The FAQ answers questions that child care providers frequently ask the ELCFH. These responses reflect Office of Early Learning (OEL) mandated rules and regulations for School Readiness (SR) and Voluntary Pre-kindergarten (VPK) services as well as policies approved by the ELCFH Board.
When are providers paid for VPK? VPK providers are reimbursed at the end of the month. This is to allow time for funds to be received by the ELCFH from OEL (after invoice from ELCFH is submitted).
Can providers get attendance sheets at the beginning rather than the middle of the month? Once provider reimbursements are processed (usually on the 5th business day of the month) then attendance sheets are run. This way the most updated and current information is printed for providers. Providers can make a copy of the attendance sheet and save for the next month if needed. The ELCFH usually mails the SR and VPK attendance sheets by the 8th working day of the month.
Is it possible for providers to receive the VPK and SR payments together? The VPK invoice is submitted by the ELCFH to OEL by the 8th business day of the month. Reconciliations continue on the part of the ELCFH due to the complexity of the prepayments that providers choose. When the VPK reimbursement is issued to the ELCFH, it is usually by the latter part of the month and those payments are scheduled for the last 2 or 3 business days of the month. SR advances typically offset the SR payments that generally occur by the 10th business day of the month (average the 9th-12th day of the month.). The ELCFH will be reviewing the VPK advance limits this year to see if we can hold more dollars to facilitate payments.
One of my VPK children was not in attendance for the last day of the month and I noticed I was reimbursed less than I usually receive. What is the reason for this? The ELCFH is authorized to pay VPK providers only up to the last day that the child was in attendance for any given month.
When are attendance sheets due? All SR and/or VPK attendance sheets are due on the first working day of the following month (for example, August attendance sheets are due September 1st). Attendance sheets can be faxed to each county ELCFH office, snail mailed, hand-delivered, or placed in the drop box at each ELCFH office. All supporting paperwork, like excused absence forms and documentation must be attached. Any attendance sheets that arrive after the first working day of the month will be processed in the following month reimbursement cycle.
How do I know that my attendance sheet has been received? If faxing, you may request a confirmation call/fax back. Please call the local ELCFH office to confirm that your paperwork has been received on that first working day of the month.
When is my School Readiness/VPK payment going to be deposited? (This is a common question heard beginning the 5th working day of the month and so on). The ELCFH has always made payments to the SR Provider prior to the 15th of the month and will maintain this schedule. VPK true up payments for the last month and prepayments for the next month, occur at the end of each month. All program payments are made by direct deposit to the provider's banking facility.
In submitting January attendance sheets, why can't the provider submit July adjustments? The ELCFH adopted a policy in 2005 which states adjustments and attendance sheets that are older than 60 days will not be accepted. This policy was to support providers in keeping paperwork current, and also to help project slot utilization in order to address the Wait List. June is the exception to the 60 day rule, as it is the final month in the fiscal year (see policy #FM-1).
Why do I turn in my attendance sheets on the first working day of the month? In order to pay providers in a very timely manner, all attendance sheets must be received by the first working day, be processed and then entered into the State system. Attendance sheets can be faxed, dropped at any of the ELCFH offices, placed in the ELCFH drop boxes or snail mailed. Late attendance sheets will be processed in the next month's cycle.
When children enter my program mid month, I notice that they are not on the preprinted attendance sheets-how do I handle this so that I am paid for their days in attendance? As attendance sheets are printed and mailed to providers around the 10th of the month, please write in any new children who enter your program during the month directly on the attendance sheet. On the child care certificate, which is the provider's authorization for care, is the funder category, such as BG8, BG1, etc. This information should also be entered on the attendance sheet. In the next month, the new child should appear on your attendance sheet by funder group.
I am increasing my public rates and want to be paid at the higher rate for the scholarship children in my program, how does this happen? A provider may request a rate request form and can submit this form along with their private rate sheet to any of our ELCFH offices. The approved rates will be effective on the first business day of the following month, and a confirmation of the approval will be mailed directly to the provider. A rate request CANNOT be processed without the public rate sheet attached and the form completed and signed.
Fraud What is Fraud? Fraud is the intentional use of ELCFH funds in a way that does not comply with rule. Fraud can be falsification of documentation, forgery etc. Suspicions of fraud are forwarded by the ELCFH to the state Fraud Unit for investigation. Any person, who does not tell the truth, hides information, pretends to be someone else, and does not give all the information needed about themselves or others in order to obtain or increase benefits to which they are not entitled, is guilty of unlawful behavior and will be referred to law enforcement pursuant to Chapter 414.39, Florida Statutes. In addition, the client will immediately lose services and may be required to pay back money that was paid for scholarship services.
What should providers do if they suspect another provider is fraudulent? Suspicions of fraud should be immediately reported to the ELCFH and ask to speak with your local Client Services Coordinator.
Protective Services (Rilya Wilson Act) I am serving a child who is in protective services under the Ryla Wilson Act. The child did not attend care yesterday and I tried to reach the caseworker to let her know. Is it ok to leave a voicemail for the case worker? Per DCF the answer is no. If you're not able to reach the case worker directly, ask for the direct supervisor. Leaving a voicemail is not appropriate for this kind of communication.
Can providers assess a differential fee for children who are under a court-order to attend child care? Yes. The provider has the right to charge for any fees above and beyond what they are reimbursed for by the ELCFH. Providers are not obligated to continue caring for the child if the fees are not paid.
A child under protective services came to my center with a communicable disease (i.e. head lice). The case manager was called but there was no intervention and the child's health issue remained. What should the provider do? Per DCF, if the issue is not resolved by case manager intervention, call the Child Abuse Hotline and make a report.
Provider Contracts Is it true that providers who get "unruly" will immediately have their contract with the ELCFH terminated? The School Readiness Provider Contract (FY 08-09) does state that providers who become verbally abusive or physically assaults ELCFH staff could have their contracts terminated. The ELCFH does not believe in immediate termination, and would rather work to preserve relationships with providers. The ELCFH also believes that its staff deserves to be treated with respect (just as staff is expected to treat providers and clients).
School Readiness If a family is receiving SR services in one of the four counties served by the ELCFH, what happens if they move to another one of the counties? If the client remains within the four counties that are served by the ELCFH, a transfer will help to provide services in their new county. Resource and Referral services will be available to make the transition smooth.
A parent has visited my program, and tells me that her child will be paid for by the Coalition and wants to enroll immediately. What is the process? Any parent who is eligible and approved for the scholarship program will have a child care certificate that is the provider's authorization for care. The certificate will state the parent fee and also the beginning date that the child is eligible for services. Under no circumstances should a provider enroll a child without this authorization form. Without this certification, you have no authorization for enrollment or payment of this child under the scholarship program. When in doubt, please call your local ELCFH office for confirmation and clarification.
VPK I've tried to download the VPK application from the ELCFH website but was not able. What should I do? This sometimes happens with forms and is understandably frustrating!! Please call the local ELCFH office and our staff will fax or mail a copy of the application to you.
What are the requirements for private providers to offer VPK in the summer? Per FS 1002.61, each summer VPK teachers must have a four year degree and be either certified or hold an education credential (i.e. teaching certificate).
One of my VPK children was not in attendance for the last day of the month and I noticed I was reimbursed less than I usually receive. What is the reason for this? The ELCFH is authorized to pay VPK providers only up to the last day that the child was in attendance for any given month.
How can providers know the status of VPK enrollments (prior to the school year or summer session starting)? The ELCFH announces when it will begin facilitating enrollments for VPK children. Once the parent receives the certificate, it's up to them to decide on a provider. Providers are advised to keep a copy of the signed certificate of eligibility before it is forward to the ELCFH. If the parent does not select a provider in a given amount of time, our Client Services contacts the parent and if necessary pulls the certificate.
What is the requirement for a VPK classroom for reimbursement? After a provider has been certified as a VPK Program, enrollments will begin as the provider will now be on the VPK provider list that parents receive when enrolling their children into the VPK program. A VPK classroom is considered eligible for payment when there is a minimum of 4 children enrolled.
What is the VPK BSA reduction for this coming fiscal year? The base student allocation for VPK has been reduced effective July 1, 2008. The total amount of the reduction is different in each of the four counties. VPK Providers have been issued written notification of the impact of the reduction.
Client Services CCR&R Resource and Referral
How do parents get lists of providers? When parents request a referral for child care services, a referral is generated based on the criteria stated by the parent. This list reflects specifically what the parent is searching for in a care setting including accredited sites, center based, family child care, religious based, the location (zip code) etc.
Can anyone obtain a list of all of the providers in one area or county? ELCFH staff does try to monitor such requests to avoid providers being inundated by vendors who are selling products etc. Family child care providers typically do not have their addresses noted on referrals; instead, a prospective family would need to call the provider to set an appointment.
How frequently is the provider database updated? Our database is updated two times per year and on an on-going as providers indicate needed updated. The ELCFH is mandated to update the database once per year.
How parents are referred to child care providers? Choosing a child care provider is solely based on parental choice. A parent may contact the ELCFH office and request Resource and Referral services for a customized provider referrals. ELCFH staff then prints a list of child care providers based on criteria set by the parent (i.e. zip code, accreditation, type of care). The parent is offered information on what to look for in quality child care programs. Parents then make a choice based on their child's and family's needs. By law, the ELCFH cannot recommend or refer parents to use a certain child care provider.
A parent called my child care facility and seemed interested in choosing me, but then did not sign up (and instead chose another provider). Is this because of a referral from the ELCFH? No. Choice of a child care provider is determined by the parent (parental choice). The ELCFH supports the parent by printing a list of providers based on the parent's criteria (i.e. zip code, type of care) but does not make any recommendations. Parents are also given general information on how to select quality care. By law, the ELCFH cannot send or make any recommendations to parents on any particular program.
Does the ELCFH ever use a "mystery shopper" to ensure the quality of the service offered to parents by Client Services Specialists? Yes. The ELCFH periodically facilitates "secret shopper" calls to ensure the information given to parents is clear, concise and ethical. In addition, all parents are given a parent survey to provide a critique on the quality of the service they received.
Grievance Process So, it is ok to complain if I'm not satisfied with something the ELCFH has done? Yes!! The ELCFH has a formal grievance process for clients and providers. We welcome all questions and concerns provided they are presented constructively and respectfully.
What should I do if a staff person gives me a response to a question that I am not satisfied? Any staff person at any given time may not have the answer to a question or may offer an answer that does not seem right. Providers and parents are encouraged to speak with that staff person's direct supervisor in these instances.
Parent Fees What is a differential fee? How is it different from a parent fee? A parent fee is assessed based on the parent's income and family size. This means that the parent is responsible for paying a portion of the provider reimbursement because their family size and income is significant enough that they can contribute towards their scholarship. The differential is the difference in payment that the provider charges.
How will I know when a client has a change in parent fee due to the updated sliding fee scale or redetermination? Each parent's case will be evaluated upon enrollment and re-determination to implement the new sliding fee scale. A new child care certificate is then issued that requires the parent and provider signatures to be added and then forwarded to the local ELCFH office.
Parent Rights and Responsibilities Are the School Readiness Forms/ Parent Application Packets on the ELCFH website? The forms for scholarship services are now on our website under the Family tab (Forms for Parents). Providers are encouraged to review the forms and let us know of any questions!
Are parents aware of HIPPA and why they may be asked to document a child's absence? HIPPA is reviewed with parents and the parent signs acknowledging receipt of the information. Client Services has recently modified the absence form so there will no longer be a need for a parent signature if the parent has already provided a note.
How often is the Parental Right and Responsibilities document changed or updated? The information on this document has remained consistent; staff has reworked some of the language and formatting to make it easier to read and understand.
What happens when a parent loses his job? If a parent loses his/her job, he/she must notify the ELCFH within ten (10) days so the change can be noted. The parent will have thirty (30) days from the last day of employment of continued child care services so that he/she can seek other employment. Unfortunately, the ELCFH does see cases where weeks or even months have passed and parent has not been working and ELCFH has not been informed. In those cases, termination from services happens immediately or within a short period of time. The parent will be required to pay back the ELCFH for those days of care that they were not eligible for reimbursement, due to non-notification of status change.
What happens when a parent goes on maternity leave? Parents are responsible for informing the ELCFH before they go on maternity leave (as noted in the parent rights and responsibilities). Bed rest can be covered as medical leave; the parent would need to provide medical documentation to the ELCFH. When a parent in on maternity leave, the ELCFH will suspend care for up to 60 days (parents typically return to work/ school within 5 -6 weeks). When they return, the child care is reinstated and the parent fee is readjusted (because family is larger). Infants are then able to be placed in child care immediately.
How are parents who go on disability served? The parent would need to provide medical documentation of the disability. Disability documentation is requested by the ELCFH as needed for short term disability. For those clients who are deemed permanently disabled by their medical physicians, no further disability forms are required other than the initial submission of proof.
What kind of communication should parents have with their ELCFH specialist? On-going communication is encouraged. If parents are in doubt about an issue or have any questions about their services, they should contact their specialist immediately. The ELCFH has created a newsletter for families called the Coalition Communicator. This newsletter provides gentle reminders about frequently asked questions and parent responsibilities (i.e. notifying the ELCFH of status changes etc).
What is the provider's role in interfacing with the ELCFH for the family? The ELCFH must maintain direct contact with the family. ELCFH staff is not permitted to discuss families with providers because this information is considered confidential. Providers can provide reminders to families of the need to communicate with the ELCFH, especially regarding any changes (marital status, job change, address change, phone number, maternity leave etc). The provider can be a partner with the ELCFH by reminding parents of upcoming redeterminations, due to the courtesy copy that is sent to the child care program. However, it is a slim line that separates advocating for the parent or possibly breaching confidentiality of the parent.
What is the process if a client is moving to a different provider? As a provider, can I inquire why the change occurred? If a client has decided to move their child to another provider, all parent fees must first be paid in full with the current provider. ELCFH staff cannot discuss why the client has chosen to move their child-this is the parent's right and choice. Most often we do not know the details; we are just trying to complete the transition for both the parent and provider. Hopefully the parent and provider have built a relationship where these types of questions can be discussed.
Client Redeterminations What are redeterminations? Redeterminations ensure that families continue to be eligible for child care scholarship services. During redeterminations, the Client Services Specialist reviews the file, contacts the parent and obtains current documentation and ensure all paperwork is complete. All parents are deemed eligible for the School Readiness program by following the state guidelines which are based on family size, income and work/educational activity.
How frequently does the ELCFH redetermine cases? By law, the ELCFH must redetermine 50% of all cases annually. By choice, the ELCFH redetermines 100% of cases annually. Redeterminations are done on an ongoing monthly basis and typically parents can expect their redetermination to occur around the same time they originally enrolled. The ELCFH does reserve the right to redetermine cases at random, if there is something questionable with the case or if accelerated redeterminations are necessary due to over utilization.
Can providers be given redetermination packets to distribute to families? No. The ELCFH is the entity responsible for the management of the child care scholarship program. In this role, the ELCFH must have direct contact with families in all phases of program services. The provider is the direct recipient of funds for the child care services; therefore, if the provider is given the responsibility of giving redetermination packets to families, it creates a direct conflict of interest. Providers will be issued a courtesy notice so they are aware of when families are due for redetermination (and can remind families of the importance of submitted paperwork on time etc).
What if the family tells me they have not received their redetermination packet? The family should call the ELCFH immediately and not wait until the deadline for paperwork submission has passed. By waiting and not submitting, the family will be terminated from services. Dates when families are due for re-determination are listed on the child care certificates, which both the parent and provider sign, and also on the monthly school readiness attendance sheets.
Client Terminations Why does the ELCFH terminate clients just because they missed a deadline (i.e. turning in some paperwork)? As with any important service, the client is responsible for responding to ELCFH requests for needed paperwork, information and appointments that are time sensitive and have a requested time and date due. Clients always have the option to call their Client Services Specialist if they will not be able to meet a deadline; however that communication must be received before the deadline has expired.
Why are parents terminated just because they did not let the ELCFH know about a change in their work etc? The parent has a certain level of responsibility for staying in contact with the ELCFH regarding life changes such as a new baby, marital status, work, move to a new home, etc. Parents are to notify the ELCFH of these changes within 10 days of the change occurring. Failure to do so is grounds for termination. Also, it is important to remember that notifying the ELCFH of changes within the client's family can result in a possible reduction in daily parent fees.
How much notice is a parent given when they are terminated? Parents are given a ten (10) day termination notification by the ELCFH and providers are sent a courtesy copy.
How are providers notified of parent terminations? As a courtesy, the ELCFH informs the provider of the termination the day it is processed. By doing this, providers can advise parents that they are aware of the termination and let the parent know what the cost of care will be in order to continue the service.
School Age Children When will the ELCFH enroll school age children for School Readiness Scholarship services? The priority of ages of the children who are enrolled in SR services is Board approved and noted in the ELCFH Plan. Our priorities state that the youngest children on the waitlist would be enrolled first (after mandated referrals). The reality unfortunately is that school age children will not be enrolled off of the wait list. Those school age children currently being served are either via mandated referrals or have been enrolled in scholarship services since they were age preschool or younger (and have remained eligible for services). During the May 28, 2008 Board meeting, the ELCFH Board decided not to place children over the age of 8 on the waitlist because the ELCFH does not have sufficient funding to be able to serve older school age children.
Does the ELCFH serve School Age children? Technically, yes. Due to limited funding and the priorities established by the ELCFH Board, school age children who are currently on the wait list will most likely not be served promptly. Reimbursements for school age children to the child care provider are at a reduced rate (full time rates are not payable by the ELCFH - reference provider payment rate schedule).
Why providers are not paid full time reimbursement rates during summer holiday breaks for school age children? The ELCFH Board approved that school age children would only be reimbursed at part time rates, as the priority of the ELCFH is to serve children age birth to kindergarten entry. Any school age child who had previously been reimbursed as a PTBA (Before and after school care) will also be paid at the part time rates. PTBA rates no longer exist and are in concert with the ELCFH Board decision to continue to provide school age services, but reimbursable at the part time rate. This is in effect in all counties served by ELCFH.
Wait List Are families pre-qualified before being placed on the wait list for child care scholarship services? Yes. Before a family is placed on the wait list, ELCFH staff conducts a preliminary screening to ensure the family is eligible for services. This is based on the family's size, income, and work/school activity status.
How does the ELCFH determine which children from the wait list will be served (when funding is available)? Periodically, the ELCFH is able to do a "pull" from the wait list. This means that the ELCFH has some funds available to serve new families. The ELCFH Board has determined the priority ages of children to be served first. When funds are available, the youngest children are always served first.
Quality Initiatives Child Screening and Assessment
Why does the ELCFH have separate forms for permission to complete the LAPS and permission to refer the child if there is a concern? The ELCFH encountered multiple situations where a parent did not know the provider had contacted the ELCFH for a referral for a particular child. To ensure parents were aware of the need for a referral, the second form was created.
ERS What is the timeline and process for the ERS grants? The application packet for the ERS grants will be available in July. The Quality department will facilitate a meeting with providers in the four counties to discuss the forms. All ERS assessments and grants will be done by first half of the fiscal year. Providers will be given two weeks to submit the grant application after the ERS has been completed. Deadlines will be clearly noted on the application form- the form itself has been designed to be very user friendly and mirrors the ELCFH improvement plan. Quality staff will review the applications to ensure there is alignment with the ERS and to ensure the provider request is developmentally appropriate. Once approved, the ELCFH will purchase the materials for the provider.
If providers with a score of 5 or higher are assessed every other year, will they still be able to obtain materials? Yes- providers will be able to apply for a maintenance grant on an annual basis
Mentoring Why is the Quality Department taking a mentor approach with providers? The ELCFH Mentors will support providers in developing meaningful interactions with the children they serve. This will ultimately help to create an optimal learning environment and improve the quality of the service being offered.
What is the duration of the mentoring program? This really depends on the needs and goals of the provider. The mentor program is structured to be individually based including how frequently the mentor visits the provider. Providers who are interested in the mentor will meet with the mentor to design a program specifically suited to their child care site.
Professional Development Are the teachers who are teaching Summer VPK exempt from the new standards? No- teachers should get this training as soon as it's available. The ELCFH will be offering trainings during the summer session.
When will "Beyond Center and Circle Time" training be offered again? The ELCFH is aware of the tremendous value "Beyond Centers and Circle Time" training has for providers due to the CEUs available. Providers are encouraged to check the ELCFH website regularly to determine what classes and trainings are being offered.
How can the ELCFH partner with the local community colleges to help provider's access degree programs? The ELCFH does have MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) in process with the South Florida Community College and the Charlotte County Vocational School to offer the FCCPC. The ELCFH provides support to providers by offering an educational reimbursement program designed to defray some of the costs associated with conference registration, college courses, FCCPC modules, and on-line CDA classes.
Why is there a charge for the laminating machine in the ELCFH office? The ELCFH charges a nominal fee for usage of the laminating machines. This is to defray the cost of the materials and maintenance. ELCFH Staff frequently gives away free laminating supplies at trainings as a door prize. The ELCFH would be able to invoice those providers who use or more (so the provider does not need to have petty cash on hand).
I've noticed that sometimes the ELCFH has training and no-one shows up. This seems like a waste of funds. Can anything be done? The ELCFH closely monitors attendance at trainings to determine what topics are needed by providers. The ELCFH does not have the authority to mandate providers and teachers to attend trainings, however attendance is highly encouraged.
ELCFH Policies and Procedures How are ELCFH policies and procedures created and passed? ELCFH policies are typically developed to support existing rule. Policies are the local translation of rules; procedures are the steps taken to ensure approved policies are adhered to. ELCFH policies are typically reviewed by the appropriate committee and then taken to the full ELCFH Board for review and approval. Procedures are typically considered operational and are developed and mandated by the ELCFH executive director management staff. All approved policies are posted on the ELCFH website. Rules governing School Readiness and VPK come to the ELCFH via the Office of Early Learning.
A provider calls the ELC office to inquire about a client's eligibility/re-determination/change in provider information etc. Any client who is served by the ELCFH has entered into an agreement that is protected by a confidentiality statement to which all ELCFH staff is bound. While the provider's need to advocate for their parents is honorable, the ELCFH has built a relationship with each client to accommodate their needs and to work in supporting their self sufficiency. ELCFH staff is not permitted to discuss client cases with providers.