North American Child and Youth Care have been developing as a profession. “Characteristic of professions is; a systematic body of theory, professional authority, sanction of the community, a regulative code of ethics and a professional culture” (Greenwood, 1957). North American Child and Youth Care have progressed in these areas. Ethics is the focus of this presentation.

The International Child and Youth Care Consortium developed a “Description of the Field” which has become widely adopted (NOCCWA, 1992, p. 83). The profession aims to address, as much as possible, the psychological, social, cultural, spiritual and biological needs of young people and their families. This may occur at different life stages or in a variety of circumstances. In multidisciplinary settings, as in mandated agencies, the profession is central in the care, custody and treatment of youth. Child and Youth Care centers on the client and utilizes skills and techniques which actualize the processes of development and change. It includes the necessary advocacy for youngsters and their families in powerless and often hopeless situations. It captures the root value of “caring” as an underlying factor and force vital in emotional growth, rehabilitation, social competence and treatment.

The ethics, norms and knowledge base of Child and Youth Care constitute the professional culture which is a source of identity for all who participate in the profession. The shared symbols and values bring together educators, direct care workers and administrators. Practice and research are articulated and validated in the journals and literature of the profession. The profession’s values underlie the mission and management of Child and Youth caring organizations, employers and the professional associations.

The development of a North American Code of Ethics for Child and Youth Care is a benchmark for the profession; The Code of Ethics unites the range of professional roles and functions and relates them to common commitments and shared responsibilities. The Code of Ethics establishes a framework to guide thinking and practice for all Child and Youth Care Professionals.



Professional Child and Youth Care Practice focuses on infants, children, and adolescents, both normal and with special needs, within the context of the family, the community, and the life span. The developmental-ecological perspective emphasizes the interaction between persons and their physical and social environments, including cultural and political settings.

Professional practitioners promote the optimal development of children, youth, and their families in a variety of settings, such as early care and education, community-based child and youth development programs, parent education and family support, school-based programs, community mental health, group homes, residential centers, day and residential treatment, early intervention, home-based care and treatment, psychiatric centers, rehabilitation programs, pediatric health care, and juvenile justice programs.

Child and youth care practice includes assessing client and program needs, designing and implementing programs and planned environments, integrating developmental, preventive, and therapeutic requirements into the life space, contributing to the development of knowledge and practice, and participating in systems interventions through direct care, supervision, administration, teaching, research, consultation, and advocacy.

(Adopted by: Academy of Child and Youth Care Professionals, Child and Youth Care Education Consortium, International Leadership Coalition for Professional Child and Youth Care, and the National Organization of Child Care Worker Associations – with an editorial revision.)

(Note: The following editorial change has been suggested. In the first sentence omit the word “normal” and change to read:
Professional Child and Youth Care Practice focuses on infants, children, and adolescents, including those with special needs, within the context of the family, the community, and the life span.)




International Leadership Coalition of Professional Child and Youth Care
June 1995


Professional Child and Youth Care is committed to promoting the well being of children, youth, and families in a context of respect and collaboration. This commitment is carried out in a variety of settings and with a broad range of roles including direct practice, supervision, administration, teaching and training, research, consultation, and advocacy. In the course of practice Child and Youth Care Professionals encounter many situations which have ethical dimensions and implications.

As Child and Youth Care Professionals we are aware of, and sensitive to, the responsibilities involved in our practice. Each professional has the responsibility to strive for high standards of professional conduct. This includes a commitment to the centrality of ethical concerns for Child and Youth Care practice, concern with one’s own professional conduct, encouraging ethical behavior by others, and consulting with others on ethical issues.

This ethical statement is a living document, always a work in progress, which will mature and clarify as our understanding and knowledge grow. The principles represent values deeply rooted in our history, to which there is a common commitment. They are intended to serve as guidelines for conduct and to assist in resolving ethical questions. For some dilemmas, the principles provide specific or significant guidance. In other instances, the Child and Youth Care Professional is required to combine the guidance of the principles with sound professional judgment and consultation. In any situation, the course of action chosen is expected to be consistent with the spirit and intent of the principles.



A. Maintains competency.

1. Takes responsibility for identifying, developing, and fully utilizing knowledge and abilities for professional practice.

2. Obtains training, education, supervision, experience and/or counsel to assure competent service.

B. Maintains high standards of professional conduct.

C. Maintains physical and emotional well-being.

1. Aware of own values and their implication for practice.

2. Aware of self as a growing and strengthening professional.


A. Above all, shall not harm the child, youth or family.

1. Does not participate in practices that are disrespectful, degrading, dangerous, exploitive intimidating, psychologically damaging, or physically harmful to clients.

B. Provides expertise and protection.

1. Recognizes, respects, and advocates for the rights of the child, youth and family.

C. Recognizes that professional responsibility is to the client and advocates for the client’s best interest

D. Ensures that services are sensitive to and non-discriminatory of clients regardless of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, national ancestry, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, abilities, mental or physical handicap, medical condition, political belief, political affiliation, socioeconomic status.

1. Obtains training, education, supervision, experience, and/or counsel to assure competent service.

E. Recognizes and respects the expectations and life patterns of clients.

1. Designs individualized programs of child, youth and family care to determine and help meet the psychological, physical, social, cultural and spiritual needs of the clients.

2. Designs programs of child, youth, and family care which address the child’s developmental status, understanding, capacity, and age.

F. Recognizes that there are differences in the needs of children, youth and families.

1. Meets each client’s needs on an individual basis.

2. Considers the implications of acceptance for the child, other children, and the family when gratuities or benefits are offered from a child, youth  or family.

G. Recognizes that competent service often requires collaboration. Such service is a cooperative effort drawing upon the expertise of many.

1. Administers medication prescribed by the lawful prescribing practitioner in accordance with the prescribed directions and only for medical purposes. Seeks consultation when necessary.

2. Refers the client to other professionals and/or seeks assistance to ensure appropriate services.

3. Observes, assesses, and evaluates services/treatments prescribed or designed by other professionals.

H. Recognizes the client’s membership within a family and community, and facilitates the participation of significant others in service to the client.

I. Fosters client self determination.

J. Respects the privacy of clients and holds in confidence information obtained in the course of professional service.

K. Ensures that the boundaries between professional and personal relationships with clients is explicitly understood and respected, and that the practitioner’s behavior is appropriate to this difference.

1. Sexual intimacy with a client, or the family member of a client, is unethical.



A. Treats colleagues with respect, courtesy, fairness, and good faith.

B. Relates to the clients of colleagues with professional consideration.

C. Respects the commitments made to the employer/employing organization.


A. Recognizes that in situations of professional practice the standards in this code shall guide the resolution of ethical conflicts.

B. Promotes ethical conduct by members of the profession.

1. Seeks arbitration or mediation when conflicts with colleagues require                                  consultation and if an informal resolution seems appropriate.

2. Reports ethical violations to appropriate persons and/or bodies when an informal resolution is not appropriate.

C. Encourages collaborative participation by professionals, client, family and community to share responsibility for client outcomes.

D. Ensures that research is designed, conducted, and reported in accordance with high quality Child and Youth Care practice, and recognized standards of scholarship, and research ethics.

E. Ensures that education and training programs are competently designed and delivered.

1. Programs meet the requirements/claims set forth by the program.

2. Experiences provided are properly supervised.

F. Ensures that administrators and supervisors lead programs in high quality and ethical practice in relation to clients, staff, governing bodies, and the community.

1. Provides support for professional growth.

2. Evaluates staff on the basis of performance on established  requirements.


A. Contributes to the profession in making services available to the public.

B. Promotes understanding and facilitates acceptance of diversity in society.

C. Demonstrates the standards of this Code with students and volunteers.

D. Encourages informed participation by the public in shaping social policies and institutions.


2Client is defined as the child, family, and former clients.