Child Development Associate Support Specialists

The Need

The Child Development Associate (CDA) credential is a nationally recognized early childhood education professional certification. Growing the early childhood workforce in both numbers and diversity will help more children and families access culturally responsive care. Members of the existing workforce are often unable to afford the cost of pursuing a CDA credential, which would give them access to higher-paying jobs as an Early Childhood Teacher-Qualified professional. 

The Strategy

This initiative provides funding for CDA Support Specialist positions to recruit and support early childhood workforce from under-represented communities to obtain their CDA credential. There are four steps to completing a CDA Credential: 120 training hours, 480 hours of experience, an exam and a verification visit conducted by a Professional Development Specialist to review a portfolio, observe individuals in a classroom and provide reflective dialogue to the candidate. 

The program also offers scholarships for professionals earning a CDA credential and covers administration costs for vendors recruiting and supporting them. 

CDEC is contracting with Red Rocks Community College (RRCC) and Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) for this activity.

Key Outcomes and Learnings


As of December 31, 2023, 395 CDA candidates have been served in 30 counties with 121 completed certifications since January of 2022. Partners across the state are working to address barriers to participant completion. 


There is a lack of Professional Development Specialists, who are required to complete the final CDA credential verification visit, putting candidate credential timelines at risk, especially for those needing language support. Professional Development Specialists must become certified through the national body that oversees the CDA credential, the Council for Professional Recognition. There are specific requirements for individuals to become certified to perform verification visits, including college coursework. An individual must be bilingual to become certified to conduct verification visits in other languages, thus compounding this shortage. CDEC vendors are working to make candidate support more efficient but have little control or influence to address this shortage.

blue gear labeled workforce


Amount: $2,639,676 


  • American Rescue Plan Discretionary 
  • American Rescue Plan Stabilization 
  • Preschool Development Grant Birth-Five (PDG B-5) 

Expiration: September 30, 2024

Next Steps

Design and creation of financial incentives for Professional Development Specialists to complete the final observations participants need to finish the credential is ongoing.


Evidence Brief

"CDA Support Specialist Program" 

Butler Institute for Families, University of Denver 

(September 2023)



Additional Data and Demographics


line chart showing number of CDA specialists employed by quarter

pie chart showing CDA certificate types completed since 2022

bar chart showing the number of new candidates by quarter

bar chart showing languages spoken by candidates served