National Certification for Child and Youth Workers

By Curry, Dale; Eckles, Frank | Policy & Practice, February 2009 | Go to article overview

National Certification for Child and Youth Workers


Curry, Dale, Eckles, Frank, Policy & Practice


It has long been known that the quality of care received by children and youth in educational, community-based and out-of-home care settings is largely a result of the competence of those providing the care. Yet the knowledge and skill level of these individuals varies widely among and within practice settings. This has often resulted in inconsistent treatment of children and youth and an increased risk of maltreatment within the programs intended to support children, youth and families.

In 2006 and 2007, Kent State University partnered with the Association for Child and Youth Care Practice and Ryerson University, Toronto, in conducting a pilot validation study of a National Certification Exam for Child and Youth Care Practitioners, a component of a national certification process. The study results provided a significant amount of information to facilitate implementation of a reliable and valid certification exam to be used as a major component of a national certification process for child and youth workers from a variety of settings. In 2007, the Child and Youth Care Certification Board established itself as a nonprofit organization and initiated national certification in 2008.

This initiative is the first national effort to credential those who work with children and youth of a variety of ages (early childhood through adolescence), populations (e.g., those with developmental disabilities, emotional disorders, involved with the juvenile justice system, etc.) and settings (community-based prevention, residential treatment, etc.). It is an attempt to unify the varied child- and youth-caring settings into one profession.

Although precise numbers are difficult to obtain, a 2003 report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation estimates that the U.S. child and youth care workforce is larger than all of the other helping professional populations serving children, youth and families combined (almost 6 million). Thus, there is enormous potential to make a significant impact on the well-being of children, youth and families in the United States.

The Certification Exam

The exam consists of 75 situational judgments with multiple choice items pertaining to 17 case studies elicited from a variety of practice settings. The following is an example of a case and item that requires practice judgments pertaining to a competency from the Standards of Practice/Competencies for Professional Child and Youth Work:

Competency IB4c. Apply specific principles and standards from the relevant Code of Ethics to specific problems.

You are a practitioner working in an emergency shelter that primarily serves homeless youth who are 14 to 21 years old. Legally, in this state, runaways under the age of 16 must be reported to authorities. …

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