National Child and Youth Care Practitioner Professional Certification: Promoting Competent Care for Children and Youth

By Curry, Dale; Eckles, Frank et al. | Child Welfare, March 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

National Child and Youth Care Practitioner Professional Certification: Promoting Competent Care for Children and Youth


Curry, Dale, Eckles, Frank, Stuart, Carol, Qaqish, Basil, Child Welfare


This article provides an overview of the history, development, and conceptual framework guiding a national certification initiative for child and youth care workers. Summarized are descriptions of three certification assessment measures (supervisor assessment, situational judgment certification exam, and portfolio assessment), integrated with results from an international pilot validation study. The certification program is the first national effort to identify and assess underlying child and youth work competencies that transcend work setting (community-based to out-of-home care), population characteristics (diagnosed mental health concerns, experiencing child abuse, etc.), and age of the child/youth (early childhood through adolescence). The authors assert, building on a seven-year collaborative effort to establish the certification program, that it is time to transform the child and youth serving workforce crisis into an opportunity to bring together the varied child- and youth-caring fields into a united profession that has a rich knowledge and skill base of international scope.

Over the last decade, professional associations, national advocacy groups, government agencies, and a variety of researchers have documented an urgent need to focus on the child- and youth- serving workforce. Concerns pertaining to employee recruitment, training, transfer of training and staff retention are frequently cited. The lack of a well-prepared workforce to supply the increasing numbers of workers needed in child and youth care programs is having a significant adverse impact on the amount and quality of services available. Lack of adequate training, preparation, and career development opportunities are significant factors contributing to high staff turnover and safety concerns that often lead to poor service outcomes, litigation, and program closure due to licensing violations (Alliance for Children and Families, American Public Human Services Association, èc Child Welfare League of America [CWLA], 2001; Alwon èc Reitz, 2000; Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2003; Center for Youth Development and Policy Research, 2001; CWLA, 2004; Curry, McCarragher, èc Dellmann-Jenkins, 2005; Eckles, Carpenter-Williams, Curry, Mattingly, Rybicki, Stuart, Bonsutto, Thomas, Kelly, VanderVen, Wilson, Markoe, Wierzbicki, èc Wilder, 2009; Levine, 2005).

Efforts to promote a competent and stable workforce and create career development opportunities within child and youth services has emerged as important human resource contributions (Curry èc Cardina, 2003; Rycraft, 1994). Career satisfaction has emerged as an important retention factor (McGowan, Auerbach, èc StrolinGoltzman, 2009). Curry et al. (2005) found organizational support for professional development associated with long-term retention in child welfare workers, and suggested worker competence may predict long-term retention. Professional commitment and adequate preparation (e.g., education and training) have been cited by many as contributing to job satisfaction, higher quality of care, and increased retention (Galinsky, Howes, Kontos, &. Shinn, 1994; Hartje, Evans, Killian, &. Brown, 2008; Kontos, Howes, Shinn, &. Galinsky, 1995). Caregiver competence is routinely reported as resulting in higher quality of care (Burchinal, Howes, &. Kuntos, 2002; Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes Study Team, 1995; Gable & Halliburton, 2003; Knoche, Peterson, Pope Edwards, ôcjeon, 2006).

The importance of a stable and competent child and youth serving workforce for promoting positive outcomes for children and youth, combined with the current difficulties of recruiting and retaining well-prepared, competent practitioners, has created what many call a workforce crisis (Alwon &. Reitz, 2000; Krueger, 2007a, 2007b; Mattingly 6c Thomas, 2006).

This article describes a major initiative that intends to help turn the workforce crisis into an opportunity to transform the varied childand youth-caring fields into a united profession based on a longestablished, yet ever growing, developmental-ecological knowledge base and international collaboration. …

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