Child Care Licensing (CCL):
- Regulates child-care operations and child-placing agencies to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of children.
- Permits and monitors operations and agencies for compliance with state licensing standards, rules, and laws.
- Investigates for alleged violations of minimum standards and reports of abuse or neglect in daycare and residential child-care operations.
- Gives parents and the public information about child care, including how specific operations are complying with minimum standards.
- Provides technical assistance to child-care providers to help them meet licensing standards, rules, and laws.
2014 Accomplishments and Initiatives
Improving Texas Child Care
In FY 2014, CCL adopted rules to increase child safety in residential child care in response to SB 427 of the 83rd Legislature. The new rules require FBI fingerprint-based background checks for persons in residential care who only needed name-based background checks in the past. The goal was to keep people with criminal history from putting children at risk of abuse and neglect. CCL also approved fines to enforce requirements for background checks.
CCL amended minimum standards to require daycare centers to use electronic child safety alarms in each vehicle they use to transport children purchased or leased on or after December 31, 2013. The alarm, required by HB 1741 of the 83rd Texas Legislature, aims to prevent caregivers from leaving children unattended in cars or other vehicles.
CCL also amended minimum standards aimed at safe sleep for infants. Child-placing agencies and their foster homes are prohibited from using soft bedding in cribs for children aged 12 months or younger, instead of six months or younger. This mirrors recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics. CCL added new standards for child daycare centers and homes to forbid laying a swaddled infant down to sleep or to rest on any surface. Evidence shows that swaddling a child incorrectly can increase the risk of serious health outcomes, such as suffocation, overheating, and hip dysplasia.
CCL adopted stricter screening requirements for child-placing agencies (CPA) when verifying foster homes. Child-placing agencies must interview more people and collect more information on the finances of prospective foster parents. Foster homes that transfer from one child-placing agency to another must have a new home study, and when an agency closes a foster home it must do a closing summary.
- CCL also adopted rules to better protect children with primary medical needs. This includes:
- Limits on the number of children who can live in any one foster home.
- More face-to-face contact between child-placing agency staff and children with primary medical needs.
- Requirements that child-placing agencies offer respite care to foster parents.
To help children in foster care lead more normal lives, CCL adopted rules to require that service planning takes this into consideration and foster parents are trained on how to expose foster children to experiences and activities that children outside of foster care enjoy.
* A child-placing agency is a business that places or plans for the placement of a child in a foster or adoptive home.
Policy on Vaccines
In FY 2014, CCL adopted rules to implement S.B. 64 of the 83rd Texas Legislature. The new rules require operations that are not home-based to have policy on which vaccines an employee must receive based on the risk to children.
Emergency Preparedness Plans
Based on national recommendations from Save the Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association, CCL required child-care operations to include in their emergency preparedness plan how children with special needs will be evacuated in the event of an emergency.
Surge of Unaccompanied Minors
Texas saw a surge of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the Texas-Mexico border in 2014. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) places these children in the least restrictive environment possible as required by law. DFPS regulates the residential facilities that ORR contracts with to care for these children. To help manage the surge, Residential Child Care Licensing (RCCL) visited or discussed licensing requirements with 17 potential operations and eventually licensed one new facility. RCCL also reviewed capacity and variance requests from facilities that already contracted with ORR to evaluate for potential health and safety issues particular to these children.
Illegal Child-care Operations
Texas law requires child-care operations to get a permit from DFPS to provide care outside a child’s home, unless they are exempt under certain criteria. Illegal operations present higher risk to children because they are not inspected and do not meet training, background check, or other basic health and safety requirements. 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. In FY 2014, these new staff helped find and investigate illegal daycare with the goal of helping the provider obtain a permit or, when appropriate, shut them down.
CCL licenses 24-hour residential child-care operations that care for abused and neglected children, but it can be particularly challenging to treat the trauma inflicted by human trafficking. In FY 2014, CCL proposed minimum standards to implement H.B. 2725 of the 83rd Texas Legislature. The new standards apply to general residential operations and child-placing agencies that provide comprehensive services to victims of human trafficking. The new standards require additional services for victims, increased staffing levels for general residential operations, additional training, enhanced security and confidentiality policies, screenings for infectious diseases, treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, a mental health assessment, and individual therapy.
Senate Bill 427 of the 83rd Texas Legislature gave CCL the authority to impose fines on operations when they fail to meet certain background check requirements —before imposing nonmonetary penalties. CCL anticipates levying more fines on operations than in the past, so it developed guidelines for staff on when to impose fines and how much they should be.
Administrative penalties and due process for these penalties are currently not part of CCL’s automated case management system known as CLASS. In FY 2014, CCL recommended automating this process to eliminate a cumbersome paper process and to enhance the ability to track how often and why CCL imposes these fines.
DFPS made several improvements in FY 2014 to CLASS and other online systems to better support child-care providers and CCL staff. The major improvements include new priority classifications for non-abuse or neglect investigations and improvements to how data on illegal operations and child fatalities is entered and collected.
Search Texas Child Care
One of CCL’s most important services is giving information to parents, stakeholders, and others who are interested in child care. The DFPS website offers 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 (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. In FY 2014, people used this database to view search results 1,359,009 times.
Don’t Be in the Dark
CCL continued its Don’t Be in the Dark (about child care) campaign during FY 2014. 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 child-care 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 child-care database (TxChildCareSearch.org), where they can find and research the regulatory compliance history of daycare and residential child-care operations. Visit DontBeInTheDark.org for more information.
Baby Room to Breathe
The Baby Room to Breathe campaign continued in FY 2014 with the goal of educating parents and caregivers on ways to lower the risk of infants dying in their sleep. The campaign offers a parent instructional video in English and Spanish on safer infant sleep. You can find it on the DFPS YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/TexasDFPS) and the campaign websites, Room To Breathe.org and BebeEspacioParaRespirar.org.
Watch Kids Around Water
The 83rd Texas Legislature designated April as Water Safety Month. DFPS issued news releases in April 2014, and before the Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day holiday weekends to call attention to the issue of child drowning deaths. DFPS also release a public service announcement before the 4th of July, which is available on the DFPS You Tube Channel. 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.
CCL has a Performance Management Unit (PMU) that analyzes data and identifies trends in CCL’s performance, including casework. CCL uses this information to develop recommendations for training, program structure, policy, and practice to improve the quality and consistency of inspections and investigations. Examples of past recommendations include policy changes or clarifications, updating or developing new trainings, reviewing current policies and procedures with staff, and changes to information technology systems. CCL also has specially-trained risk analysts in the field statewide. These analysts review daycare or residential child-care operations for compliance history that indicates a higher risk of harm to children. They provide objective recommendations on regulatory actions to reduce risk to children
In FY 2014, CCL staff across the state had numerous opportunities for training and work-related professional development to enhance regulation and services. Training topics included ethics, diversity, drug trends, verbal defense and influence, and training on automation enhancements. CCL’s Professional Development Division also provided additional specialized staff training in the areas of illegal child care, management techniques to promote accountability, minimum standards and child interviewing.
At the same time, CCL staff held more than 141 training events for 4,619 caregivers. Topics included prevention of abuse and neglect, positive child discipline and guidance, appropriate supervision of children, updates to minimum standards, and directing for success (for new child-care directors). CCL also held 253 orientation sessions for 2,568 people to give potential applicants an overview of the licensing process and how to complete an application and get a permit to operate a child-care operation in Texas.
Child Care Licensing has two programs: Day Care Licensing and Residential Child Care Licensing. These programs protect the health, safety, and well-being of children (birth through 17 years of age) in both daycare and residential care (including foster care) in two primary ways—regulation and investigations. Both programs have inspectors and abuse and neglect investigators. Inspectors and Investigators work hand in hand to assure that child care providers follow state standards and rules and that allegations or suspicions of abuse are investigated and addressed.
According to Chapters 42 and 43 of the Human Resources Code, CCL develops administrative rules and minimum standards for daycare operations, child-placing agencies, and residential child-care operations. CCL also develops policies and procedures for CCL staff to follow when conducting regulatory activities. These include:
- Processing applications and issuing permits (see the DFPS Data Book for FY 2014 data on applications and permits).
- Inspecting child-care operations.
- Investigating complaints alleging violations of licensing laws, rules, or minimum standards.
- Investigating reports of abuse or neglect of children in care.
- Ensuring criminal background checks and DFPS abuse and neglect Central Registry checks are run as required on child care personnel, and anyone 14 years or older who is regularly present while children are in care.
- Consulting, training, and giving technical assistance to child-care providers and potential providers on how to comply with minimum standards.
- Taking enforcement actions against operations as necessary (see page 85-86 and 101 in the DFPS Data Book for data on corrective or adverse actions).
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 care available, where it is available, and the results of licensing inspections and investigations.
Who We Regulate
CCL regulates four basic categories of child-care operations. They are licensed operations (daycare and 24-hour residential child care), registered child-care 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 child-care homes (also known as group daycare homes) provide daycare in the caregiver’s home 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.
- Child-care centers (also known as daycare centers) are any operation that 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 normal school day and during school holidays for at least two hours a day, three days a week, to children who attend prekindergarten through grade six.
- School-age programs provide supervision and recreational-skills instruction or skills 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 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 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 it approves and monitors.
Registered Childcare Homes
Registered child-care homes (also known as registered family homes) provide regular care in the caregiver’s home for up to 6 children under age 14 and may also take in up to 6 additional school-age children. Regular care is defined as “at least four hours per day, three 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 child-care 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.
Applicants must complete a pre-application overview or orientation to regulation and pass background checks. CCL issues a registration only after it completes an inspection to ensure the provider is meeting the standards for a registered child-care home. CCL inspects registered child-care homes every two years and will investigate any allegation of child abuse or neglect - or - violation of licensing laws, administrative rules, or minimum standards..
Listed Family Homes
Listed family homes provide regular care in the caregiver’s home for 1 to 3 unrelated children under age 14. Regular care means “at least 4 hours per day, 3 or more days a week, for 3 or more consecutive weeks or four hours a day for 40 or more days in a period of 12 months.” 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.
These 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 shelter or employerbased child care operation must complete an application. CCL completes an on-site inspection before issuing the permit to ensure compliance with the law and minimum standards, if applicable.
These operations provide child care at a temporary shelter, such as a family violence or homeless shelter, at least 4 hours a day, 3 or more days a week, to 7 or more children under 14 years of age while parents, who live at the shelter, are away.
Anyone wanting to operate a shelter care must pass criminal background checks and an initial inspection. CCL does not regularly inspect shelters, but does investigate allegations of child abuse or neglect or violations of licensing laws, administrative rules, or minimum standards.
Employer-based Child Care
Employer-based child care provides care for up to 12 children of employees (under 14 years of age) for less than 24 hours per day. These operations provide care 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 get a certificate. However, CCL will investigate allegations of child abuse or neglect or a violation of licensing laws or administrative rules.
Reports on Licensing Violations or Abuse and Neglect
Child Care Licensing investigations allegations of abuse and neglect in all types of child care facilities, including foster care.
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. CCL aims to increase compliance by child-care operations and provide stronger protections for children through consistent enforcement.
Regulating child-care 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 need 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 2014.
For information on statewide trends, see: the DFPS Data Book, page 88. DFPS also publishes a Statewide Trends Table of the top 10 standards deficiencies for residential child-care operations in FY 2014.
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. We find some in routine monitoring inspections and follow-ups and others after a complaint about specific incidents. CCL makes a point to give child-care providers’ technical assistance to help them comply with licensing standards. Date on violation trends helps CCL target its technical assistance to specific issues to help improve compliance.