The story has since dropped fallen from the front page, but when the November 2014 death of a 15-month old boy at his daycare initially occurred, it ignited a firestorm of controversy and outrage. When it came out that the facility was not licensed as required by state law, fuel was only added to the debate. Nearly everyone had an opinion about the case with viewpoints at one extreme including those supporting murder charges against the individual to those, at the opposite extreme, who felt that the government had no role to play in the oversight of the facility. However, regardless of one’s personal views, this matter provides an important lesson for New Jersey small business owners providing childcare services.
Regardless of personal political beliefs, the fact of the matter is that most childcare and daycare facilities in New Jersey are subject to registration requirements and regulatory oversight. Furthermore most childcare facilities must conform to minimum standards set forth by the state. The Jayson Law group can review your business practices and advise your company about potential instances of noncompliance. Furthermore if you are considering establishing a new daycare business, our experienced attorneys can work with you to complete all required regulatory filings.
When Must a New Jersey Childcare Center Register with the State?
As defined under New Jersey law (N.J.A.C.10:122), a childcare center exists when care is provided for 6 or more children under the age of 13. Children who live in the home or household are not counted for purposes of licensing. Unless, as per N.J.A.C. 10:122-1.2(d), the facility is exempt from registration, the childcare center must apply for a license from the Department of Children and Families. Valid reasons for an exemption can include:
- Programs with special programs for religious instruction
- Programs operated under the authority of a local school district
- Programs that provide special instruction or a single activity do not qualify as daycare. Programs would include scouting activities, youth sporting events, 4-H clubs and other specialty programs.
- Department of Education approved preschools for children with disabilities.
If you are unsure as to whether your daycare or childcare facility must register or if it qualifies for an exemption, it can be prudent to meet with an experienced small business lawyer.
Are there other regulatory requirements for day care centers?
Yes, there are numerous other regulatory requirements those considering starting a daycare or childcare business must consider. While the scope of this article is too limited to cover every possible regulatory requirement, we can address a number of the more important requirements.
To begin with, selecting a site for your daycare should be thoroughly researched because the facilities must be up to code. Failure to ensure that the facilities are appropriate for the age of the children your daycare will care for will result in additional expense to correct the non-compliant conditions . This is because you must obtain a certificate of occupancy for your facility from the official in charge of municipal construction. If granted, the CO reflects your facility’s compliance with the relevant standards of the State Uniform construction Code. Your facility must be able to be certified to one of the following standards:
- A-3 or A-4 (I-4 or E are also acceptable) – For assembly purposes for school-aged child care.
- E (Educational) – For facilities intended to provide care to 6 or more children aged 2.5 years or greater.
- I-4 (Institutional) – Facilities intended for the care of children who have not yet aged 5 years.
Aside from considerations of whether the facility is up to code those running a childcare business must also carry comprehensive liability insurance, provide instruction and training to staff members, ensure that child to staff ratios remain within acceptable bounds, and screen employees for criminal history and past instances of child abuse.
What can happen if my daycare facility isn’t licensed by the state?
At minimum, failure to register or meet other regulatory requirements can result in a regulatory enforcement action against your business. This can result in significant fine, penalties, or the temporary or permanent closure of your daycare facility. Depending on the character or nature of the events that brought agents to your childcare center, other civil or criminal charges are possible.
However, you do not have to navigate the often-complex array of regulatory rules and legislation alone. The Jayson Law Group is committed to assisting small business owners in New Jersey. To discuss how one of our attorneys may be able to help your childcare center meet its legal and regulatory challenges, call our experienced attorneys at 908-768-3633 or contact our firm online. Initial consultations are confidential and free.