The Nurturing Nest
Family Child Care and Preschool
CDA Information

What is a Child Development Associate (CDA)?

The Child Development Associate Program is a nationally recognized program to define, evaluate and recognize the early childhood practitioner's competence through a standard evaluation tool. At least 46 states, plus the District of Columbia, have incorporated this credential in their licensing regulations since its start in 1971. The Council of Early Childhood Professional Recognition is the administrating organization that oversees the assessment and credentialing of child care professionals participating in this program.

The CDA Competency Standards, which define the skills needed by providers in specific childcare environments, serve as a means for measuring a practitioner's overall performance. Once a person is awarded a credential, she is at the doorway of an exciting and rewarding career.

As a CDA candidate, you will be assisted by an advisor/mentor, who provides ongoing support and guidance as you proceed through the credentialing process. This support will include observations and assessment of your skills on an informal basis.

Six CDA Competency Goals

  • To establish and maintain a safe, healthy learning environment.
  • To advance physical and intellectual competence.
  • To support social and emotional development and provide positive guidance.
  • To establish positive and productive relationships with families.
  • To ensure a well-run and purposeful program responsive to participant needs.
  • To maintain a commitment to professionalism.

CDA Functional Areas

The Learning Environment
Program Management

Steps in the Direct Assessment Process

    Step 1 -Applicant contracts the Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition (CECPR) for an application packet.

    Step 2 - CECPR sends to Applicant:
    • Application forms and fee schedule
    • Schedule of assessment dates and sites
    • Description of CDA Competency Standard and assessment procedures
    • Verification documents and forms to be filled out

    Step 3 - Applicant prepares documentation of competency (Professional Resource File, Parents Opinion Questionnaires, and Formal Observation) Applicant submits fees and application forms to the CECPR.

    Step 4 - CECPR sends assigned date and place for written situational assessment and oral interview by one of their representatives.

    Step 5 - Candidate meets with National Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition (NCECPR) Representative who:
    • Conducts interview
    • Administers situational assessment
    • Reviews documentation of competence

    Step 6 - NCECPR Representative sends materials to the CECPR Committee for scoring Decision.

    Step 7 - CECPR Committee scores assessment and issues/defers Credential.

The Application:

Application Date: Verification
visit to occur:
December 1st 1st Quarter
(January, February, March)
March 1st 2nd Quarter
(April, May, June)
June 1st 3rd Quarter
(July, August, September)
September 1st 4th Quarter
(October, November, December)

Note: The application needs to be mailed
and received in Washington, DC by the
1st of the month listed for each quarter.

The CDA Profile
Individuals applying for Credential must meet the following:

I. Personal:

  • Must be 18 years or older.
  • Have a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent (GED).
  • Be able to speak, read, and write well enough to fulfill responsibilities of a CDA candidate.
  • Agree to and sign a statement of ethical conduct.

II. Experience:

  • At least 480 hours of experience working with children in an approved assessment setting. (Must have been within a five year period prior to the date of filing.)

III. Setting:

    Candidates may work or volunteer in one of several settings that meet specific criteria for the age group that they are getting their Credential in:

      A. Center based preschool setting
      • State approved
      • Working with a group of at least eight children
      • Age range: three to five years old
      • The program must have at least 10 children enrolled in the total program
      • Have at least two caregivers working with the group on a regular basis

      B. Center-based infant/toddler setting
      • State approved
      • Working with a group of at least three children
      • All children must be under the age of three
      • Must have at least 10 children enrolled in the program
      • Must have at least two caregivers working with the group on a regular bases

      C. Family Child Care setting
      • State licensed/registered
      • Working with at least two children who are not the candidates children

IV. Education:

    Candidates must have at least 120 hours of formal education within the last 5 years prior to applying. The training must be verified as being obtained from an organization with expertise in the early childhood teacher preparation and must include at least 10 hours in each of the eight training categories.

    Such agencies and organizations that are approved would include, but are not limited to:
    • 4-year college and university
    • 2-year junior or community college
    • Vocational or Technical schools
    • Early childhood education/child care programs that sponsor trainings, such as Head Start, U.S. ARMY Child and Family Services, or School Districts
    • Divisions of state or federal governments, or the U.S. Military Services
    • Resource and Referral Agencies

    Candidates may accumulate the hours from a single training provider, or from a combination of providers. Each agency or organization must provide verification of the Candidate's education and training in the form of a transcript, certificate, or official letter.

CDA Training Areas

At the time of the assessment, candidates must have completed at least 120 clock hours of formal education with no fewer than 10 hours in each of the eight subject areas listed below. This requirement may be met through participation in the wide variety of trainings available in the field, including in-services and on-site trainings. All education hours must be from a certified education source.

Subject Area Examples
1. Planning a safe and health learning environment Safety, First Aide, health, nutrition, space planning, materials, and equipment usage, and play
2. Steps to advance children's physical and intellectual development Large and small muscle, language, discovery art, and music
3. Positive ways to support children's social and emotional development Self-esteem, independence, self-control, and socialization
4. Strategies to establish productive relationships with families Parent involvement, home visits, conferences, and referrals
5. Strategies to manage an effective program operation Planning, record keeping, and reporting
6. Maintain a commitment to professionalism Advocacy, ethical practices, work force issues, and professional associations
7. Observing and recording children's behavior Tools and strategies for objective information collection
8. Principles of child growth and development Developmental milestones from birth through age 5 and cultural and environmental influences on development

It is the Candidate's responsibility to supplement the verification by citing the number of clock hours completed in each of the required areas of study on the Direct Assessment Application Form.

A Checklist of Candidate Tasks
(To be completed before final assessment)

    1. The candidate sends for an application packet.
      Read the information packet to better develop a sense of the CDA process and the time line involved.

    2. Develop Professional Resource File, personalized for your individual setting, style, and strengths. This file must include:
    • 17 resource items
    • An autobiography (and a copy)
    • Your six Statements of Competency (and a copy)

    3. Design a training agenda to complete all aspects of the training requirements. This training must total at least 120 hours, with a minimum of 10 hours in each of the eight training categories.

    4. Document at least 480 hours of experience based in an appropriate setting.

    5. Distribute a Parent Questionnaire to each family, remembering to:
    • Include a long business size envelope for the parents to place the survey in after completion.
    • Place all returned surveys UNOPENED into a large manila envelope and seal, writing your name, the amount distributed, and the number returned on the outside of the envelope. (Remember the surveys are CONFIDENTIAL, do not open them.)
    • You must have at least 75% of all distributed surveys returned.

    6. Recruit an Advisor, making sure that the person you are considering meets all the eligibility criteria.
    • Supply your advisor with a copy of the Competency Standards Book and the Formal Observation Instrument.
    • Schedule times to meet with your advisor when they may observe you as lead person in your setting.

    7. Completely fill out the Application Form (long form) that came in your packet.
    • Have the appropriate sections completed by your Advisor and your Program Director (if appropriate).
    • Mail in your packet with the Assessment Fee ($325.00) and Training Verification before the deadline for the quarter in which you are seeking to be assessed.

Professional Resource File Information

What is it?
A collection of materials that an early childhood professional would use in their work with young children and their families.

What is its' purpose?
It provides a picture of what information Candidates find valuable in their work as a basis for assessing competence in earning a CDA. It also provides Candidates a valuable experience in locating, obtaining, and using resources and articulating their own views on issues in Early Childhood Education.

How should it look?
There is no requirement about how the Resource File should look. It should be professional looking, manageable in size, legible, and portable.

What should be in it?

There should be three main sections: the autobiography, your statements of competency, and your resource collection.

Components of Your Resource File

    • 300 words
    • Part I: candidate tells about themselves
    • Part II: candidate tells what factors to work with young children
    • Attachments: candidate may include resume

    Statements of Competency:
    • Six sections, coinciding with the competency goals
    • 200-500 words per section, written in the candidates own words
    • Each section begins by writing out the Competency Goal Statement.
    • Candidate is to state her most important goals for children and give specific examples/activities which she has done to achieve those goals and that she feels represents her competency in this area.
    • Stated goals and activities need to relate to Competency areas, be age appropriate culturally appropriate, and individually appropriate.
    • Include all functional areas within each Competency Goal Area.

    Resource Collection:
    • 17 specified items
    • Organized by Competency Goal areas and numbered so each can be easily located during the Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition Representatives visit.

For More Information:

The Council for Early Childhood
Professional Recognition

2460 16th Street
NW Washington, DC 20009-3575

(202) 265-9090

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