Code of Ethics

Standards for Practice of North American Child & Youth Care Professionals

© 2023 Association for Child & Youth Care Practice

These principles and standards provide a framework to guide ethical thinking and decision making across the various settings and roles in which Child and Youth Care Professionals serve. 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 shared values deeply rooted in our history. 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.

The Standards for Practice were originally adopted by the Association for Child and Youth Care Practice (ACYCP) in 1995. The standards were revised by an ACYCP ad hoc committee in 2016-2017 and adopted by ACYCP June 2017. The stndards were once again revised in 2022 by committee and adopted in the fall of 2023.

I. Personal Commitment to Ethical Practice

A. Demonstrates high standards of integrity and professional conduct
B. Develops knowledge and skills necessary for engaging children, youth, and families, including trauma-informed, developmentally appropriate, and culturally responsive practices
i. Participates in education and training for ongoing professional development
ii. Engages in ongoing supervision and/or counsel as appropriate
iii. Actively engages to the best of their capacity in research opportunities to advance knowledge in the CYC field
C. Recognizes the impact of conscious and unconscious biases, beliefs, and values and works to intentionally reduce personal bias
D. Recognizes sources of power and privilege so as not to misuse them and engages in anti-oppressive practice
E. Maintains physical and emotional well-being
i. Aware of personal values and their implication for practice
ii. Mindful of self as a growing and developing practitioner
iii. Understands the importance of self-care
iv. Seeks guidance, counseling, and support when necessary

II. Commitment to Ethical Practice with Children, Youth, and Families

A. Does not cause harm
i. Encourages safe, ethical, trauma-informed practices
ii. Does not disrespect, exploit, or intimidate others
B. Maintains privacy and confidentiality within in-person and virtual settings
C. Identifies and addresses inequities related to race, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, mental or physical capacity/ability, citizenship status, political views, socioeconomic status, and the intersectionality of these and other sociocultural identities.
D. Ensures services are culturally sensitive, decolonizing, and non-discriminatory
E. Provides protection and advocacy
i. Recognizes, respects, and advocates for the rights of the children, youth, and families
ii. Supports individuals in advocating for their own rights and safety
F. Fosters self-determination and personal agency
G. Encourages children and youth’s participation within family and community, and facilitates the development of social networks
H. Recognizes that the life spaces of individuals and families involve physical, emotional, mental, and virtual domains (including social media, messaging, gaming, virtual work/school platforms, etc.)
I. Respects the diversity of life patterns and expectations
i. Affirms that there are differences in individual and family needs and meets these needs on an individual basis
ii. Ensures interactions reflect developmental age, status, understanding and capacity
iii. Adapts to individual needs when designing and implementing plans and programs (including developmental, intellectual, psychological, physical, social, cultural, and spiritual needs)
J. Values collaboration with colleagues and those from other disciplines
i. Makes referrals to other professionals as necessary and seeks assistance to ensure access to needed services
ii. Observes, assesses, and evaluates services/treatments prescribed or designed by other professionals
iii. Supports effective, respectful communication and engagement within and across systems (e.g., mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, social services, education, etc.)
iv. Envisions youth, caregivers, and families as actors within systems of care
K. Maintains appropriate boundaries between professional and personal relationships to ensure wellness for service providers and recipients
i. Recognizes and adjusts for dynamics related to power, authority, and position
ii. Does not engage in harassment or sexual misconduct with a child, youth, or family member
iii. Clarifies expectations around social media connections and interactions
iv. Plans and prepares for transitions or conclusion of services in a manner sensitive to the needs and development of the youth and family

III. Commitment to Ethical Practice within Organizations

A. Responds to employer in a professional manner and seeks to resolve differences collaboratively
B. Treats colleagues with respect, courtesy, and equity
C. Models flexibility and inclusiveness in working with others
D. Respects the commitments made to the employer or employing organization
E. Alerts employer to knowledge of organizational or systemic barriers or inequities
F. Engages in data collection efforts and advocates for data-driven practice

IV. Commitment to Advancing the Field of Child and Youth Work

A. Acts in a professional manner toward colleagues
i. Seeks arbitration or mediation with colleagues as appropriate
ii. Reports ethical violations to appropriate individuals or boards when informal resolution is not appropriate or sufficient
B. Advances collaboration among professionals, children, youth, families, and communities to share responsibility for outcomes
C. Promotes professional practice in training and research activities to the degree that their role permits
i. Participates in education and training programs that are competently designed, implemented, and evaluated
ii. Participates in research that is of high quality and is designed, conducted, and reported in accordance with quality and ethical standards
D. Encourages newly hired and experienced practitioners to become knowledgeable of and able to apply the Code of Ethics as outlined in the Standards for Practice of North American Child and Youth Care Professionals
E. Contributes to the capacity of child and youth care professionals (e.g., practitioners, supervisors, administrators) to lead programs according to high-quality, ethical, trauma-informed practices
F. Contributes to the integrity of the profession
i. Upholds values and ethics, including responsible criticism of areas in need of improvement
ii. Participates in data collection efforts and dissemination activities designed to advance the CYC field (e.g., conference presentations, publications, etc.)

V. Commitment to Ethical Representation of the CYC Profession in the Community

A. Promotes awareness of the profession and advocates for the needs of children, youth, and families to the community
B. Models ethical behavior in relationships and interactions within in-person and virtual life spaces
C. Intentionally builds respect and appreciation of diversity, racial equality, social justice and cultural humility
D. Acknowledges and takes action to address systemic oppression and disparities related to gender, sexuality, race, and other intersectional aspects of social and political identities
E. Encourages informed participation by the public in shaping local, state, and national policy decisions affecting children, youth, and families

VI. Ethical Commitments of CYC Leadership

CYC supervisors, administrators, and other indirect practitioners have the responsibility to make the Standards for Practice of North American Child and Youth Care Professionals a living document in their organizations in a variety of ways including:

A. Recruiting and hiring the best available applicants
B. Orienting child and youth care practitioners to the Standards and providing ongoing training pertaining to ethical practice
C. Developing, reviewing, and adapting organizational policies that are consistent with the Standards
D. Implementing strategies to integrate the Standards into the organizational culture
E. Supporting direct and indirect child and youth care practitioners in their efforts to engage in ethical practice at all times
F. Acknowledging the role of the organization in promoting self-care and personal wellbeing
G. Advocating actively and continuously for equitable wages and working conditions

Revision Committee Members (2022)

Dr. Christina L. Scanlon – University of Chicago

Dr. Varda Mann-Feder – Concordia University

Jerriann Chandler-Ochoa – Sycamores

Dr. Dale Curry – Kent State University

Frank Eckles – Academy for Competent Youth Work

James Freeman – Training Grounds LLC

Tammy Hopper  – National Safe Place Network