Youth workers across Indiana are leading the nation in obtaining their Child and Youth Care (CYC) Certifications. There are currently over 250 certified youth work practitioners in the state. Heather Richards, who serves as Program Manager for Blue River Services, believes that earning her CYC Certification reinforced her desire to work with children. Blue River Services is proudly working toward 100% of its staff members becoming CYC Certified. As Heather explains, “We can offer a lot if we can show as a state that we are certified, and we are trying to do the best youth work we can!”
Administered by the Child & Youth Care Certification Board, CYC Certification is recognized across the United States and Canada and provides a framework for ongoing professional development, with multiple levels and renewal of certification. CYC practitioners demonstrate their knowledge and skills for certification through a process that includes an application, references, portfolio, and exam. Certification shows that youth workers have the skills to provide high-quality programs and are committed to developing happy, healthy kids. In Indiana, CYC Certification has replaced the former Indiana Youth Development (IYD) Credential to align with the national efforts of The Association for Child and Youth Care Practice, Inc.
Heather first heard about CYC Certification through The Journey, a fellowship program designed to support youth workers through professional development and renewal. The program is supported by Lilly Endowment Inc. and helped spark the growth of certification in the state. As a result of her experience with The Journey, Heather felt that earning her CYC Certification would set a great example for her staff. She further explains, as a supervisor “I believe that investing in your staff is the number one thing you can do, the thing you get the most return on.”
Other youth workers recognize the value of certification. Ashleigh Coster, Program Director at Intercollegiate YMCA says, “This process also does an amazing job to unite all of us into one interconnected network.” Cassie Wade, Family and Youth Services Director at Bauer Family Resources, shares that since obtaining her certification “promoting and professionalizing the field of youth work is now a passion of mine. This includes providing staff professional development opportunities, providing high-quality services, [and] incentivizing staff receiving their Child & Youth Care certification.”
The benefits of certification also bring challenges of how to recognize and reward employees who achieve and maintain their CYC. Some organizations propose giving bonuses or stipends, some are evaluating pay or classification incentives, and others are considering a combination of ideas. These organizations are looking to each other for suggestions and possibly a uniform approach. Even though the method is not consistent, the conversation shows the level of interest and commitment to certification, which will have positive outcomes for the field. No matter what recognition is implemented, employers and practitioners can include the statement “We employ CYC Certified Youth Workers” prominently on their websites, windows, and brochures.
CYC Certification is more than a stamp of approval; the process is personal. Ashleigh shares that the hardest parts were also the most rewarding. “The most challenging part was organizing all of the professional development I have taken part in over the years, but that was also one of the best things that came out of this process…The portfolio also challenged me to reflect over my career in order to answer the questions, and I found that process to be really incredible.”
In partnership with the CYC Certification Board, Indiana Youth Services Association has implemented a revised process for certification with coaching from the Indiana CYC Director. The main goal of the project is to increase the number of candidates who go through to completion, and thus the number of Indiana certified practitioners, increasing the quality of youth programs overall across the state. During the first six months of this project, the completion rate increased by about 23%. The youth work practitioners certified in Indiana currently represent programs in mental health, juvenile justice, consulting/training, scouting, resource/referral, crisis centers, community/multi-service centers, state/children’s services, higher education, and schools/out-of-school-time.
Much of the continued success in Indiana is due to the Indiana Department of Education’s (IDOE) 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program. Erin Busk and Christen Peterson, 21st CCLC Grant Specialists at the IDOE, have both earned their CYC Certifications. They are passionate about creating high-quality out-of-school-time programming for Hoosier youth. As a result, they have collaborated with the Indiana Youth Services Association to provide support to all 21st CCLC program administrators, coordinators, and direct service staff to obtain their CYC Certification free of charge. The candidates are very appreciative of the commitment from IDOE. As Cassie states, “Their support is a sign of their commitment to the field, youth workers, and Indiana youth.” With the support of Indiana Youth Services Association, The Journey, and the Indiana Department of Education, Indiana has the potential to double or triple its number of certified youth workers and create a stronger network of practitioners who positively impact youth.
At the end of 2018, Indiana officially doubled its number of certified youth workers since 2017. More info on certification in Indiana is available on the CYC page of the IYSA website: www.inyouthwork.org