Child Care Center Operators
What Is a Civil Penalty?
Produced by the Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services
[The series host speaks in a preschool classroom.]
Community Care Licensing regulations guide licensed providers in both family childcare homes and childcare centers toward maintaining a safe and healthy place for children. If deficiencies are observed, the licensee will be cited and serious citations can involve civil penalties.
[Three licensing representatives speak.]
Community Care Licensing Representative 1:
Community Care Licensing’s top priority is to protect the health and safety of all children in care by ensuring that every licensed facility in the state is in compliance with childcare regulations.
Community Care Licensing Representative 2:
As a licensee, you can maintain compliance by understanding these regulations and proactively checking to see that your facility complies with them. You can stay current with changing regulations by checking the Community Care Licensing website regularly and developing a working relationship with your Licensing Program Analyst.
Community Care Licensing Representative 3:
When we discover or hear about a problem at a facility, we are responsible for making certain that the problem is resolved. In some cases, part of our response will be to issue a citation that includes a civil penalty.
Community Care Licensing Representative 1:
A civil penalty is a monetary fine assessed against a licensed facility for serious infractions. When civil penalties are assessed, most violations must be corrected immediately or within 24 hours.
[The host speaks, and the questions she asks are displayed on a white board.]
What types of violations lead to a civil penalty?
Violations that pose an immediate health and safety risk result in a citation and civil penalty.
[The host speaks as the corresponding content is displayed onscreen.]
These include but are not limited to
- absence of supervision;
- bodies of water violations;
- improper storage of guns and ammunition;
- refusing entry to a Community Care Licensing representative or a child’s authorized representative;
- violations of the criminal record clearance or exemption;
- deficiencies that cause a child to become sick, injured, or die;
- and any repeated violations in a 12-month period.
In addition, some civil penalties apply only to childcare centers, such as fire clearance issues related to lack of alarms or extinguishers. Most citations result from lack of familiarity with the laws and regulations, which is why it’s your responsibility as a licensed caregiver to be familiar with all the laws and regulations that apply to your facility and to make sure you are in full compliance. The most common type of violation in childcare facilities is absence of supervision.
You are encouraged to view the video modules on supervision to become more familiar with those requirements.
[The corresponding web pages briefly appear.]
What happens if I receive a citation and civil penalty?
When civil penalties are assessed, it is because the violation is considered an immediate risk to children. As such, the violation must be corrected in accordance with the plan of correction.
A plan of correction is a collaborative effort between the licensee and the Licensing Program Analyst. It needs to be a verifiable and measurable way for the licensee to correct the deficiencies cited. The plan will then be reviewed by the licensee and Licensing Program Analyst and given a due date. To correct the violation or deficiency, you must
- develop a plan of correction with your Licensing Program Analyst to remedy the deficiency,
- receive the Licensing Program Analyst’s approval of the plan,
- implement all parts of the plan and complete it before the due date,
- provide proof that the deficiency has been remedied.
- by providing photographic proof that something broken has been repaired,
- by requesting an onsite visit by a Licensing Program Analyst
- or by demonstrating proof of training and supervisory follow-up if the citation is related to adult behavior.
Civil penalties start at $50. Some are assessed daily until the deficiencies are corrected. For more severe violations, such as serious injury or death, the civil penalties are greater and the amount depends on the type of facility and the nature of the deficiency. Civil penalties must be paid upon receipt of the notice of payment.
Payment can be given to the regional office for processing. Checks or money orders are the only payment types accepted and must be made out to the California Department of Social Services. It is good practice to write your facility number on all checks or money orders given to the Department as payment. If you believe that the citation wasn’t warranted, you do have the right to appeal the decision.
What resources can help me remain in compliance and avoid a civil penalty?
Community Care Licensing offers a number of resources that providers can take advantage of in order to avoid citations and civil penalties. Childcare regulations are available in writing on the Licensing website.
[Pages and forms from the website appear.]
Check the website on a regular basis for any updates to the regulations. The website also provides self-assessment guides that both home and center-based providers can use to make sure their facility is in full compliance.
And the orientation class that all new providers are required to take offers information and tips on keeping facilities compliant. Licensing Program Analysts also represent a valuable resource for identifying potential deficiencies and eliminating them before they cause any problems. Also, all facilities have access to additional sources of support, such as childcare resource and referral agencies, as well as workshops and conferences.
Here are some key points to remember about civil penalties.
- The key to avoiding a citation, especially one that involves a civil penalty, is to take the initiative in making sure your facility is in full compliance and to remedy anything that needs attention before it causes a problem.
- If a civil penalty is applied, you will immediately receive information about the citation from the Licensing Program Analyst and you must correct the deficiency as defined by the due date in the plan of correction.
Ultimately, keeping your facility in compliance is a goal that we all share–providers, families, and Community Care Licensing.
State of California