Early Care & Education
Public Counsel's Early Care and Education Law Project (ECE Law Project) was established in 1986 to increase child care capacity in low-income communities and to improve the quality of care.
With the help of pro bono attorneys and volunteer law students, ECE Law Project provides free legal assistance to existing and/or prospective family child care providers and child care centers in a variety of ways:
Direct Legal Services and Advocacy
ECE Law Project staff provides legal representation to family child care providers and qualifying child care centers regarding legal issues relating to their child care programs. Without such support, many of these providers would be unable to get their business started, or to sustain quality services to low-income children or children with special needs. ECE Law Project staff assists and advises child care providers on their general legal rights and responsibilities in many areas, including the following:
- Accommodating children with special needs
- Administrative hearings
- Child abuse reporting obligations
- Contract negotiations, drafting and reviewing
- Employment concerns
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Licensing regulations
- Privacy and confidentiality concerns
- Use permits and other zoning requirements
Transactional Legal Services
Many child care providers operating family child care homes and child care centers lack access to essential legal services, particularly as they prepare to open their business or undertake expansion efforts. Staff attorneys and pro bono counsel provide transactional legal assistance for child care providers including assistance with incorporation and business structure, real estate matters and reviewing and negotiating loan, construction and other service agreements. ECE Law Project may also assist a child care provider by finding an attorney in private practice from one of our volunteer law firms to take the case on a pro bono basis.
ECE Law Project Publications
ECE Law Project has developed a series of short "fact-sheets" on topics such as when and how providers may administer medication or release children; and on the requirements of providers to obtain worker's compensation coverage and liability insurance. Additional educational materials are developed as the need becomes apparent.
California state law gives certain protections to expanding and existing family child care. However, ECE Law Project has found that numerous cities fail to comply with state law and erect illegal zoning and other administrative barriers to such facilities. ECE Law Project, at times with the assistance of pro bono firms, takes action to compel local planning commissions and city councils to comply with state law and reform obstructive zoning ordinances.
In addition, ECE Law Project has partnered with the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) and others to develop an integrated team approach to providing technical assistance to persons wishing to develop or expand child care centers in high-need areas of Los Angeles County. In order to continue this work, the ECE Law Project is chairing the LA County Child Care Planning Committee's Constructing Connections Los Angeles Coordinating Council workgroup. The goal of this Council is to continue critical child care facilities development conversations and to take on and coordinate activities that are relevant to furthering efforts to increase the development of quality childcare centers.
ECE Law Project provides seminars in both English and Spanish on a variety of legal issues to the child care community. Recent presentations have been on topics such as: parent-provider contracts, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and difficult family issues. ECE Law Project also gives workshops for family child care provider associations, child care resource and referral agencies, and other community-based organizations to educate and advise child care providers on their legal rights and responsibilities.
ECE Law Project staff and our pro bono lawyers work closely with policy-makers, state agencies, child care providers and the public to effectuate policy reforms improving the quality and availability of child care in Los Angeles County. This includes disseminating educational and training materials; and also providing: (1) advice on state and federal policy developments; (2) technical assistance on statutory and regulatory changes; and, (3) analysis of legislation.