The responsibilities of Child Care Licensing (CCL) are to:
- Regulate all childcare operations and child-placing agencies to protect the health, safety, and well-being of children in care.
- Permit and monitor operations and agencies for compliance with state licensing standards, rules and laws.
- Investigate complaints alleging violations of minimum standards and reports of abuse or neglect in daycare and residential childcare operations.
- Inform parents and the public about child care, including how specific daycare and residential childcare operations are complying with minimum standards of care.
- Give child-care providers technical assistance on meeting licensing standards, rules, and laws.
2013 Accomplishments and Initiatives
Improving Texas Child Care
Child Care Licensing changed the minimum standards in FY 2013 to reflect the crib safety requirements adopted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). All cribs sold in the U.S. must meet five federal requirements for overall crib safety. These include stronger hardware, no traditional drop sides, improved slat strength, improved mattress durability, and more rigorous safety testing. The changes in federal law are now part of minimum standards. Childcare operations serving infants must show that their cribs either comply with the new standards or are listed and registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a medical device. CCL consults with operations to help them understand crib requirements and checks to make sure they comply. CCL also provides the CPSC Guide to New Crib Standards in both English and Spanish in its online Technical Assistance Library, which is available to everyone.
Childcare minimum standards on safe sleep were changed to reflect the updated safe sleep practice guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP guidelines recommends against using sleep positioners and blankets for children younger than 12 months of age. CCL revised minimum standards to prohibit the use of loose bedding such as blankets and sleep positioning devices for infants up to 12 months of age.
In FY 2013, CCL improved processes for collecting and recording licensing fees to better meet its legal responsibilities. CCL replaced its old fee payment form with five, simplified fee forms. The new forms are specific to the operation type and clearly identify the types of fees required. New applicants now only need the fee form in their application packet, and existing operations are sent the correct fee form when their annual fee is due. CCL also strengthened procedures for collecting fees to ensure it does not issue permits when an operation fails to pay fees required by law.
In order to continually improve inspections and protections for children CCL asks for feedback from daycare and residential childcare providers on their licensing inspections. Providers are asked to complete an online survey after each inspection. The questions relate to professionalism, fairness, and the helpfulness of the inspector or investigator. Data for FY 2013 shows that providers are generally satisfied with their inspector or investigator in both programs and say inspections and investigations are positive experiences.
Controlling Persons Initiative
The Controlling Persons initiative enables Texas Health and Human Services agencies to share information through a database containing information about the permits they revoke or deny to see if one agency's actions have a bearing on another's regulatory decisions. The initiative began in 2011 when the Legislature expanded “controlling persons” to apply to daycare in addition to residential operations. The initiative focused on building strong staff processes and automated tools to share the required information. It became fully operational in FY 2013 when system improvements made it possible for operations and some applicants to submit controlling person information to CCL online. A controlling person is a person who, either alone or in connection with others, has the ability to directly or indirectly influence or direct the management, expenditures, or policies of a childcare operation.
Illegal Childcare Operations
In FY 2013, the Texas Legislature approved 40 additional staff for CCL's Day Care program to address the risk to children in unregulated daycare settings. Beginning in FY 2014, these new staff will help find, investigate illegal operations and either help them obtain a permit, when appropriate, or shut them down. Texas law requires daycare and residential childcare operations to obtain a permit from DFPS to provide care outside a child's home, unless they meet exemption criteria. Illegal operations present higher risk to children because they don't get inspected or meet training, background check, or other basic health and safety requirements.
CCL licenses 24-hour residential childcare operations that care for abused and neglected children but it can be particularly challenging to treat the complex trauma that human trafficking inflicts on children. In FY 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2725, which will result in a tailored set of licensing standards to address the needs of these children. The Legislature also made information about the location of human trafficking shelters confidential by law.
In FY 2013, the Legislature gave CCL the option of conducting an unannounced monitoring inspection every two years instead of annually for licensed daycare centers and licensed daycare homes with a good record. CCL will work with stakeholders to develop rules and processes for deciding which operations qualify. Until then, CCL will continue to inspect operations at least once a year.
DFPS made several improvements in FY 2013 to CCL’s automated case management system (CLASS) and to other online systems to better support childcare providers and CCL staff. These include a stronger search feature for CCL staff, address validation, and an online director and administrator vacancy indicator. When a person applies for a childcare permit, CCL staff can now search for and review an individual’s history in CLASS. The address validation feature standardizes and validates addresses to help ensure required notices and other communications reach childcare providers. The online vacancy indicator helps CCL ensure vacancies for required positions are filled in a timely manner, increasing protections for children.
Search Texas Child Care
One of the most important services that CCL provides is information to parents, stakeholders, and others interested in child care. The DFPS website contains comprehensive compliance and regulatory information for both residential and daycare operations. Anyone who wants to find and compare child care can use our online database (www.TxChildCareSearch.org) to search by type of care, location, services offered, name, or address. They will find two years of compliance history for each operation, including a summary of inspections and deficiencies. The Texas Child Care Search results were viewed 1,501,447 times in FY 2013.
Don’t Be in the Dark
CCL continued its Don’t Be in the Dark (about child care) campaign during FY 2013. CCL launched the campaign in 2006 and expanded it in 2010 to feature two sets of public services announcements in English and Spanish. One focused on choosing regulated care and the other on parents listening to their children and talking to their childcare provider. The spots are available to the public on the campaign website as well as the DFPS YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/TexasDFPS.
The campaign directs parents, consumers and others to the agency's childcare database (TxChildCareSearch.org), where they can find and research the regulatory compliance history of daycare and residential childcare operations. Visit DontBeInTheDark.org for more information.
Baby Room to Breathe
The Baby Room to Breathe campaign continued during FY 2013 with the goal of educating parents and caregivers on ways to lower the risk of infants dying in their sleep. CCL also offers a parent instructional video in English and Spanish on safer infant sleep located on the DFPS YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/TexasDFPS) and the campaign websites, BabyRoomToBreathe.org and BebeEspacioParaRespirar.org.
Watch Kids Around Water
"Watch Kids Around Water" the water safety campaign, sponsored by the CCL and the Prevention and Early Intervention programs, continued in FY 2013. Press releases were issued before the 2013 Memorial Day and July 4th holiday weekends to call attention to the issue of child drowning deaths. WatchKidsAroundWater.org provides water safety tips, drowning statistics, and a "Lifeguard 101" teaching tool. The goal is to educate and motivate parents and other adults to "be a lifeguard" for kids.
Car Safety- Look Before You Lock
CCL collaborated with the Prevention and Early Intervention program to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving children in hot vehicles because a child trapped in a car can die from the heat in only a few minutes. CCL distributed over 56,000 rearview mirror hangtags with the message “Check Every Seat Every Time" to remind those transporting children to make sure all children get out of the vehicle after every trip. CCL distributed the hangtags to daycare and residential childcare operations in a variety of ways including during inspections and investigations, orientation and training sessions, and community events related to child care.
Partners for Child Care Licensing
CCL continues building and strengthening connections with community partners and other agencies and programs. These include the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Workforce Commission, AgriLife Texas Cooperative Extension (Texas A&M University system), Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Division of Early Childhood Intervention, Texas Education Agency, Texas Department of Agriculture, Office of the Attorney General, HHSC Office of Early Childhood Coordination, HHSC Family Violence Program, State Fire Marshal's Office, the Forensic Assessment Center Network, and 2-1-1 Texas.
The CCL program is responsible for protecting the health, safety, and well-being of children (birth through 17 years of age) who attend daycare or reside in residential childcare operations. Through a process mandated by Chapters 42 and 43 of the Human Resources Code, CCL develops administrative rules and minimum standards for daycare operations, child-placing agencies, and residential childcare operations. CCL also develops policies and procedures for CCL staff to follow when conducting regulatory activities, which include:
- Processing applications and issuing permits.
- Inspecting childcare operations.
- Investigating complaints alleging violations of licensing laws, rules, or minimum standards.
- Investigating reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of children in care.
- Ensuring criminal background checks and DFPS abuse and neglect Central Registry checks are conducted as required on childcare personnel, and anyone 14 years or older who will regularly be present at an operation while children are in care.
- Providing consultation, technical assistance, and training to potential and existing childcare providers on how to comply with minimum standards.
- Taking corrective or adverse actions against operations as necessary.
CCL also helps parents and others make informed decisions when choosing child care or making residential placements by giving them information about the types of child care available, the locations of childcare operations in Texas, and the results of licensing inspections and investigations.
Who We Regulate
CCL regulates four basic categories of childcare operations: licensed operations (day care and 24-hour residential child care), registered childcare homes, listed family homes, and operations with a compliance certificate.
All licensed operations have specific minimum standards to follow and are routinely monitored and inspected by CCL. The applicant must complete a pre-application overview or orientation on regulation and be cleared by background checks. CCL issues a license only after it completes an on-site inspection to ensure the applicant is meeting licensing standards. CCL inspects licensed operations at least annually or more often if there are reports of alleged child abuse or neglect or violations of licensing statute, administrative rules, or minimum standards. Licensed operations include both day care and 24-hour residential child care.
- Licensed childcare homes (also known as group daycare homes) provide care in the caregiver's residence for 7-12 children under 14 years old for less than 24 hours a day, but at least two hours a day, three or more days a week.
- Childcare centers (also known as daycare centers) are any operation, which cares for 13 or more children under 14 years old for less than 24 hours, but at least two hours a day, three or more days a week.
- Before and after-school programs provide care before or after the customary school day and during school holidays for at least two hours a day, three days a week, to children who attend pre-kindergarten through grade six.
- School-age programs provide care and supervision, along with recreational or skills instruction or training, before or after the customary school day for at least two hours a day, three or more days a week, to children attending pre-kindergarten through grade six. A school- age program may also operate during school holidays, the summer period, or any other time when school is not in session.
24-Hour Residential Child care
- Foster family homes provide 24-hour care for 6 or fewer children under 18 years old. Foster family homes can be verified by a child-placing agency (known as agency foster family homes) or can be independently licensed by CCL (known as independent foster family homes).
- Foster group homes provide 24-hour care for 7 to 12 children under 18 years old. Foster group homes can be verified by a child-placing agency (known as agency foster group homes) or can be independently licensed by CCL (known as independent foster group homes).
- General residential operations provide 24-hour care for 13 or more children under 18 years old and may provide various treatment services, emergency care services, or therapeutic camps. General residential operations include residential treatment centers.
- A child-placing agency is a business that places or plans for the placement of a child in an agency foster or adoptive home that is approved and monitored by the child-placing agency.
Registered Childcare Homes
Registered childcare homes (also known as registered family homes) provide regular care in the caregiver’s home for up to six children under age 14 and may also take in up to 6 additional school-age children. Regular care is defined as "at least 4 hours per day, 3 or more days a week, for three or more consecutive weeks -or- four hours a day for 40 or more days in a period of 12 months." The number of children allowed in a registered childcare home is determined by the ages of the children. No more than 12 children can be in care at any time, including the caregiver's children.
Anyone wanting to become a registered childcare home provider must complete a pre-application overview or orientation to regulation and be cleared by background checks. CCL issues a registration only after it completes an on-site inspection to ensure the provider is meeting the standards for a registered childcare home. CCL inspects registered childcare homes every 2 years and will conduct an investigation if it gets a report alleging child abuse or neglect, or a violation of licensing statutes, administrative rules, or minimum standards.
Listed Family Homes
Listed family homes provide regular care in the caregiver’s home for one to three unrelated children under age 14. Regular care means "at least 4 hours per day, 3 or more days a week, for three or more consecutive weeks or four hours a day for 40 or more days in a period of 12 months." Listed family home providers must be at least 18 years old and go through an application process that includes a criminal background check and getting a "listing" permit from CCL in the form of a letter.
Listed family home providers do not have to meet minimum standards or take training. While CCL does not routinely inspect listed family homes, it does investigate them when it gets reports alleging that:
- Children have been abused or neglected.
- The home is providing child care for too many children.
- A caregiver gave a child medication without their parent or guardian's written permission.
- There is immediate risk to the health or safety of a child.
Operations with a Compliance Certificate
Anyone wanting to operate a temporary shelter daycare facility or employer-based day-care facility must complete an application and be cleared by background checks. CCL completes an on-site inspection before issuing the permit to ensure compliance with statutory requirements and minimum standards if applicable. While CCL does not routinely inspect operations with a compliance certificate, it does investigate them when it receives a complaint or report of child abuse or neglect.
Temporary Shelter Child Care
These operations provide child care at a temporary shelter, such as a family violence or homeless shelter, at least four hours a day, three or more days a week, to seven or more children under 14 years of age while parents, who reside at the shelter, are away.
Persons wanting to operate a temporary shelter childcare operation have to pass criminal background checks and an initial inspection. CCL does not regularly inspect these operations but does investigate allegations of child abuse or neglect or violations of licensing statute, administrative rules, or applicable minimum standards.
Small Employer-based Child Care
Small employer-based childcare operations provide care for up to 12 of the employees' children (under 14 years of age) for less than 24 hours per day. Care is provided on the employer's premises and in the same building where the parents work.
Before CCL issues a compliance certificate, the operation goes through an applications process that includes criminal background checks and an inspection. There are no minimum standards for these operations and they are not inspected after they have their certificate. However, CCL will investigate allegations of child abuse or neglect or a violation of licensing statute or administrative rules.
For more information, see: DFPS Data Book, pages 73-103, 232-243.
Reports on Licensing Violations
CCL uses licensing standards to protect the basic health and safety of children in out-of-home care. Our goal is to appropriately and consistently enforce minimum standards for all types of childcare operations statewide. Consistent enforcement aims to increase compliance by childcare operations and provide stronger protections for children. Regulating childcare facilities and child-placing agencies routinely presents two challenges for CCL staff and permit holders alike:
- Consistent interpretation of minimum standards.
- Consistent enforcement decisions and actions.
CCL analyzes trends in violations both statewide and regionally to get a better idea of the technical assistance providers will need in the future to help them meet or exceed minimum standards.
The DFPS Data Book includes a Statewide Trends Table for daycare operations. It includes the top 10 standards deficiencies for daycare operations in FY 2013. For information on statewide trends, see: DFPS Data Book page 88.
DFPS also publishes a Statewide Trends Table of the top 10 standards deficiencies for residential childcare operations standard violations during FY 2013.
For information on statewide trends, see: DFPS Data Book page 103 .
Addressing Violation Trends with Technical Assistance
CCL cites violations in various types of inspections. Some are found during routine monitoring inspections and follow-ups and others after a complaint about specific incidents. CCL makes a point to give childcare providers’ technical assistance to help them comply with licensing standards. Violation trends data helps CCL target its technical assistance on specific issues to improve compliance.
CCL has a Performance Management Unit (PMU) that analyzes data and identifies trends in CCL’s performance. CCL uses this information to develop recommendations for training, program structure, policy, and practice to improve the quality and consistency of inspections and investigations. CCL also has specially-trained risk analysts in the field statewide. These analysts and PMU staff review the compliance history of daycare or residential childcare operations that indicates a higher risk of harm to children. They provide objective recommendations to ensure the safety of children. CCL also uses an automated quality assurance and performance management system to obtain measurable feedback on employee casework.
To enhance childcare regulation, a broad range of CCL staff across the state received over 7,400 hours of training and work-related professional development in FY 2013. Topics included effective communication, community engagement, technical assistance, ethics, diversity and disproportionality, and training on automation enhancements. CCL’s Professional Development Division also provided additional specialized staff training in the areas of trauma-informed care, playground safety, advanced interviewing techniques, mobile casework, and managing a mobile workforce.At the same time, CCL staff held more than 153 training events for 4,570 caregivers. Topics included prevention of abuse and neglect, safe sleep practices for infants, positive child discipline and guidance, appropriate supervision of children, updates to minimum standards, directing for success (for new childcare directors), and emergency preparedness. CCL also gave 253 orientation sessions for 2,025 people to give them an overview of