken ceiling tiles, water/plumping issues, etc.
Child forms/files incomplete
Some licensors will check child files to ensure items like emergency contacts or physicals are kept up to date. This is a best practice, but there can be a delay when relying on busy families to update forms.
Staff personal items out
This is something I see constantly in programs. Staff should not have their personal items (I.e. purse/drinks) out in the classroom when children can access them, but unfortunately it happens. I wouldn’t worry too much about this one if you see it!
Sometimes, depending on licensing regulations, you may see violations for a program’s failure to report something to licensing. If it is any of the below major violations and the center failed to report, that is a red flag, but if it is something like an outbreak of infectious disease, that is more minor.
Major Childcare Licensing Violations:
Child left alone
Unfortunately, this can be a common violation at childcare programs, but is still a major red flag. The situation may vary (I.e. child left for 30 seconds vs 5 minutes), but either way a child was left unattended and who knows what could have happened. Some key questions to ask a program if you do see this violation is if the staff member(s) responsible are still working at the program and what their corrective action plan looked like to ensure active supervision protocols are in place.
Anything to do with maltreatment of a child
This is pretty self explanatory. Anything related to abuse, neglect, or maltreatment of a child is a major red flag. Key things to ask a program if you do see this violation is if the staff member is still working at the program and what their corrective action plan looked like to ensure nothing like that ever happens again.
I might get some heat for this one, but I think that when a classroom is out of ratio (I.e. not enough staff in the room for the group size) that is a major violation. To me it means that children are not properly supervised and that the program may not have a good coverage plan in place for staff absences/breaks.
Facilities concerns (involving mold and/or lead)
If a program receives a violation for mold or lead remediation, they most likely have already had to move facilities or had to move children while the concern was addressed. These are major health concerns, so something to be mindful of if they are still in the existing center. Ask for their lead or mold remediation plans.
Anything related to safe sleep
If you have an infant, safe sleep in childcare is so important. If you see any violations related to improper sleep practices or, even training violations, I would consider this a major violation since it has the potential to be fatal.
I have worked with or for childcare licensing the majority of my career, so would be happy to discuss any specific questions you may have about a violation. Just schedule a consultation call and we can talk about what concerns you may have and what next steps you may be able to take with the program!