Introduction to the Certification Process

Written by: Shaun Holmstrom
Northern Alberta Certification Coordinator

Welcome!  For those who are new to the field of Child and Youth Care, some of the details may seem to branch all over the place. If in doubt, my first suggestion will always be to check with someone who has gone through the process (for some guidance). If that is not an option, please call the Child and Youth Care of Alberta Association office and talk to the administrator or ask for the contact information for one of the certification coordinators. Otherwise, this will provide a few ideas related to eligibility for certification, preparing for the exams, the difference between the written and oral exams and other questions that are often asked:

One of the first questions is related to who qualifies to apply for Child and Youth Care certification. My answer usually is: it depends on your educational background first, however it also depends on the amount of direct Child and Youth Care experience that you have and the type of position and agency with which you have experience.

  • If you have a degree or diploma in Child and Youth Care; this is considered the highest academic standard for preparation. This indicates that you have completed an academic program that covers the core areas of knowledge as well as a practicum component in the field of Child and Youth Care. These individuals do not have to complete the written or oral exam as part of their process, as they have met the standard within their academic program. As such, they can apply for certification by completing a one-year internship with their agency and having the agency endorse that they are meeting a satisfactory standard of practice during that one-year internship. They may apply for full certification at the end of one year of practice. They will be required to prove that they have completed their academic program, and have their agency endorsement.
  • Not everyone in the field of Child and Youth Care comes into the process with a directly applied degree or diploma. Some have a related degree or diploma, for example: in psychology, sociology, rehabilitation counselling, human ecology, education, and other fields that incorporate knowledge related to Child and Youth Care. These individuals will be required to demonstrate a satisfactory level of knowledge and application by completing a written and oral exam as part of their process to receive full certification. They will also require the endorsement of their agency and the completion of a one-year internship before finalizing the process. They will also be required to prove that they have completed their academic program in order to apply under this criterion.
  • Applicants without a related diploma or degree will be assessed for eligibility based on the quality and quantity of their CYC work-related experience. This normally requires that the candidate has completed the equivalent of 5 years of experience in a Child and Youth Care role. This must be documented by the agency or another means (e.g., a letter from the agency, a work record documenting the name of the agency and position the individual had while working). These individuals will also be required to demonstrate a satisfactory level of knowledge and application by completing a written and oral exam as part of their process to receive full certification. They will also be required to receive the endorsement of their agency and complete the one-year internship before completing the process. It is important to note that an individual planning to go through this method can start the one-year internship following 4 years of experience and would be able to apply for the written exam at the end of the fifth year of work in the field.

There are a number of resources available to individuals seeking to complete the certification process.

  • There is an online component that has been developed, which is available to all individuals seeking full certification or those that have registered with the Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta. Individuals wanting to access this information will need to register with the Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta and pay a registration fee. From there, they will be provided with access information to the online sites which include 3 levels of information depending on the person’s background and interests. It is important to understand that this information is intended to provide a general overview of many of the components covered in an academic program; however, its main purpose is to provide information/knowledge on which the certification candidate can build. These resources continue to develop and evolve depending on policies and funding provided by the Government of Alberta, the Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta, and other stakeholders.
    There is an online component that has been developed, which Another resource to consider is the latest version of the Child and Youth Care Certification Manual (2014 Edition). This manual has been recently updated and has had limited circulation. It provides a wealth of information about the purpose and the history of the certification program in Alberta. I would encourage candidates to look at the self-assessment tool and the specific questions that are included in the written exam. This can help candidates prepare and review the questions that they will encounter. For the written exam they have to choose questions from four content areas; 2 from part A, 1 from part B, and 1 from part C.
    There is an online component that has been developed, which Otherwise, much of the content covered can be done as a self-study, where the candidate finds their own resources (e.g., through the library, academic institutions, workshops, online resources, or buying/borrowing books as available). Some agencies also develop their own resources or have learning groups that cover information included on the exams.

As far as the written exam is concerned, the candidate must receive their endorsement, and complete a specific period of time with the agency, before applying to take the written exam.

  • It consists of 4 questions that are chosen from the exam areas that are initially chosen by the candidate. The exam will be sent to an identified agency administrator or delegate who is responsible for ensuring appropriate supervision and administration. The candidate will not always know what the questions are unless they have prepared for all the questions listed in their content areas. The exams are marked out of 25 points for each question for a total of 100 points.
  • On the written exam, there is an allocation of 10 points for demonstration of knowledge, which means that the person has included research based on a theorist that is applicable to the field of Child and Youth Care. For example, for a question related to child development the person may base their answer on a theorist such as Bandura, Erikson, Piaget, Vygotsky, or another researcher that has contributed to the area of child development. In addition, 10 points are allocated for demonstration of application, where the candidate discusses how they use the knowledge in working with their clients. The final 5 points are allocated based on the clarity of the answer, or whether they have provided additional information, or have integrated additional relevant information not normally included in dealing with the question.  To be successful, the candidate must score 75% on the written exam. If they are successful, they can apply to do the oral exam. They are normally required to complete the oral exam within one year of passing the written component.
  • The oral exam is quite different than the written exam. This exam focuses on the candidate’s knowledge, attitude, and skills as it relates to the overall field of Child and Youth Care. The exam can take anywhere from 2-3 hours to complete and covers the areas that were selected by the candidate for the written exam, as well as the areas of Professionalism and Self-Care. The oral exam seeks to explore their ability to demonstrate ethical and informed (or best) practice when providing services to their client group. Key areas that are covered in all exams are:
  • Awareness of the scope of practice and ethical problem-solving approaches.
  • Knowledge, skills, and attitudes related to core foundations for Child and Youth Care practice including Relationship Development; Therapeutic Use of the Environment and Self/Colleagues; Use of a Developmental Approach; and knowledge and skills as related to Behavior Management. These areas provide the basis for other knowledge areas such as Mental Health, Activity Programming, or Program Development to name a few.
  • The exam panel is made up of two individuals, the Certification Coordinator and a certified member with significant experience in the field of Child and Youth Care. They evaluate the candidate on their ability to discuss their overall knowledge, and how they use their knowledge in their practice. The oral exam also has a quantitative component that requires a minimum grade of 75% in order to pass.

Insights into the written and oral exams

For those seeking insights to help prepare for the written and oral exam here are some information and strategies.

From a certification coordinator’s perspective, I strongly encourage certification candidates to check the code of ethics and the scope of practice for the field. These are integral aspects of the exams and for your affiliation with the profession of Child and Youth Care. Please pay special attention to what makes the field a separate entity from other professions in terms of specific skills and knowledge. For instance, you should be able to discuss core areas (e.g., therapeutic relationships, life span development, and behavioural skills) as they are foundations for your practice.

Within the online learning, is a list of things to consider and a framework to answer questions from the Basic Core section. This was compiled by Donna Charles as part of a project for her B.A. in Child and Youth Care. She makes some interesting comments about strategies that will assist in both the written and oral exams. These are important details based on her interviews and research with the Certification Coordinator and her experience as a certification examiner (so give them serious consideration). I especially encourage candidates to look at the self-assessment tool as this is the basis of many of the oral exam questions.

Also, keep in mind that certification coordinators can help you to clarify if you meet the standards to apply for certification and can provide some guidance in working through the certification process.

Ready To find out more about the certification process?

See the certification process here!