Child Care Programs and Inspection Guide

Types of Child Care Programs

Finding the right child care program for your child is a critical decision to make. Knowing what the requirements are and the inspection process for a child care provider is also an important factor to understand when making such an important decision for your family.

There are five types of child care programs, as defined by Florida statutes, which are licensed or recognized as licensure exempt providers by Hillsborough County Child Care Licensing:

  • Child care facility
  • Family child care home
  • Large family child care home
  • Non-public schools with pre-school programs
  • Religious exempt programs
Child care facility - A child care facility provides child care for more than five children, unrelated to the operator. The provider also receives a payment, fee or grant for any of the children receiving care whether for profit or nonprofit.
Family child care home - A Licensed Family Child Care Home is an occupied residence in which child care is regularly provided for children unrelated to the operator. The provider receives a payment, fee or grant for any of the children receiving care whether for profit or nonprofit.
Large family child care home - A Large Family Child Care Home is an occupied residence in which child care is regularly provided for children unrelated to the operator which receives a payment, fee or grant for any of the children receiving care whether for profit or nonprofit and which has at least two full time Child Care Personnel on the premises during the hours of operation.
Non-public schools with pre-school programs - A non-public school is a preschool program operating in a private school institution. To meet the definition, the preschool children served must be between the ages of 3 and 5. In addition, the majority of the school’s population must be school aged. Should the program choose to serve children under the age of 2, or should the school’s population of school aged children fall below the majority, licensure will be required. Non-public schools are inspected 1 time per year.
Religious exempt programs - A Religious Exempt Program is a licensed exempt child care provider affiliated with an accrediting program that meets statutory requirements. These programs are inspected by the Hillsborough County Child Care Licensing Office 2 times per year.

Inspections

The Office of Child Care Regulation is responsible for the statewide monitoring of programs that provide services that meet the statutory definition of “child care.” This is accomplished through the inspection of child care providers to ensure the consistent application of child care standards established by Florida statute and rule.

There are 8 types of inspections conducted by Hillsborough County Child Care Licensing:

  • Initial/New home inspections
  • Routine inspections
  • Abbreviated inspections
  • Re-inspections
  • Renewal inspections
  • Complaint inpections/investigations
  • Gold seal inspections
  • School readiness inspections

The frequency and type of an inspection depends on the program and the services provided. Licensed child care facilities are inspected 3 times during the licensure year (or approximately every four months). Licensed family and large family day care homes are inspected three times per year as well. Religious Exempt facilities are inspected 2 times per year, and Non-Public Schools are inspected one time per year.

Initial/New home inspections - The initial or new home inspection is an on-site visit that takes place prior to licensure. Unlike other types of inspections, the initial or new home inspection is conducted by appointment at the convenience of all parties involved. Compliances with all applicable items on the inspection checklist must be verified and all findings of non-compliance resolved prior to licensure. For this reason, this inspection may actually include an initial inspection as well as several reinspections.
Routine inspections - A routine inspection is an on-site unannounced inspection of licensed providers conducted to verify compliance with all applicable items on the standard classification summary. A routine inspection may find some standards non-compliant, in which case a re-inspection will be conducted.

Abbreviated inspections - An abbreviated inspection is conducted in lieu of a routine inspection when a facility achieves “abbreviated inspection” status. In order to reach abbreviated status, a provider must not have any Class I or Class II violations for two years. Like a routine inspection an abbreviated inspection is an on-site unannounced routine visit. The abbreviated inspection is a condensed inspection where specific key indicator standards are monitored for compliance.

Although the abbreviated inspection is considered a “right” of licensed providers, any item found in non-compliance that is not on the abbreviated checklist may be added to the abbreviated inspection or a full routine inspection may be conducted. An abbreviated inspection should never be conducted in lieu of the renewal inspection. If a provider is cited for a Class I or Class II they immediately lose their abbreviated inspection status.

Re-inspections - A re-inspection is a follow-up inspection that is conducted as a result of a finding of noncompliance during a previous inspection. A re-inspection is required to ensure that corrective action for the noncompliant standard has been completed. A re-inspection generally includes only those items that were found noncompliant during the previous inspection, unless additional non-compliant items are observed during the re-inspection. When this occurs, the licensing counselor may either add just the items that are non-compliant or may conduct a full routine inspection if needed.
Renewal inspections - Prior to the submission of the renewal packet for approval, the licensing counselor must complete a full on-site renewal inspection. A renewal inspection includes a file review of all personnel and children’s files. The renewal inspection should be scheduled in sufficient time to allow for corrective action and re-inspection prior to the license expiration date.
Complaint inspections - A complaint inspection is an on-site investigation conducted as a result of a report that a child care provider may have violated child care standards. The purpose of the complaint investigation is to determine whether the allegations can be verified. A complaint inspection generally includes only those items on the standard classification summary that relate to the complaint allegations, unless additional non-compliance items are observed during the inspection. In that case, additional standards may be added to the complaint investigation or a full routine inspection may be conducted.

Gold Seal inspections - The Gold Seal Quality Care program acknowledges individual child care facilities and family day care homes that are accredited by a nationally recognized agency and who provide quality child care and supervision. Prior to receiving a Gold Seal Quality Care designation the provider’s inspection history is reviewed by the Children’s Forum to ensure the provider has not had any Class 1 violations or three or more Class 2 violations within the two years preceding their application.

In addition, to maintain a Gold Seal Quality Care designation, a provider may not commit any Class 1 or three or more Class 2 violations within a two year period, as these violations are grounds for termination of the Gold Seal Quality Care designation.

All Gold Seal Quality Care programs will be inspected three times a year, this includes religious exempt, public and non-public schools. A Gold Seal inspection is an on-site unannounced inspection during which compliance with all applicable items on the standard classification summary is verified.

School readiness inspections - The federal government works with states to support low-income working families by providing access to child care through the federal Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Florida uses CCDBG funds to subsidize child care providers who offer school readiness services and early childhood education for children of low-income families, children in protective services who are at risk of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and for children with disabilities. Families also use these subsidies to purchase child care services from providers who offer school readiness.

In order for a child care program to qualify to be a school readiness provider, a school readiness inspection must be conducted once annually as part of the school readiness provider contract between the program and the Office of Early Learning (OEL). These inspections are conducted by the Department of Children and Families, Office of Child Care Regulation in partnership with OEL.A school readiness inspection is an on-site unannounced inspection during which compliance with all applicable items on the school readiness standard classification summary is verified. When a school readiness inspection results in findings of non-compliances, a reinspection will be conducted and the local Early Learning Coalition is notified.

Violations

During an inspection if an item on the standard classification summary is found to be out of compliance the counselor will determine if the correction can be "completed at time of the inspection.” If it is determined that the provider will need reasonable time to correct the noncompliance(s) a due date for each violation will be determined and documented on the inspection report. After the due date has expired a re-inspection will be conducted to ensure all noncompliance items have been brought into compliance.

Each standard on the classification summary includes specific substandard citations which are assigned a violation level. There are three types of violation levels.

Class 1 violation - The most serious type of non-compliance. Class 1 violations are issued for occurrences that could result, or do result, in death or serious harm to the health, safety and well-being of a child.
Class 2 violations - A less serious violation in nature than Class I violations, and could potentially pose a threat to the health, safety, or well-being of a child, although the threat is not imminent.
Class 3 violations -The least serious violation in nature and pose a low potential for harm to children in care.

Progressive enforcement

The goal of the licensing program is to prevent non-compliance issues through guidance, education, technical assistance and positive interactions with providers before problems occur. When enforcement actions do become necessary, the steps in the Department’s enforcement process are generally sequential in nature and based on the provider’s continued noncompliant history over the previous two year period. Some violations however, due to their severity, require more immediate and impactful intervention.
Different progressive enforcement mechanisms from technical assistance to license revocation are employed as escalating measures in the Department’s progressive enforcement model.

How to read an inspection report

The components that make up an inspection report are-the provider’s demographic information, inspection information, and the standard classification summary that applies to that provider. Each standard is given a status of a compliance, noncompliance, not monitored or not applicable.
If a non-compliance has occurred the description and violation level will appear under the standard. Additional comments from the counselor may also appear. A due date will appear if it’s determined that the provider needs time to correct non-compliance items. “Completed at time of inspection” will be displayed when an item is corrected prior to the end of the inspection.

Where to find the inspection reports

The Child Care Regulation Program is responsible for making inspection reports available for public access. You can search for inspection reports for licensed child care providers and annual statements. Providers can be searched by zip code, city, county, provider address, and provider’s name or license number.

Child Care Licensing

Child Care Program & Inspections Guide

Inspection Reports