Apply for CWLS Certification

Application Process

  • Check Eligibility and Application Requirements
  • Review Certification Standards
  • Submit Your Application Online
  • Prepare for the Exam
  • Take the Exam

Eligibility and Application Requirements

  • 3 or more years practicing law
  • 30% or more of the last three years involved in the field of child welfare law (30% of last 5 years in SC)
  • A resume/CV detailing your involvement in the field
  • 36 hours of continuing legal education within the last three years in courses relevant to child welfare law (45 hours in CA; 36 hours of state-approved CLE in IN, OH, and SC)
  • A writing sample drafted within the last three years that demonstrates legal analysis in the field
  • Your public and private disciplinary history 
  • Peer review responses
  • Professional liability insurance requirements (OH only)

Note: CWLS certification is not available in Maine, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia.



NACC Members$400
Application fee includes the Red Book and CWLS Exam!

Annual Renewal

All Renewals$120*
*Some states require an additional fee


All recertifications$300
Every five years, includes latest edition of the Red Book

Certification Standards

Applicants must meet general standards and prerequisites to qualify. Applicants in California, Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas must meet additional requirements. 

Submit Your Application Online

If you meet all the requirements, apply for certification through Certemy. NACC will manage the application process through this online platform. Your application period will start once you set up your Certemy account.

The process consists of the Initial Application phase and the Exam phase. You must complete the Initial Application phase and be approved by the CWLS Certification Committee before you move to the Exam phase. Once you start the application, you have three years to complete both phases. You must complete the Initial Application phase within the first 365 days. 

You will have three opportunities to take the exam – once in the same calendar year your application was approved (even if approved in December), and once in each of the two subsequent calendar years. 

The application fee includes a copy of Child Welfare Law and Practice (the Red Book). You must complete the General Information step and the Application Fee step first. You may complete other steps of the Initial Application phase in any order.

You may work on your application over time – Certemy saves your progress as you go.

Once you log in, please read all instructions for each step.


Application Resources

Apply for CWLS Certification

Prepare for the Exam

The exam draws questions from Child Welfare Law and Practice (Fourth Edition). Instructions for ordering your copy are in the first step of the application. Your legal background, continuing legal education, and practical experience in child welfare law all help prepare you for the exam. 

Child Welfare Law Specialists must be knowledgeable in relevant state and federal laws; understand principles of child development, family dynamics, and psychology; be familiar with collateral systems impacting children and their parents; and recognize the professional responsibility and ethical issues that arise out of child welfare proceedings.

The CWLS certification exam is open notes (hardcopy only). However, use of Child Welfare Law and Practice in all formats (all editions, hardcopy, photocopies, electronic version) is prohibited. All other publications are allowed. The exam season is generally open from March through December.

The CWLS exam consists of 60 multiple choice questions and two essay questions. (California Applicants: the second essay question on your exam will be specific to California law.) You will have three hours and 55 minutes to complete the entire exam. The exam is proctored and administered remotely. Once the committee approves your application, you can take your exam from any location, on any day, and at any time of day during exam season. You do not need to schedule an appointment.

Additional Resources

The Red Book Training Course

Optional online series of webinars covering the major competency areas.  NACC offers the RBTC twice a year. It includes the electronic version of the Red Book, temporary access to session recordings, and a comprehensive workbook which can be used during the exam if printed in hard copy.

Take the Exam

Once the CWLS Certification Committee approves your application, you will receive an email from NACC with your exam login credentials.

The exam is proctored and delivered online through Examplify, which uses facial recognition and artificial intelligence technology to record your exam session and flag any irregularities. We aim to administer an exam where your focus is on content rather than proctoring procedures.

Enhance your practice.

Child Welfare Law Specialists must apply for recertification every five years.


New CWLS logos and assets coming soon for use on your website.

Become an NACC Member

Your Practice is our purpose

Join the NACC Community! NACC provides training and resources to attorneys, advocates, and professionals who work in child welfare law. NACC also works to improve the system alongside children and families. NACC promotes excellence, builds community, and advances justice.

Benefits of Membership

  • The Guardian law journal
  • Member Webinars
  • Listserv
  • Annual conference discount
  • Discount on trainings, CWLS certification, and publications