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Promoting Excellence: CWLS Certification

Certification Icon' title='Certification Icon  About CWLS 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 credential is granted only to those attorneys who successfully complete a rigorous application and examination process - it is the highest testament to an attorney's dedication and demonstrated excellence in this discipline.

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 here for a printable CWLS Overview Brochure



     - NACC Members.......................$375

     - Non-members...........................$500

Annual Renewal............................$120*

Recertification (every 5 years).........$300

 * Some states require an additional annual fee.

Application fee includes the CWLS exam!


How to Become a CWLS

Ready to become certified? Just follow these steps:

  1. Request an application by filling out our online form.

  2. Complete and submit it with the application fee.

  3. Submit any additional application materials, including a writing sample and CLE History Form or transcript.

  4. Schedule your personal exam date/location and pass.
Apply Now


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 



Applicant Resources Icon Applicant Resources

Our Applicant Resources page provides you with information and tools to help guide you through the application process. You’ll find information on CWLS certification standards and the certification exam, as well as a selection of useful forms and additional materials.

Learn More


Recertification Icon Recertification Info

After five years as a Child Welfare Law Specialist, certified attorneys must apply for recertification. The fee is $300, and the abridged application process does not require a writing sample or examination. For more info, visit our Recertification Info page. There, you’ll find an electronic recertification application, recertification standards, and other useful information.

More Info


Applicant Resources Icon CWLS Resources

Already a Child Welfare Law Specialist? Why not build your own credibility while helping the CWLS program gain recognition and exposure? Our CWLS Resource page contains a variety of tools to help you promote your specialty.

Visit Page


Network Icon CWLS Search Directory

Looking for a CWLS in your state or jurisdiction? Perhaps you're an existing CWLS who's looking to network with like-minded professionals. Our CWLS Search Directory can help you locate a specialist near you. If you know who you're looking for, you can also search by name. 

View Directory



A National Approach

At NACC, we are constantly working to bring a higher level of professional accountability to the field of child welfare law. Over 800 attorneys have been certified since the CWLS program began in 2006, collectively helping to raise the standards of practice for all those working in the field of child abuse and neglect law and all those affected by it. 

NACC's Child Welfare Law Specialist certification program is currently available in the following jurisdictions:

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