Your Licensor Says You’ve Broken a Rule. You Disagree. Now What?


How do you respond when your family child care licensor says that you have violated a licensing rule?

If it’s clear to you that you were in violation of a rule, then you should recognize your mistake and take any actions required by your licensor to fix things.

But, what if it’s not clear to you?

Here are two real cases.

Kelly is cited by her licensor for violating a rule that says that she must collect the name and contact information for each child’s dentist. But a new family to her program says they don’t have health insurance and don’t have a dentist for their toddler. How can Kelly respond to her licensor?

What if the licensor’s interpretation of a rule is different than yours?

Roberta’s state licensing rule states that “dangerous and hazardous items must not be accessible to the children”. Her licensor cites her for having scissors on the top of her refrigerator. Roberta doesn’t believe she have violated the rule. Now what?

How to Respond

1) Discuss the violation of the rule with your licensor.

Ask the licensor to cite the rule you were charged with violating. You want a discussion where you can ask questions of the licensor and explain your side of things.

Kelly asked her licensor, “How can I collect the name of the parent’s dentist if they don’t have one?” Her licensor told Kelly to make up a name. Kelly refused. I do not recommend putting anything in writing for your licensor that is not true.

Roberta told her licensor, “The children can’t reach up to take anyting off the top of my refrigerator, so why is this a violation? Since they can’t reach the scissors, this seems to me that they are not ‘accessible.'”

When a child care rule is not clear to you and your licensor is not able to show you any written clarification of the rule, then it could be that both of you are interpreting the rule. Roberta might ask her licensor if there are any other rulings that have interpreted what “accessible” means?

Always be polite and be as calm as possible when talking to your licensor. Their primary job is to protect the health and safety of children and you must respect that.

2) Don’t sign a licensor’s report if it’s not clear to you.

It’s hard to argue about a licensing violation unless the violation is clearly stated in writing. So, if Roberta’s licensor writes, “Hazardous item was accessible to children,” Roberta should ask her to change the language to, “Scissor was found on top of the refrigerator.” If the licensor won’t agree to make a change, Roberta should make a note of this conversation so it can be raised later.

3) If you can’t reach an agreement, ask to speak with the licensor’s supervisor.

The supervisor may or may not be able to help you resolve your dispute with your licensor. In the case of the doctor’s name, the supervisor said that she was in violation of the rule, even if no doctor existed.

Supervisors are in a more powerful position to determine an interpretation of licensing rules. Perhaps the supervisor will agree with Roberta about what “accessible” means. Maybe Kelly or Roberta can ask for a variance of the rule as a solution to the problem.

4) Ask the supervisor to seek clarification of your dispute from the state child care licensing office.

Going up the chain of command may be necessary if the supervisor hasn’t convinced you that you are wrong. Kelly and Roberta can ask their licensor to request a clarification from the state child care licensing office. If their licensor won’t ask the state for clarification, Kelly and Roberta can contact them directly. I have seen this work in some situations. If the state agrees with Kelly or Roberta, the matter should be resolved.

5) Ask your county/state representative for help.

Sometimes you may be dealing with a licensor or supervisor who won’t listen to reason. Or you believe they are acting unprofessionally. In another case, a provider was cited for not having the proper records on file. But while the provider was outside with the children the licensor opened the provider’s file cabinet and started going through her records without her permission! This is unprofessional and possibly illegal.

If you believe you are not being treated fairly, you may want to talk with your county or state representative. If your licensor is a county employee, your county commissioner has the authority to intervene. If you take this step, prepare a short statement summarizing your situation and ask for specific action. You may want to be reassigned to another licensor or you may want an apology.

6) Appeal your licensing violation.

If the licensor and supervisor are not willing to reverse your rule violation you can appeal their decision to the state licensing agency (not all states follow the same appeal process). It costs nothing to appeal (unless you hire a lawyer), although it may take months before your case is decided. In Kelly’s case she appealed her case and lost! The state said that unless she collected the name of the dentist she violated the rules. Thus, she was forced to either refuse to enroll the family or lie. (What a crazy ruling.)

7) Work to change the law.

If you have appealed your case and lost, it may be worth considering trying to change the law. Talk to your state family child care association (if there is one) or other state-wide child care organizations for help. If Roberta loses her case she might want a new law clarifying what “accessible” means.


Many providers are uncomfortable arguing with their licensor. They fear that if they do so their licensor may look more closely to find additional licensing violations in the future. I believe that it’s reasonable to raise questions about licensing rules that are not clear to you. Be polite, but firm as you ask for a clarification or explanation of your licensor’s decision. By following the process outlined above you should be able to resolve most conflicts.

How have you resolved disputes with your licensor?

Tom Copeland –

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Categories: Advocacy, Legal, Legal & Insurance

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2 replies

  1. Is this dentist rule in Cal?

  2. I don’t know if CA rules require providers to have a child’s dentist contact or not.

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