State Agency Investigation: Information for Childcare Providers

Navigating the process of a state agency investigation can be stressful for childcare providers and troubling for parents enrolled in a program, even if the impetus for an investigation was a relatively benign incident.

Any accident resulting in injury which requires medical attention has the potential to spur a state agency investigation, because most states require medical professionals to report any possibility of neglect or abuse. Even childcare providers who are cleared of any wrongdoing may suffer during an investigation, and determining the best course of action isn’t always easy. Because childcare laws and regulations can differ significantly from one state to the next, it can also be difficult to find important information for childcare providers regarding the investigation process.

State Agency Investigation Versus Criminal Investigation

While both may occur simultaneously, there is a notable difference between a state agency investigation and a criminal investigation. The results of an investigation by a state agency may result licensing being revoked, but a criminal investigation can result in prosecution if a childcare provider is found to be at fault for neglect or abuse. In most cases, however, a state agency investigation will take place first, and the findings of this investigation may determine whether or not a childcare provider is subjected to a criminal investigation.

In both cases, it is advisable to obtain legal counsel for aid in navigating an investigation. This becomes particularly important in a criminal investigation.

When Childcare Providers Should Expect a State Agency Investigation

Ideally, a childcare provider will operate their business as if they’re under investigation at all times, and will focus on full compliance with all state laws even when they’re not under threat of investigation. Still, knowing when to expect an investigation can help to eliminate stress resulting from the shock of an unforeseen event, especially after a traumatic incident or tragedy.

Formal investigations will typically be conducted by the state agency which issues licensing for childcare providers, and should usually be expected anytime there is an injury which requires a child to seek professional medical care. Even minor injuries which are treated on site through first aid may spur an investigation if a parent feels as if neglect or abuse could have been a factor in the injury. This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to carefully document any and all injuries and keep records of all incident reports.

Cooperating During a State Agency Investigation

The majority of states do have laws in place which require child care providers to fully participate in an investigation. Failure to cooperate with agency authorities can, in some states, give the agency the right to immediately revoke a childcare license. It’s also crucial for childcare providers to always tell the truth to the absolute best of their ability, because inconsistencies and discrepancies which indicate dishonesty can also determine the outcome of an investigation. Furthermore, dishonesty may be classified as obstruction of justice, which could open the door to possible criminal charges.

Over the course of a stressful experience, like a state agency investigation, it’s not uncommon for people to confide their fears and worries to others. Similarly, childcare providers may feel motivated to discuss an investigation with their clients in order to mitigate the risk of lower enrollment numbers. While this may seem like the best course of action, anything said can be taken as evidence during an investigation. Any discrepancies between a childcare provider’s stories can become severely problematic, so it’s almost always best to avoid disclosing any information about an ongoing investigation.

Honestly and transparency are vitally important for childcare providers during a state agency investigation. Working alongside an attorney who represents your interests can also help to resolve an investigation without charges or the loss of licensure. State agency investigations are stressful by nature, but they don’t have to lead to a damaged reputation if a childcare provider is innocent of wrongdoing and understands how to navigate the investigation process properly.

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