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Full Access Versus Locking Doors in Family Child Care Facilities

During our recent travels to Kansas and California, an alarming theme emerged among family childcare providers. While inquiring about how to secure a childcare facility, many family child care providers stated that licensure regulations prevented them from locking their doors during operating hours. This presented a huge red flag for us, as unlocked doors can lead to deadly consequences.

Always keep outside doors locked for the safety of children and staff.

We decided to do some digging on this topic for clarification. We reached out to California and Kansas licensing officials to learn more. In both cases, we received clarification regarding the policy. Neither state requires (or wants) doors to be left open and unlocked.

“For Child Care Centers which are considered a Group E occupancy, California Fire Code Section 1008.1.9 states that doors shall be readily openable from the egress side without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort. In other words, doors can be locked for ingress, but must be able to be opened from the inside in order to appropriately exit in case of fire or emergency.” Stated a California licensing specialist. Further, “In both types of facilities, a door alarm is also permissible in addition to being locked from ingress (outside in).”

We discovered that in the state of California, family child care providers cannot use an alarm bell in lieu of locking facility doors from the outside and that there is no requirement in regulations that the outside doors are to remain unlocked during the hours of operation.

Similar confusion was had in Kansas. Kansas Health and Environment stated, “There are no child care licensing regulations that prevent someone from locking the front door of a license or group day care home. I also confirmed with KSFM (Kansas State Fire Marshal) that there are no fire regulations that prevent this either.”

What Might Be Causing This Confusion?

California’s Health and Safety Code Section 1596.857(c) states in part, “If a child day care facility denies a parent or legal guardian the right to enter, the department shall issue a warning citation…” With each citation carrying a civil penalty of $50, or license revocation, family child care providers cannot afford to stumble when it comes to allowing access to a parent or guardian. But, instead of giving parents and caregivers “access to inspect the facility without advance notice during the normal operating hours,” through a well-secured entry, providers are leaving facility doors unlocked, and open to the general public.