Child Care Complaints (page 3)

— Bananas Inc.
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

Serious Complaints – What You Can and Should Do About Them

Some complaints involve the health and safety of children. Licensing regulations specify that:

  • Programs should not exceed their licensed capacity.
  • Programs should employ the number of staff required by their license.
  • Children should be supervised at all times.
  • Child care facilities should be safe places for children.
  • No corporal or humiliating punishment is allowed in child care – no spanking, no smacking of hands, no withholding of food, no calling of names, no isolation in dark places... .
  • Once a parent points out a licensing violation to a program, s/he has the right to expect instant if not immediate compliance. (Call BANANAS for more information on DSS regulations.)

A provider who habitually over-enrolls may not respond to gentle calls for compliance. If a program ignores a parent’s initial regulatory complaint, most parents look for a new program. We at BANANAS hope parents will take the additional step of reporting the program to Community Care Licensing (CCL), (510) 622-2602. The agency enforces Department of Social Services regulations for family child care and center-based programs. Removing and safeguarding your own child is not enough. What about the other children in care whose parents may not be aware of the situation? Their only protection lies in parents reporting the problem.

Few, if any, programs ever get closed down based on a single complaint – so parents should not agonize too long over whether or not to report a serious violation. In most cases, the licensing staff will make an unannounced visit and, if the complaint appears valid, direct the program to come into compliance. Parents are becoming much more savvy consumers of child care services, so programs which ignore parental concerns about regulatory issues shouldn’t be surprised when CCL is brought into the picture.

Complaints can also be registered anonymously. Simply call the local CCL office, ask for the worker of the day and let the switchboard operator know you want to make a complaint about a child care program. Don’t use this mechanism for registering complaints about a program’s general rules or program style. CCL has no jurisdiction over these “personal” areas. Parents must negotiate these aspects when choosing care for their children. Complaining to CCL should not be used for revenge when a parent is unhappy with the program for a nonregulatory reason. In the end, the program will be cleared when CCL finds the complaint has no merit. Bogus complaints just clog the system and slow down the licensing staff from investigating the real ones.

Child Abuse

Providers who have “reasonable suspicion” that a child in their care is being abused are required to report the child's family to the child abuse system. A BANANAS social worker will take calls on our WarmLine, 658-6046, from providers who are unsure whether abuse is occurring, or who want more information prior to reporting a family. Once a provider feels a report is indicated, s/he should call Child Protective Services (CPS), 259-1800. This is never an easy step to take.

While child abuse in a child care setting is rare, it does happen. Parents who suspect child abuse need to report it. If a child has a suspicious injury, she should be taken to a medical facility for an evaluation of the injury. The parent should be candid with the examining nurse or physician about her suspicions. Photographs should be taken to document the injury. Medical personnel are mandated reporters, but this doesn’t mean every suspected case of abuse gets reported to CPS. The parent should ask the doctor or nurse if s/he is going to report the injury. Parents are also welcome to call BANANAS’ WarmLine for information and support. Parents should report any suspected child abuse in the child care setting – physical, sexual, verbal or other type of abusive behavior toward children – to Community Care Licensing. Police departments, CPS and CCL crossreport to each other (i.e. if an abuse complaint comes to the Licensing Office, the Office shares information about the complaint to CPS and the local Police Department, and vice-versa).

However, the cross-reporting might not happen immediately. If a parent is concerned that children are in immediate danger in a child care program, s/he should report the situation directly to the Licensing Office, 622-2602, and, if warranted, to the local Police Department. Sometimes parents want to withdraw a child from care before making an official complaint. This protective gesture is understandable; but it is very important for parents to follow through on a child abuse complaint. Some complaints should never be ignored. When the safety of children is involved, parents and providers must take that extra step of bringing an outside agency into the situation.

In The End...

Here are a few truisms about complaints:

  • Parents are rarely going to be completely satisfied with every aspect of the child care program they select. Likewise, programs may never have complete agreement with every parent whose child they enroll. Differences of opinion are unavoidable and, in some cases, healthy.
  • Problems can’t be solved unless they are discussed openly, and, hopefully, with good will on both sides. Criticism should always be as constructive as possible and accompanied by some suggestions on how to improve the situation.
  • Parents and providers should abide by the rules they agreed to when the child was enrolled or they should jointly change the rules which aren’t working. Compromises made when the parent and provider like and trust each other are usually good for all concerned. However, no compromise will work if the two parties don’t have a basic sense of trust in each other.
  • Remember that complaints made with care can lead to the successful resolution of problems.

Summary of Resources

  • Call BANANAS, 658-7353, if you have questions about licensing regulations or about how to handle a complaint. We will listen to your concerns and try to help you plan a course of action.
  • To report center-based or family child care licensing violations or suspected child abuse in child care, parents should contact Community Care Licensing, 622-2602.
  • To report suspected cases of child abuse, contact Child Protective Services, 259-1800.
  • Last but not least, parents have the right to check the licensing history of any licensed child care program. The information is available from Community Care Licensing, 622-2614. Providers are also required to provide parents with any licensing report that documents a facility visit or substantiated complaint investigation.


In addition to Handouts, BANANAS also has several videos on parent/provider relations that can be checked out at our office:


  • Cultivating Roots: Partnership with Families
  • Partnership with Parents For a full listing of available videos, please see our Video Lending Library List at our office or website, A Rosenberg Foundation Publication



A Rosenberg Foundation Publication

©1985, BANANAS, Inc. Revised 2003.

View Full Article
Add your own comment
DIY Worksheets
Make puzzles and printables that are educational, personal, and fun!
Matching Lists
Quickly create fun match-up worksheets using your own words.
Word Searches
Use your own word lists to create and print custom word searches.
Crossword Puzzles
Make custom crossword puzzles using your own words and clues.