In what is being billed as a first for any state, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has signed a law requiring state certification for anyone who provides direct care to youth in residential programs.
The law – “Certification of Residential Child Care Program Professionals” – applies to practitioners employed by any program licensed by the state departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Human Resources or Juvenile Services, and those subject to licensing regulations of the Governor’s Office for Children.
To get certified, a worker must hold a board-approved educational degree, or be certified as a Child and Youth Care Practitioner by an approved accredited institution, in addition to passing a state board examination.
Certificates are valid for two years. Practitioners must present evidence of compliance with continuing education requirements to renew their certification.
The law is part of an effort to increase the level of higher education among youth workers. Last year the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth led the creation a Child and Youth Care Practitioner Certificate Program at the Community College of Baltimore County, which includes 26 credit hours in such subjects as child development, behavior management, and treatment services. (See “Local Schools Give Youth Workers More Class,” February.)
The Governor’s Office for Children estimates that 10,000 direct-care workers will require certification by the deadline of Oct. 1, 2013.