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CWLS Certification Exam Details

Before you can be certified as a Child Welfare Law Specialist, you must first pass the CWLS certification exam. Beginning in 2018, you will be able to take the exam from the comfort of your own home on a date of your choosing. Your exam will be remotely proctored via webcam. You can schedule your exam at any time during the testing season (usually March to mid-December). You must submit your CWLS application and pay the application fee prior to sitting for the exam.  However, you may take the exam before your application goes to the CWLS Certification Committee for review and approval. 

The Exam

Exam questions are drawn from Child Welfare Law and Practice: Representing Children, Parents and State Agencies in Abuse, Neglect and Dependency Cases (3rd Ed., 2016), also known as the "Red Book.” Lawyers certified in child welfare 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 (the Red Book) in all formats (all editions, hardcopy, photocopies, electronic version) is prohibited. All other publications are allowed.


National Exam

The national exam consists of 60 multiple choice questions and 2 essay questions. You will have 3 hours and 55 minutes to complete the entire national exam.

California Exam

Currently, California is the only state that requires the national exam plus an additional state-specific exam. California applicants may wish to have California-specific legal references at hand.


The California exam consists of 30 multiple choice questions and 1 essay question. You will have 2 hours and 10 minutes to complete the entire California exam. You may take the California exam on the same day as the national exam, but you will need to schedule two exam appointments. 


Frequently Asked Questions - Please Read!

We encourage all applicants to review these frequently asked questions and answers regarding the CWLS certification exam. This FAQ resource covers the basics, preparing for the exam, scheduling your exam, technology, what to expect on exam day, and grading and results. Further questions can be submitted to


Preparing for the Exam: Additional Resources

Your legal education, practice experience, and continuing legal education in child welfare, delinquency, family law, and related areas all help prepare you for the CWLS certification exam. Upon submitting your CWLS certification application, you will also receive a copy of the Red Book.

Looking for additional resources to prepare yourself for the examination? Check out the following links:

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