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Is the state investigating the billing practices of day care centers?

The simple reality for many parents is that as much as they would like to stay home with their children, they often have no choice but to enroll them in day care so that they can continue to earn a living. This is often easier said than done, however, given the high -- and sometimes unaffordable -- price of day care.

Fortunately enough, states have recognized the bind that many working parents are in and developed programs designed to help defray some of the high costs of day care. For instance, we have the Child Care Assistance Program here in Minnesota, which provides over 30,000 children from low-income families with monthly financial help, and last year paid out $216 million in federal and state payments to day care providers.

Licensed day care providers that participate in Minnesota's CCAP program should be aware, however, that both state and federal officials may now be taking a closer look at operations of establishments across the state in light of recent accusations concerning illegal billing practices.

To illustrate, consider the ongoing investigation by officials with the FBI, IRS, Hennepin County fraud investigation unit and the Minnesota Department of Human Services into a Minneapolis day care center that had its license revoked last month for various unrelated safety violations.

According to the FBI search warrant, over the course of a 16-month investigation, officials observed a considerable discrepancy between the number of children the day care center was reporting to the state for billing purposes and the actual number who entered the building.

For instance, the search warrant outlines how investigators observed only 24 children entering the day care center on a given day in January despite the bill provided to the state outlining 132 children.   

While this case is certainly extreme, it nevertheless serves to highlight how serious state and federal officials are now taking this and how day care centers participating in the state's CCAP program must not only be diligent and honest in their billing practices, but also on guard against potentially overzealous and overreaching investigations as their license may be at stake.

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