Child Welfare Law Specialist Certification

Child Welfare Law Specialist (CWLS) certification is a professional achievement that signifies an attorney’s specialized knowledge, skill, and verified expertise in the field of child welfare law. The specialization area is defined as “the practice of law representing children, parents or the government in all child protection proceedings including emergency, temporary custody, adjudication, disposition, foster care, permanency planning, termination, guardianship, and adoption. Child Welfare Law does not include representation in private custody and adoption disputes where the state is not a party.”

The CWLS certification process is available to attorneys in good standing who have spent the three years preceding application substantially involved in the practice of child welfare law. Traditionally, this includes providing direct representation to children, parents, or governmental agencies. However, NACC may also certify attorneys who have chosen instead to work in this field as judicial officers, law faculty, law firm directors, or policy advocates. 

The CWLS certification program was created and sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau and is accredited by the American Bar Association. The program has also been endorsed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) and the Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators (CCJ/COSCA). NACC also obtains the necessary authorization from state regulatory authorities such as the state court, state bar association, or committee on legal specialization.

Click for a printable brochure.

Louisiana attorneys who are interested in becoming certified should reach out to Thailund Porter-Green, Director of Education at the Pelican Center for Children and Families or Mark Harris, Executive Director at the Pelican Center for Children and Families. Currently there are funds to help support the application and testing fees – be sure to reach out!

How to Become a CWLS

NACC is excited to announce that they plan to be launching a new online certification application process in May 2021. The online platform will provide a more streamlined and transparent application experience.

During this transition period (mid-April to early May), they are not be accepting new applications. They request that you check back here in May for brand new instructions on how to apply online. Thank you for your interest and your patience!

Eligibility at a Glance

Child Welfare Law Specialist certification is modeled after physician board certification and requires that attorneys satisfy certain requirements to apply. Below, you’ll find a list of some of the most important requirements. For a complete list of requirements, please see our Certification Standards, which you’ll find on the Applicant Resources page.

  • Three or more years practicing law
  • 30% or more of the last three years involved in child welfare law
  • 36 hours of continuing legal education within the last three years in courses relevant to child welfare law (45 hours in California; 36 hours + 9 hours of ethics courses in Arizona; 36 hours of state-approved CLE in South Carolina)
  • A writing sample drafted within the last three years that demonstrates legal analysis in the field of child welfare law 

Additional Information

  • Applicant Resources
  • CWLS Resources
  • Recertification Resources
  • CWLS Directory (Searchable)
  • National Association of Counsel for Children – CWLS Sponsor Organization & Resource
  • Louisiana CWLS List

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