As hosts of “Childcare Conversations,” we’ve often been asked, “Do You Need a License for After School Programs?” This has sparked numerous in-depth discussions about the intricacies of childcare and education. In a recent episode, my co-host Carrie and I delved into the complex and crucial world of after-school programs, impacting educators and program directors alike. I’m excited to share with you the insights and lessons from that conversation in a more detailed and structured format.
The Licensing Landscape: A Maze of Regulations
Many involved in after-school programs ponder whether acquiring a license is necessary. The answer, unfortunately, is not straightforward. It depends on many of factors, including the nature of the activities provided and the services offered. As the former executive director of the Texas Afterschool Association* and a leader in this space for over a decade, I’ve seen firsthand how these regulations can change and the importance of staying informed.
The Benefits of Being Licensed
Carrie and I explored the potential advantages of obtaining a license for your program. Beyond the obvious compliance with legal requirements, a license can open doors to additional funding sources, enhance professional development opportunities for staff, and provide more favorable insurance options. These benefits can be substantial, making the pursuit of a license a strategic move for many programs.
Understanding the Shift: From “After School” to “Out of School Time”
We initially addressed the significant shift in terminology from ‘after school’ to ‘out of school time.” This change is not merely semantic; it reflects a broader understanding of the role these programs play in the lives of children and families. As we discussed, this evolution in language has real implications for how programs are perceived, regulated, and funded.
Exemptions and Special Considerations
Not all after-school programs are equal; they don’t all fall under the same regulatory requirements. We discussed specific scenarios where exemptions might apply, such as programs operating within a school district or those focusing on a single skill. Understanding these nuances is essential for running a compliant and successful program.
If you are only offering “training in one skill” you don’t need to be licensed.
“Texas Human Resources Code §42.041(b)(18) exempts certain programs where children receive direct instruction in a single expertise or proficiency. Requirements for this exemption are set by law and must be met to qualify for the exemption. HRC §42.041(b)(18) refers to a program:
in which a child receives direct instruction in a single skill, talent, ability, expertise, or proficiency;
that does not provide services or offerings that are not directly related to the single talent, ability, expertise, or proficiency;
that does not advertise or otherwise represent that the program is a child-care facility, day-care center, or licensed before-school or after-school program or that the program offers child-care services;
that informs the parent or guardian:
that the program is not licensed by the state; and
about the physical risks a child may face while participating in the program; and
that conducts background checks for all program employees and volunteers who work with children in the program using information that is obtained from the Department of Public Safety.”
What does that mean? If there is a gymnastics studio that also goes on a field trip to the local park to play, it isn’t exempt because it is offering services not directly related to the single skill. If you offer martial arts training & trampoline classes, you aren’t exempt, because those are 2 skills.
Can a single skill program offer field trips, homework, and nap-time for children in care and still be exempt?
No, because offering these activities would not meet the criteria for exemption. However, there are activities that a single skill exempt program can provide. For example, providing transportation, serving snacks, giving children time to change into proper gear and having reasonable breaks during the hours of operation are services related to the instruction of any single skill, talent or proficiency.
Private schools and public schools are regulated by state government agencies, not HHSC. Very small private schools may be exempt from all regulation. That is not our area of expertise.
“Private educational facilities that are accredited by the Texas Education Agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or are a member of the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission and that operate for educational purposes for prekindergarten and above may be exempt from regulation.”
Summer camps used to have some exemptions. These have changed. If you operate summer camp for more than 3 weeks or 40 days in a year you are exempt from licensing.
“There is no exemption for an 11-week summer program. Texas Human Resources Code §42.041(b)(17) exempts a child care facility that operates for less than three consecutive weeks and less than 40 days in a period of 12 months. If during a 12-month period your facility operates for fewer than three consecutive weeks and for under 40 days, your facility may be exempt from regulation. If your facility plans to operate over the limits provided in law for exempt facilities, contact your local licensing office for further information.”
Professional Associations and Accreditation: Why They Matter
We also highlighted the significance of professional associations and the accreditation process. These entities play a pivotal role in setting industry standards, advocating for policy changes, and providing resources for program improvement. Being part of such organizations can lend credibility to your program and keep you abreast of best practices.
The Impact of Regulations on Operations and Finances
Throughout our conversation, Carrie and I stressed the significance of understanding and complying with regulations governing after-school programs. These rules can have a significant impact on your operations, financial planning, and insurance needs. Being well-informed can help you avoid costly missteps and ensure the sustainability of your program.
Having a license enables your program to access federal funds for children’s tuition, creating a significant financial impact. These funds are broadly called the Child Care Block Grant Funds. In Texas we generally call it CCS and it is administered by the Texas Workforce Commission. If you have a license you can receive these funds allowing families with fewer financial resources to join your program and you will receive your tuition from the Child Care Block Grant Funds.
Carrie crunched the numbers, revealing that a child in a year-round afterschool program in Pflugerville, TX could generate between $10,841 and $11,861 through CCS. Are you open to completing some paperwork to welcome 10 children into your program, ensuring guaranteed payment at that level?
Engaging with Our Community
As we concluded the episode, we urged our listeners to actively participate in our podcast. Your likes, reviews, and content sharing contribute to expanding our reach within the industry, ultimately enhancing after-school programs everywhere.
The realm of after school programs is as rewarding as it is challenging. Through our podcast episode, Carrie and I aimed to shed light on the complexities of regulations and licensing, providing our listeners with the knowledge to navigate these waters confidently. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or new to the field, understanding these aspects is key to running a top-notch program that benefits all involved.
Remember, the journey doesn’t end here. Stay connected, stay informed, and let’s continue to work together to create enriching out of school time experiences for every child.