Our children are the most important thing in our lives, and we are programmed to protect them from harm as job number one. When both parents are employed full time there is often a struggle with the idea of locating and screening a good daycare. This can be a daunting task for parents and downright frightful thinking of entrusting your child with someone you do not really know.
From our perspective as a personal injury law firm, this process is one that should be guided by the accumulation of as much information as possible before entrusting your child in the care of any other person. It is necessary to first discuss the different types of Florida daycare operations since there is more than one type of daycare facility and they are treated very differently by the law.
Florida Daycare Laws – Home Daycare vs Facility Daycare
Florida daycare laws differentiate between “home” daycares and “facility” daycare businesses. Generally, the Florida daycare law is less strict with the “home” daycare operations but requires that they remain a true “home” daycare for them to take advantage of the more liberal policies. A family home daycare must restrict its services to a maximum of 4 children under one year, a maximum of 3 children under one if they have other children, a maximum of 6 if all are over 1 year old, and a maximum of 10 so long as only 2 or under 12 months.
Large Family “Home” Daycare
Florida daycare law also recognizes a “large” family daycare category. These “large” family home daycare businesses may offer services to a maximum of 8 children under 24 months of age and a maximum of 12 children so long as not more than 4 are under 24 months of age.
Daycare is not eligible to become a “large” family home daycare in Florida until they have operated as a home daycare for two consecutive years with an operator who has had a child development credential or its equivalent, verified on the Department’s training transcript, for one year. The two consecutive years of operation as a family daycare must have been within 5 years of the date of the application to operate a large family childcare home.
Florida home daycare law also has strict provisions for banning corporal punishment and each home should have written disciplinary and expulsion policies available for inspection by parents, they also must have written policies and procedures to identify and prevent shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma. The policy and procedures must require completion of safe sleep training by childcare personnel. Section 402.305(12) Florida Statutes.
Large family day care homes must have even more written policies. They must have a plan of activities posted in a conspicuous place and available for parents. This is in addition to those policies and procedures required for smaller Florida Home daycare businesses.
As far as staffing, operators must be at least 18 years old and must live in the home where the daycare is being run. The operator may not work outside the home during the hours that the daycare is operating. Large family daycare home operators must be at least 21 years of age. Each facility should have a written plan for a substitute operator containing that person’s name, address, and telephone number. The operator must document the number of hours the substitute works in the home on a monthly basis. This substitute should not exceed 40 hours per month.
All employees and (members of the household) must pass level 1 background checks by the Department of Child and Families. All employees must be re-screened every 5 years.
Florida Home Daycares Not Required to Have Insurance
What is also important for parents is to know that these Florida home daycare businesses are not required to have insurance for the conduct of their staff. This means that if they injure your child negligently, there will be no recourse from a financial perspective.
Child Care Facilities
The next level of Florida daycare center is called a “child care facility”. These facilities are defined by Florida law as any child care center or child care arrangement which provides child care for more than five children unrelated to the operator and which receives a payment, fee, or grant for any of the children receiving care, wherever operated, and whether or not operated for profit.” Florida Statutes Section 402.302(2).
Child Care Center Credentials and Requirements
All child care center operators must have director credentials and all employees must have Florida child care staffing credentials. These credentials require more than 40 hours of training and education in the area of child care. They must have annual in-service training and all other requirements discussed at the home level are made more stringent at the facility level.
Staff to Child Ratios
The staff to child ratios for facilities are based upon the age of the child and goes from 1 staff member for every 4 children for those facilities caring for children under 1 year,1 staff member for each 6 child under 2 years old, 1 staff member for every 15 children for children under 3 years old, 1 staff member for every 20 children for those 4 years old, and 1 staff member for every 20 children for children age 5 or older.
For mixed age groups where children under 1 year old are included, 1 staff member shall be responsible for no more than 6 children for each age group.
Again, these facilities must also make available all policies and procedures related to the schedule of events each day. Further, a clear and written discipline and expulsion plan should also be made available for inspection by any parent.
Zarzaur Law, P.A. handles many injuries and unfortunately some tragic death cases involving daycare centers. Some occur in-home daycare and some injuries occur in larger facilities. We urge parents to check everything about any prospective daycare and make themselves familiar with the requirements discussed here. The daycare should address these concerns in a professional manner and if they do not, perhaps this business is not their main interest.
You cannot rely on the State of Florida to do this checking, you as parents have to do your own due diligence in checking out these facilities.
If you have further questions about Florida Daycare Law or if you family has suffered an injury or loss from a Florida daycare business and need legal advice, feel free to contact us on the web at ZarzaurLaw.com or call us at 855hirejoe.