New law makes operating unlicensed child day care center a criminal offense
BATON ROUGE - On Thursday, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill into law that creates criminal penalties for individuals accused of operating a child day car center without a valid license.
The law also establishes penalties for continuing to operate a child day care center after the operator has received notification from the Department of Education and continued operation of a day care after license revocation.
“Over a year ago, Angel Gabrielle Green, a toddler, lost her life after being cared for at an illegal daycare facility. We must do everything we can to protect our children and ensure that safe, quality childcare is available,” said Governor Edwards. “This legislation sends a clear message that we value our children too much to place them in harm’s way, and we will work tirelessly to prevent anyone from operating a daycare center in our state illegally.”
The law was created via collaboration between the Child Care Association of Louisiana, State Police, the State Association of Chiefs of Police and the State Sheriff’s Association.
“This is a good law for Louisiana to ensure the safety of our youngest citizens. I was happy to have sponsored this bill,” said Rep. Steve Pylant. “Law enforcement around the state will now have the tools they need to help ensure nobody continues to operate an unsafe, unlicensed day care center in Louisiana, helping increase the quality of available childcare for families.”
Now, Department of Education licensing staff are to conduct site visits at day care centers to determine if the facility is required to have a license issued by the department. The visits will also ensure licensing compliance across the board. In the event that proper licensing is not present, the Department of Education will then turn the evidence over to the relevant law enforcement agencies for prosecution.
A first offense violation can lead to a fine of up to $1,000 or up to six months in jail or both. Third or subsequent offense could mean up to a $5,000 fine or up to a year behind bars. Operators convicted of third offenses will be ineligible to apply for a child care license for a period of up to 48 months.
Lawmakers define a child day care center as “any place or facility operated by any institution, society, agency, corporation, person or persons, or any other group for the purpose of providing care, supervision, and guidance of 7 or more children, not including those related to the caregiver, unaccompanied by parent or guardian, on a regular basis for at least 12 1/2 hours in a continuous 7-day week.”
“The Child Care Association of Louisiana applauds Representative Steve Pylant, the Louisiana Legislature, and Governor John Bel Edwards for House Bill 197 which makes it a misdemeanor to operate an early learning center without a license,” said Jonathan Pearce, President of the Child Care Association of Louisiana. “Children are our most precious resource and must be protected. Our centers are licensed which means we are subject to high standards and are inspected on a regular basis so parents can trust that their children will be safe with us.”
Four day care centers in East Baton Rouge Parish have had their licenses revoked within the past year. One of those centers was the facility where 22-month-old Angel Green was pronounced dead after a worker left the child in a hot van.
Green’s mother, Joy, has been a vocal advocate for reining in the lack of oversight in the state in regards to child day care center regulation. News 2’s Investigative Unit found that the day care center’s owner, Shelia Newman, had had her license revoked by the state in the year prior to the child’s death while in her care. She was arrested on negligent homicide charges.