Protect your livelihood:

Washington Business Advocates attorney Elizabeth Steen and our team previously helped small business owners and licensees who were investigated and fined by the state of Washington.

We stopped because it is increasingly difficult to provide a cost-effective service. By the time you pay us to fix your fine, you may as well have paid the fine. 

A lot of people are familiar with law firms that operate like "tort trolls." These are lawyers who know how to work the system so that you will pay them to go away. They enter lawsuits that they know aren't valid. They target people who can't afford to defend themselves in court. And they ask for less money than a court battle would cost. They know that almost everyone will pay the money rather than go to court. The state of Washington operates the same way. For the most part, they just want a fine. Most fines can be negotiated down to about half what you were originally fined. You don't want to pay a lawyer to do that for you. You wouldn't save any money. 

We handled many cases for daycare owners and daycare centers. Click Here for a free legal guide for a daycare provider who wants to fight an unfair or inaccurate punishment. Click here for a flowchart guide to the hearing process. We will update this site with guides for the other agencies. 

Our guide will help you focus your defense and negotiate. We are also available for a consult if you want. Our clients have always been hardworking and honest people. Don't let anyone intimidate you. Don't lose your business. Protect yourself. You can do it. 

Update: What to do if the state employee is lying or they pretend to lose your paperwork? 

I still get about a call a week even after closing this aspect of our firm. Most calls start like this, "I have a story..." and then they tell me some variation of, "Well the employee was lying..." First, let me just say that I believe you. I did this for five years. The employees lie - or to be more precise, they swear under oath to things that really could not be true. DSHS employee M.M. swore under oath that a daycare provider who does not speak English had asked to speak to her without a lawyer and then agreed she owed a six-figure fine. M. also swore that the daycare provider, who again does not speak English and works 60 hours a week while raising a family, had somehow created daily attendance records that were "mirror images" of each other to support fraudulent billing. M. didn't have the attendance records available to prove her six-figure claim, even though I asked and waited for months. So I emailed all the provider's attendance records for the last three years and I asked M. to point out the sheets that were "mirror images." She has not responded. I didn't see any records that were "mirror images" in those three years and I find it pretty incredible that M. saw enough of them to support a fine of $180,640.54.

But I know that everyone reading this is thinking, "What if you're missing something? What if there's some explanation?" And sure. Maybe M. was just much to busy to explain how she fined someone who can't even speak English $180,640.54, and then how she discovered this person really truly wanted to pay the fine and told her so in English but without any witnesses, and also how this person had forged records that Misty just can't find yet because she's been so busy that she couldn't manage to locate the evidence for the $180,640.54 fine she wants. Maybe. It could happen. 

So if your first thought was something like "Oh no that can't be right..." and it probably was. Then please remember that no matter how sincere you are, or how obvious the lie, most normal people will still respond the way you did reading that story. "That can't be right!" (Spoiler: M. put all of this story into a record that you can request from the Office of Administrative Hearings because she either doesn't see the problem or she's well aware that no one has time to monitor random administrative hearings to prevent six-figure state employee fraud). 

And here is another story. DSHS employee K.R. and her cohort C.H. swore under oath that they read a police report describing dangerous conditions at a daycare. They used this police report to justify closing the daycare.  I asked for a copy of the police report they said they had, and I still have the letter from the police department telling me: 1) There was no police report issued to the public: 2) The police officer K.R. said she talked to was never assigned to that case; and 3) The police report that was eventually created for internal records was written two months after K.R. and C.H. swore under oath that they had read the report. This feat of prognostication  was reported to the relevant authorities and as far as I know nothing ever came of it. Again the matter is a public record that you could request from the Office of Administrative Hearings. But you won't. Because you're more worried about your own problems. Like everyone else. 

I have a lot of these stories. So I personally, for myself, will believe you when you call and say "I don't understand. I wanted to do the right thing but this state employee is lying and can they get away with that?." (Oh yes they definitely can). But most people won't believe you. Even with evidence. Remember that. Don't expect to be rescued by the superheroes who monitor state employees demanding truth and justice. 

Okay they're jerks but really, what do you DO? 

First,  your instinct will be to call their boss, call a state senator, or otherwise try to prove you have pull with someone who can stop the jerk. Trust me here. You don't. If you did, the jerk wouldn't be bothering you. So really please let go of the fantasy that someone will save you. You will have to rescue yourself here:

1) Make a record. The fastest easiest way to get a record you can use to help yourself is to ask the state employees who are lying. "Do you have proof of this? If there are attendance records that are mirror images and prove a six-figure fraud, then okay, please give them to me." People who are not lying will have no problem giving you their records. Best case scenario, they give you the records they have, you can see why they think what they think, and then you can both move forward. But of course it's rarely that easy. An employee who is lying doesn't want to have to create fake records too (although they can change the Intake Assessments in the DSHS system or edit a CPS intake - watch for records that are out of order or have timestamps that are the same as other records because that often means someone changed something later). But usually the employee who is lying will simply refuse to give you the record. They'll say they don't have it. And that's when you know they're lying. Everything the government touches must be recorded. So if the employees tell you that they don't have these records or they don't keep records of this type, then  best case scenario is that they're not very good at their jobs. But more than likely they are lying. 

2) Challenge the state employees records. State employees who are lying use default and missing records to avoid getting caught. They say they didn't get your hearing request. They say they have no record of a response. They default you and you can never do anything about it. So send everything by email or fax with pictures and receipts. Don't trust certified mail. If you send something by certified mail the state employees will just say that you "can't prove what was in the envelope" and it won't count. Fax or email is best. Do not EVER give a state employee original records - they will lose them immediately - and if you give them something in person then send an email listing everything you gave them. 

3) Pay a fine. Most problems will go away if you're willing to pay a small fine. Is this right? No. Is this fair? Hell no. But it's the fastest easiest way to get these people out of your life. Be sure to make the conditions of paying the fine that you neither admit nor deny guilt, and make the state employees write the settlement so that it cannot be used in further legal proceedings against you. Some state employees think it's just so clever to ask a person to settle one complaint by signing an order that they can use as proof of guilt in future proceedings (Oh yes I remember what you tried to pull I.M., B.G., T.O., P.A... it's actually a long list now that I'm reminded...) Anyway.  Once you sign something, anything they SAID to you goes out the window. So don't be tricked. Watch yourself.  

4) Treat the state employees like a salesperson who wants your money. They're not your friend. This isn't a social call. You don't have to be rude, but you also don't have to pretend you're buddies. For what it's worth, in my experience, the people who are nicest, most friendly, and willing to be accomodating are the people who have the horror stories. Grumpy people rarely get screwed over by the state. Ask yourself: Am I getting what I want? Are they saying yes or no? What is really happening here? Actions speak louder than words. It's easy to miss the huge, glaring problem when it's presented as something like, "We only need your signature for our records. It's not a big deal. We know mistakes happen and we will sort that all out later..." Most people will think "Oh they're going to work it out I should just cooperate while they get this taken care of..." But wait. What are you signing? How exactly are they planning to "work it out?" Sure they made some soothing noises about everything being fine. But then they had you sign paperwork that can be used against you and you don't even know what you signed. (In five years, almost everyone signed anything that was put in front of them and I never had a clietn who could explain what they had signed. Not once). Treat the state employee like your high school acquaintance who just invited you to a "party" where you and 20 random people will learn about an "amazing new opportunity to create wealth without work. that will TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE." Multi-level marketing is a scam, and so is the state regulatory system. Be on your guard.  And never sign anything. 

5) Don't expect "a lawsuit" to fix everything. State employees can almost never be sued for actions taken in the course of their duties. 

Okay so I need to be as wary of the state employees as I would be of someone who wants to sell me overpriced diet supplements, but really what do I DO...

The summary: Be cautious. Delay. Don't sign anything. Delay. Ask for records. Delay. Make your own records. Delay. Ask for the rules. Google the rules. Read the rules. Slow it all down and DELAY. Ask more questions. Just keep asking questions and asking questions until thing start to make sense. Don't be bullied or tricked into signing anything. Don't let them dismiss your hearing by losing paperwork. Don't let them move quickly. Bad news happens quickly in the state regulatory system. Good news takes a long time. Most likely they're there for a fine. Find out how much they want and, if you can, just pay it.

Free legal guide for daycare owners



Representing Your Daycare at an Administrative Hearing

Written for SEIU LOCAL 925 By Elizabeth Steen, attorney

Summer 2018

This guide explains the administrative hearing process for daycare providers and center owners in Washington.


Most people expect an administrative hearing to be something like a trial. It really isn’t. A hearing in Washington is a brief formality where you will be allowed to deny the charges and present any evidence you have to support your denial.


This can be tricky. You will need a script to follow before your hearing starts. Your script will tell the hearing officer (called an Administrative Law Judge or “ALJ”) what you think is important about your case. This guide will help you write your script. The guide starts with the first step to begin the hearing process and continues through the steps you will need to take to protect yourself. At the end is a sample of a good hearing defense based on the steps in this guide.


1.   Send a copy of your notice from the Department with your request for hearing to the Office of Administrative Hearings and to your licensor; the addresses will be on your notice.


Most hearings in Washington state follow the same schedule. The process starts with a hearing request from you and, if you were suspended immediately, a request for stay hearing is filed by you. Send your request in enough time that it will get there before 28 days have passed since the date of the notice. If your notice is dated June 1, then your hearing request has to be at their office before the close of business (5 p.m.) on June 28.


Important: Send a copy of the Notice of Suspension or Notice of Revocation that the Department gave you with your request for hearing. If you forget to include this notice, your hearing could be dismissed. See below on how to prove you included this.


You will have a copy of a form to use with your notice of suspension or revocation. You can also simply send a letter that says something like, “I request a hearing because I followed all the relevant rules and I disagree with the Department.” Whether you use the form from the Department or write your own letter, send a copy of your request to the Office of Administrative Hearings and a second copy to the Department that punished you.


The form from the Department will give you a fax or mailing address of where to send your hearing request. This form will be attached to the notice that told you about your punishment.


If you don’t see any address information on your notice, then google “Office of Administrative Hearings” and “Department of Children, Youth, and Families.” Send your request to the contact information for your local office and follow up a few days later to be sure it was received. The PO Boxes sometimes change, so google to get the current address. Do not rely on information from another daycare provider.


2.   Do not miss your prehearing conference, and do not confuse the prehearing conference with your hearing.


About one month after you send your hearing request, you will receive a “Notice of Prehearing Conference” in the mail. This prehearing conference is NOT your hearing. It is only a phone call with the judge to schedule your hearing. The judge will call you for the prehearing conference and ask you for dates you can appear for your stay hearing and your regular hearing. Some hearing judges like to have both parties agree to the issues for the hearing in the prehearing conference. Others do not. Some like to set a schedule for evidence. Others do not.


Important: Do not miss your prehearing conference. Follow the instructions on the notice to call in for the hearing. If you miss your prehearing conference, then you will default, which means you lose your hearing automatically.


To avoid default, you must call the Office of Administrative Hearings at the number on you notice, or call 1800-845-8830. Tell your name to the person who answers the phone. Give them your phone number. Then wait for the judge to call you.  If the judge does not call you, then you need to call the Office of Administrative Hearings to be sure they did not make a mistake. It is very common for the Office of Administrative Hearings to make a mistake.


Some hearing judges work from home. Sometimes the hearing judge will use the wrong area code. Sometimes the hearing judge can’t make their phone system work. Do not assume that someone else will fix the mistake. They won’t. It is up to you to be sure that the judge knows you are available. Call and keep calling so that you will not lose your hearing. Don’t worry about bothering people. You can lose your business if you do not get that phone call. It is important. Don’t be intimidated.


3.   Appeal a default within 21 days, or one year if you can prove you did not receive the notice.


If you default by missing your prehearing conference, then you will have 21 days after the date of the default to file an appeal and reinstate your hearing. The notice that you defaulted will be sent by mail – you do not have 21 days after you receive the notice. You only have 21 days after the date that’s on the notice of default. The instructions on how to appeal a default will be sent with your notice of default.


Here’s a short list of reasons that will NOT excuse a default: Lawyer error, being busy, writing down the wrong day, forgetting to call the Office of Administrative Hearings to give them your telephone number, accidentally giving them the wrong telephone number, and any other sort of social excuse.


A short list of reasons that will usually excuse a default: Emergency surgery for you or a family member, sudden illness, long vacation during which you missed the notice, your mail was sent to another address, and/or the notice was written in a language you do not understand and you could not get it translated.


The key thing in making an excuse for a default is whether or not you had NOTICE. If your attorney screwed up, then you had notice. If you were on vacation, then you did not. If you were busy and forget then you did have notice. If your relative was getting your mail then you did not. You can only win if you did NOT have notice.



4.   Track your requests very carefully – you will need to prove that you sent your paperwork.


This is very important! Send every piece of paper connected to your dispute through certified mail with a pdf of the documents that are in the envelope emailed to your licensor on the same day. Keep the certified mail receipt and a copy of the email together in your records. You have to do this because you will need records to prove that you sent any paperwork you give to any state employee – whether it be the Office of Administrative Hearings or your licensor.


Your hearing request, any requests you make about scheduling, your attendance records, or any other evidence could disappear without a trace unless you keep proof! Do not give anyone a hearing request, form, file, or any information at all to anyone in person. Always send your paperwork in a way that makes several different records that you can keep. Never believe information you receive over the phone. Have everything in writing!


Department employees will file a motion to dismiss your case if there is any question about your paperwork. If you have a certified mail receipt for mailing your attendance records, they will say they didn’t get all the attendance records they wanted in the envelope. If you have a certified mail receipt for mailing your hearing request, they will say the hearing request did not include the right form or that it was not signed. If you have a fax sheet, they will say all the pages did not go through with the fax (avoid fax because the Office of Administrative Hearings fax goes to a central database and it’s too hard to track).


It is very important that you send a certified letter and an email with a pdf of all the documents to your licensor on the same day you mailed the package every single time. Don’t trust certified mail alone. You have to send an email the same day. If you forget, the Department could notice and try to dismiss your hearing. Do not let them have an opening to argue about this.


Finally, after you send your documents, call several times to confirm they were received. If someone tries to tell you that your documents were not found, DO NOT BACK DOWN. Send them your proof. Send the proof over and over and over until they fix their mistake (I have had to ask as many as 17 times before an error was corrected, and even then the hearing judge changed it back after it was confirmed he made an error). Do not be intimidated and do not let them call you rude. You cannot afford to lose your business because you’re trying to be polite.


Your document records are really important! Do not ever let a mistake related to your records stay on the record. Never. No matter how much pushback you get. It could be the difference between winning your hearing or losing and not being able to appeal.


5.   Keep a record of your phone calls.


There’s no way to prove what was said in a phone call. It’s better if every document that you send is in writing. If you have rely on a phone conversation, then write down the time you called, the name of the staffer you spoke to, and some notes on the conversation.


If you’re using the phone, watch out for the following staffers at the Office of Administrative Hearings: Lyndsey Largent, Julie Westcott, Kristina Westcott, Alex Cyr, Tristan McKay, and Jessica Segovia. Watch out for the following staffers at the new Department of Children, Families, and Youth: Misty Martinez, Tamra Derrick, Susan Anderson, and Amber Taylor.


These staffers all failed to update files after they had proof the file was missing paperwork and/or were involved in disputes with daycare providers who said they sent documents that these staffers said they could not find. If one of these staffers answers the phone or contacts you, you will want absolutely everything they say about your documents in writing. Ask for their email and keep good records.


6.   Ask to see every policy in writing.


Some staffers will tell you that they can’t help you because it’s “policy.” Or they ask for things that will hurt your case, like a signed FLCA with information that is not true. And they may tell you that you have to sign the FLCA or agree to what they want because of “policy.”


Any staffer who says they’re following policy should be able to find that policy and show it to you. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FOLLOW A POLICY THAT ISN’T IN WRITING. Ask for the WAC number, and/or ask to talk to their supervisor. Do not simply agree to follow “policy.” A real policy will be written down and posted on the Department website. If it’s not on the website, then it’s not a real policy. Do not let someone bluff you.


Do not lose your business because of bureaucracy. Protect yourself. Ask to see every policy in writing.



7.   A stay hearing could let you reopen, but you have to be careful to avoid some common traps.


A stay hearing will allow a hearing judge to reopen you if your license has been suspended. You can ask for a stay hearing when you request a hearing. If you ask for a stay hearing, try to use the following phrase, “I request a stay under WAC 170-03-0300.” You will not automatically be given a stay hearing if you ask for a hearing. You have to ask for both a hearing and a stay hearing on the form in which you request a hearing.

You must ask for a stay hearing within seven days of your notice. And don’t expect the stay hearing to be scheduled quickly. It will take about six weeks for your stay hearing to be scheduled.


Avoid this common trap: Do not allow the Department to schedule your stay hearing before their investigation into your daycare is finished. You will automatically lose the stay hearing if the Department has not finished the investigation. And no one will tell you this when you’re scheduling the hearing. They will let you show up in the stay hearing. They will pretend to listen to you during the whole stay hearing. Then they will send you a notice that says you cannot be reopened until after the investigation is complete because you could still be a risk to the public.


Beware of employees who call you and say that they want to help you get a faster stay hearing. If someone tells you they want to expedite your stay hearing, ASK IF THE INVESTIGATION IS FINISHED.


An investigation into child abuse or neglect must be finished in 45 days. A lot of state employees still think the deadline is 90 days because that was the old deadline from several years ago. This is not true. The state can only extend their investigation after 45 days if the police ask the Department for help.  


Keep track of the deadlines for the state employees who are investigating you. A stay hearing is not really a way to get reopened quickly because of the scheduling problems and the loophole about investigations having to be finished. But a stay hearing is a good way for you to pressure the Department to close your case. It operates like a mini-hearing, and the Department will usually drop the case against you if you can make a good showing in your stay hearing, even if you lose.  Do not let them drag their feet. You lose business and clients every day you’re closed.


State employees to watch out for: Denise Coppock, Judy Bunkelman, Anna Marie Thebo, Laura Beltran, Kim Ripley, and Corrie Hayes. These employees may tell you they want to help you avoid paperwork or otherwise ask you to let them handle your paperwork, or they may want you to follow certain policies that they won’t show you in writing. You should protect yourself by getting everything in writing if you are dealing with one of these employees.


8.   Speak up in your hearing! Be specific and do not try to be social.  


A hearing in Washington is usually very short, a few hours or sometimes a couple of days. Because it is so short, your statements must always be very specific. The hearing judge (called an administrative law judge, or ALJ) is there to collect evidence, create an official record, and issue a summary of the Department’s action that supports the Department. The hearing judge can only deny the Department’s action if there is not enough “substantial evidence” (see “substantial evidence” discussed below) to support the Department’s closing your daycare.


Everything you say in your hearing, everything, has to support the idea that 1) You followed all the rules; and 2) The Department does not have any evidence you did not. Your comments must be relevant and memorable, otherwise you will be ignored. Don’t be vague and don’t leave room for doubt. Back up everything you can with paperwork. If you say there were six children at the daycare that day, then show the judge your attendance records for that day. If you say that you have a signed injury report, then show that to the judge.


Wrong: “I don’t know. I think the child was on the floor and I was right there. I think I could see everything. I didn’t see a problem. It was fine because the child wasn’t really hurt.”


The hearing judge will, at best, ignore this comment. But some hearing judges will actually consider that to be a confession. You’ll get a final order that says something like, “Licensee could not be certain of where the child was located at the time of the accident. Licensee did not see the accident. Licensee stated that the child was fine but licensee admitted violating rule.”


Social conversations are very harmful when you’re testifying. Social conversations use qualifying statements and a lot of polite hedging. Social conversations try to give both sides the benefit of the doubt. Do not have a social conversation. Give testimony. Be specific. Be brief.


Right: “The WAC says I have to be in sight OR hearing of the children at all times. I could see the child. I was in sight AND hearing. I followed the WAC. Here is a picture of the layout of my house. Here is where I was. Here is where the child was. Here is the injury report that the child’s mother signed.”


The hearing judge is listening for a direct denial using the exact wording of the relevant rule. It will feel awkward not to use your own words. Some people feel rude making short, simple statements. Some people are also uncomfortable contradicting the state employees in the hearing. They feel rude saying, “No. I followed the WAC. No that’s not true.” But you have to be firm if you want to save your license. You must deny the charge specifically, using the exact language in the rule. Be as specific and direct as possible.


Remember: This is NOT a court of law. There is no right to confront an accuser, right to free speech, right to practice your religion, or right to be treated fairly, or at least in the way most people would consider fair. The judge will give more weight to the Department’s “expertise” and will believe them over you. You always need evidence.

5. What is “Substantial Evidence?”


The Department is supposed to support its action against you with “substantial evidence.” Legally, this means “more likely than not.” Substantial evidence is “less than a preponderance, but rather such relevant evidence as a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” [Harris v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 330 Fed. Appx. 813, 814 (11th Cir. Fla. 2009)]. In most courts, substantial evidence would be witness statements, records, or other reasonable forms of proof. In Department hearings, however, the substantial evidence requirement has pretty much been reduced to testimony from Department employees.


Legally, the Department is supposed to bring every official record that they want the judge to believe. If they say that your daycare was the subject of an Emergent CPS intake that indicated danger to children in your care, then they’re supposed to show the judge the intake. This is called the “Best Evidence Rule.” It is found in Washington Rules of Evidence 1005 and in the case State v. Smith, 66 Wn. App. 825, 832 P.2d 1366, 1992 Wash. App.


For whatever reason, hearing judges almost never ask for a copy of a record. Instead, what happens is that the Department is allowed to say what they think happened, and then they back up their statements with documents that they signed describing what they think happened. These are affidavits, or sworn statements.


The Department can do this because the Department passed a rule saying that the hearing officer must base the final order on affidavits (sworn statements). And if you remember, affidavits from Department employees are given more weight because of “Department expertise.”


This means that in most hearings, the Department employees can sign what they want and say what they want. For example, in 2015 Kimberly Ripley and Corrie Hayes signed an affidavit describing a police report that the police department said was not finished until several months later, and was never released to the public. So legally you have to wonder if what they said was true. 


To counter this, you will have to have evidence too, or the judge will believe the Department. Look for texts from parents, phone records, attendance records… bring any paperwork that will help support your version of events.



6.     Are the Department employees telling the truth in my hearing?


It depends. Are you guilty? Was the statement of charges against you correct? Did you hurt a child through negligence? Is your daycare dangerous to the public? If so, then the Department employees are telling the truth and you will likely not win your hearing.


But if your daycare is not dangerous, and if the Department’s charges against you are not correct, then someone made a mistake. There is a lie in your paperwork somewhere. And if there is a lie in your paperwork, you must bring evidence. The judge will not take your word for it. You have to prove your case. If the Department filed charges against you that are wrong, then you only have a few hours to convince the hearing judge that the Department employees made a mistake.


It’s also important to remember while you’re arguing your case that the hearing judge is paid by the Department. Each state agency pays the Department for its hearings at an hourly rate. The hearing judge will say he or she is “independent” but at least until last year, the hearing judge performance reviews included members of the Department who paid for the hearings. The Office of Administrative Hearings is quite literally billing the Department for the hearing judge’s time. The Department is literally the client of the hearing judge’s office. Not you. You didn’t pay to be there. You won’t be sitting in the hearing judge’s performance review. Don’t expect the hearing judge to treat you like a client. They already have a client in the hearing room, and it’s not you.


Also while you have not been allowed to talk to the hearing judge until the hearing, the hearing judge or hearing staff have been talking to the Department regularly before the hearing even starts. Up until this year, every hearing has been set up in an email exchange that includes the Department employees, the Department’s lawyer (if any), staff for the Office of Administrative Hearings, and, sometimes, the hearing judge. You are not part of these emails. You are not part of any other conversation before your hearing. There’s no way to know for sure what the hearing judge has heard about your case before you start.


All of this means you are not part of the clique. So you will have to work harder.


7.     How to find the relevant rules to use in your statements


The only rules that matter in a hearing are the rules listed in the Department’s Notice of Suspension or Notice of Revocation or any other action against you. Anything you say about anything other than these rules will not help you.


You must try to restate the rule as directly as possible, and also try to avoid saying anything that would allow people to believe any other Department rules were broken. Don’t say your sister sometimes watches the children or say you may have been wrong. Don’t agree with statements like, “Well we all make mistakes.”


Don’t allow a Department witness or attorney to put words in your mouth. And, just fyi while you’re waiting for your hearing, don’t sign a FLCA (Facility License Compliance Agreement) unless you agree with everything in it. Anything you sign will be given to the judge. And investigators are allowed to lie to you. They can tell you something like, “Oh if you sign this it’s okay that it’s not what really happened. I’m just trying to help you stay open.” When really as soon as you sign it they will consider it a confession and you can be closed without a hearing. STATE EMPLOYEES ARE ALLOWED AND ENCOURAGED TO LIE DURING INVESTIGATIONS. They don’t all do it, but some of them do. Do not trust their statements. If you have any questions at all, tell the investigator you need to have your union representative look over the paperwork.


8.     Remember that any rule can be used to close your daycare – the Department will not focus your hearing on only the rule that you are charged with breaking.


One provider was closed and her license revoked without a hearing after she asked for a hearing, and during the prehearing process, she admitted to being out of ratio for six minutes while she was waiting for a parent who was late picking up a child. The ratio had nothing to do with the original complaint, and she could prove the original complaint was wrong. But the Department amended its charge against her to include a complaint of being out of ratio. And the judge threw out her hearing because she had confessed to being out of ratio.


This doesn’t seem fair, of course, but the rationale is that she admitted to breaking a Department rule. The Department can suspend or revoke the license of anyone who breaks a Department rule. See WAC 170-296A-8150. The Department can close your daycare if you break any rule at all. They do not need to prove you broke the rule they charged you with – they can use anything you say.


The paperwork the Department gives you will list the rules the hearing judge will want you to deny. You will be given a Notice of Suspension and/or a Notice of Revocation. If you are fined, you will be given a Notice of Overpayment. This notice MUST state the rule that the Department alleges was broken.


If your notice does not state a rule, then call SEIU Local 925 and ask for help. Most notices will clearly explain the rule that was broken and list the WACs they think you broke. Look up the WAC. You can google them. For example: your letter may say something like, “You failed to supervise a child who fell and hit her head in violation of WAC 170-296A-5750.” Google WAC 170-296A-5750 and find the part of the rule that deals with supervision. It will say, “(1) The licensee must provide required staffing levels, staff-to-child ratios and supervision for the number of children in attendance. (2) The licensee or primary staff person must be aware of what the children are doing at all times and be available and able to promptly assist or redirect activities when necessary. If unable to see the children, the licensee or primary staff person must frequently go to the area where the children are located to check on them. For the purposes in this section frequently is defined as on many occasions with little time between them.”


When you write your request for hearing, use the exact words from the rule. Say, “I was aware of what the children were doing at all times and I was available to promptly assist and redirect activities when necessary.” Then use your own words to explain, “I saw the little girl when she fell. She was in the living room area and I was near her. I was able to help her immediately. I did not fail to supervise her or any other children. I followed the relevant rules at all times.”


9.     What if I don’t have any records from the Department? What if they don’t give me the CPS intake that shows the complaint against me?


During the last three years, Department employees repeatedly tried to keep a copy of the CPS intake away from the person who was suspended based on the CPS intake. They made up a lot of excuses, but most of them simply claimed that they didn’t have a copy of the CPS intake. This is not true. The Department relied on the CPS intake to suspend you. They obviously have the CPS intake. And by suspending you based on the intake, they made the intake a Department record. Do not accept any excuses for denying you the CPS intake.


Department rules require CPS to send a copy of the complaint against you to your licensor or the supervisor in the office that oversees your license. There will never be a situation where the Department knows there’s a complaint against you, but does not know what’s in the complaint.


Department employees have to give you a copy of your file. Your file will include the CPS Intake or any other records that the Department used to justify punishing you. Some Department employees will tell you that they suspended you because you have a CPS complaint, but they will claim that they don’t have a copy of the CPS intake.


10.  You are entitled to see every record the Department used to punish you, including the CPS intake.


You are entitled to every record that is connected to your file. When you ask for your hearing, call your licensor and ask for your file. If your case involves a CPS complaint, then you have to specifically ask for a copy of the CPS intake. If someone refuses, or they send you a copy of your file without the CPS intake, then ask again and again and again until you get your intake. You cannot defend yourself unless you know what the actual complaint against you said. You have to have your CPS intake to defend yourself. If the Department tries to keep it from you, that is a huge red flag that someone is not finishing their paperwork. Do not worry about being nice or making trouble for the staffers who claim they cannot find your CPS intake. These records are usually something anyone in the Department can pull up within minutes. DO NOT LOSE YOUR BUSINESS BECAUSE THE EMPLOYEES DON”T WANT TO GIVE YOU THE RECORDS. You deserve to see everything in the file. Do not let anyone give you an excuse that would leave you in a hearing trying to defend yourself when you’ve never actually seen the original complaint.


At least one daycare provider found out that DCYF employee Kim Ripley called in a CPS intake to start a second investigation against the daycare provider when the first investigation had to be closed for lack of evidence. Another daycare provider found out that the CPS intake alleged details that proved the child was not actually at her daycare when the child was hurt. Another daycare provider was suspended for “allowing a dangerous condition on the premises” and when she got the CPS intake, it alleged that a toddler said he was being “chased by people holding knives.” Coincidentally, this was shortly after the same toddler told people he had been allowed to watch the horror movie “It,” which features scenes of children being chased by people holding knives. Another daycare provider found out that the CPS intake alleged behavior that was not against the rules. The CPS intakes have a lot of information. IT IS A HUGE RED FLAG IF YOUR CPS INTAKE IS NOT AVAILABLE.


11.  You will have to testify in person, and you should find other people to testify for you; But the judge will mostly ignore letters from your friends and families in your daycare.


The rule in daycare licensing hearings is that the judge will give more weight to statements from Department employees who are exercising their expertise. In practice, this means that the judge will believe the Department over you on pretty much every relevant topic. You are fighting an uphill battle in your hearing.


Some people try to even the playing field by giving the judge a lot of character witnesses. They ask all of the families in their daycare and all of their friends to write character references for them. The judge will allow this, but it will not make a difference to the outcome of the hearing. A judge can only use statements sworn under penalty of perjury to support a decision.


If the families in your daycare want to help, they can write a letter that states, ‘I hereby swear under penalty of perjury,” and then describes what they know about your daycare that is relevant to your case. If you are accused of negligence, it would be helpful for the families to write letters saying that they never saw you act negligently. If you are accused of being harsh or spanking, then it would help to have testimony that says you were not spanking children at your daycare and their child never complained about you. General character testimony will not be helpful. But specific statements to back you up on the rules will be very helpful.


12.  How do I put all this together? What does a good defense look like?


To prepare for your hearing, write down every charge the Department has against you. Leave space between the charges. Then in that space write down every piece of evidence you have to defend yourself against that specific charge. Write this right underneath every charge. Then write down every witness who can support you next to the evidence. Then, finally, write down your statements next to the witnesses, quoting the relevant rules.


For example: If you are charged with failing to supervise a pre-school-age child who fell down and got hurt while playing in your yard, then write down the charge, “WAC 170-296A-5750(7) The licensee or primary staff person must be within sight and hearing range when children preschool age or younger are using the licensed outdoor space and be available and able to respond if the need arises for the safety of the children.”


Then list every piece of evidence you have to combat the charge. The complaint says that you were out of sight or hearing range and could not respond. So give the judge pictures of your yard, and mark where you were and where the child fell. List any policies you have about outdoor safety. Show the log of your call to report the injury and any texts you sent to check up on the child.


Then write down your witnesses. Ask any staffers or family members to testify for you. Show the judge your record of no complaints or accidents.


Finally, write your statements, and be very specific, “I have been a licensor for 15 years. I have never had a serious injury at my daycare. On June 3, 2018, a four-year-old girl was playing in my yard. I could see and hear the four year old and all the other children. She tripped and fell. Her knee hit a paving stone and she started to limp when she got up. I responded immediately. I picked her up and checked her for other injuries…”


THEN testify about all the other rules you followed. “I reported the injury to her mother and asked her to sign an injury report. The mother said she took her daughter to the ER but she was not seriously hurt. I reported the incident to my licensor anyway because the child did go to the ER. I did not leave a staffer alone with the other children while I took care of the four year old. I called in my husband who is qualified to be my assistant to help so I would stay in ratio.”


Do this for every charge. Then practice your statement all together. Write it all down. A hearing can be very intimidating and you might forget what you wanted to say when you’re under stress.


13.  What will happen in my hearing?

Different hearing judges may vary on procedures. Usually the hearing procedure is informal.
The first thing the administrative law judge will ask for clarification of issues, which is when the Department repeats its charge against you.


Then the hearing judge will go through the exhibits, one by one, to ask if both you and the opposing party have received them all.  Those exhibits will then be admitted into the hearing record, unless either you or the other party objects.  To be "admitted" means that the administrative law judge will consider them in reaching a decision in the case. If one of your exhibits is denied, then you have a problem. Ask the judge to write down specifically why your evidence was denied in the order. Then you can appeal the order and the denial if you lose.

Depending on the hearing judge, you and the other party may be given an opportunity to make an opening statement.  An opening statement is an explanation to the administrative law judge what the evidence will show and why the party should win.  It is not the time to give actual evidence or to testify. 


A good opening statement would be something like, “Your honor, the Department accused me of failing to supervise the children appropriately because a child fell and hurt her knee at my daycare. But I followed all the relevant rules. I have evidence and witnesses who can tell you that I was within sight and hearing of the child when she fell. I reported the injury to my licensor. I am a good daycare provider and I have a safe daycare. Thank you.” It doesn’t have to be long or go into detail.


Once all the witnesses have testified, the hearing judge may ask for closing arguments. A closing argument is one in which both of you both point out the evidence (testimony and exhibits) and the law, which support your respective positions. 


In Washington, most hearing judges like to hear a lot of concern for the children and concern for the rules in the closing. Mention any evidence you have again and then say thank you and sit down.


A good closing might be, “Your honor, I love my children and I take my job seriously. I am a good provider. I showed you these pieces of evidence that prove I was following the rules…. My witnesses said the following…. I am a good provider and I am so sorry that a child was hurt. I would have done anything to stop it. I followed all the relevant rules and I would never leave any children in danger.”


14. You deserve a fair hearing; speak up for yourself.

 Remember through all of this that you are a good provider. You pay taxes. You help people. You deserve to be heard. Do not let anyone intimidate you or make you feel like you should just go away. Your hearing is your only chance to save your business. Take it seriously and make it count. You can do this.

Legal Disclaimer: The materials presented in this guide are intended for informational purposes only. These materials should not be used as legal advice applicable to a reader’s specific situation. In addition, this guide in no way constitutes an attorney-client relationship. It is our intention that all information in this guide be up to date and correct. However this information is subject to change without notice and should not be relied upon for accuracy and pertinence to the reader's specific circumstances. 

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