Editor’s note: We need the help
of all Young Children readers who are
familiar with NAEYC's Code of Ethics.
Perhaps you have been involved in
thinking through one or more of the NAEYC’s Code of Ethical Conduct:
ethical dilemmas that have been
regularly appearing in Young Children – Guidelines for Responsible Behavior in
in staff meeting, at an Affiliate Group
meeting, or with friends. Many of you Early Childhood Education
have used the principles and ideals in
NAEYC’s Code of Ethics to help solve
dilemmas you face in your work.
Because of these experiences, you have
information that can be valuable t o
NAEYC as we review the Code for
needed revisions or additions. NAEYC recognizes that many daily The Code sets forth a conception o f
The Code is published on the following decisions required of those who work our professional responsibilities in four
pages to aid your review. with young children are of a moral and sections, each addressing an arena of
• Are any of the principles or ideals ethical nature. The NAEYC Code o f professional relationships: (1) children
phrased confusingly? How would you Ethical Conduct offers guidelines for (2) families (3) colleagues, and ( 4 )
change the wording? responsible behavior and sets forth a community and society. Each section
• Have you found the Code lacking in common basis for resolving the principal includes an introduction to the primary
guidance for a particular ethical ethical dilemmas encountered in early responsibilities of the early childhood
dilemma involving children or their childhood education. The primary focus practitioner in that arena, a set o f
families? Describe the situation for us. is on daily practice with children and ideals pointing in the direction o f
Please send your suggestions regarding their families in programs for children exemplary professional practice, and a
how we can clarify any point in the from birth to 8 years of age: set of principles defining practices that
Code to: preschools, child care centers, family are required, prohibited, and permitted.
NAEYC Ethics Panel day care homes, kindergartens, and
Office of the Executive Director primary classrooms. Many of the The ideals reflect the aspirations o f
1509 1 6t h Street, NW provisions also apply to specialists who practitioners. The principles are
Washington, DC 20036-1426 do not work directly with children intended to guide conduct and assist
If you have not yet used the “case including program administrators, practitioners in resolving ethical
study” dilemmas we publish, we hope parent educators, college professors, dilemmas encountered in the field.
you soon will start discussing each one and child care licensing specialists. There is not necessarily a corresponding
in your staff meetings. principle for each ideal. Both ideals and
Standards of ethical behavior in principles are intended to direct
--------------------------------------------- early childhood education are based on practitioners to those questions which
NAEYC’s Code of Ethical Conduct was commitment to core values that are when responsibly answered, will provide
prepared under the auspices of the deeply rooted in the history of our field. the basis for conscientious decision
Ethics Commission of the National making. While the Code provides
Association for the Education of Young We have committed ourselves to: specific direction for addressing some
Children. The Commission members • Appreciating childhood as a unique ethical dilemmas, many others will
were: Stephanie Feeney (Chairperson), and valuable stage of the human life require the practitioner to combine the
Bettye Caldwell, Sally Cartwright, Carrie cycle guidance of the Code with sound
Cheek, Josue Cruz, Jr., Anne G. Dorsey, • Basing our work with children on professional judgment.
Dorothy M. Hill, Lilian G. Katz, Pamm knowledge of child development
Mattick, Shirley A. Norris, and Sue • Appreciating and supporting the close The ideals and principles in this Code
Spayth Riley. Financial assistance for ties between the child and family present a shared conception o f
this project was provided by NAEYC, • Recognizing that children are best professional responsibility that affirms
the Wallace Alexander Gerbode understood in the context o f our commitment to the core values o f
Foundation, and the University o f family culture and society our field. The Code publicly
Hawaii. • Respecting the dignity, worth, and acknowledges the responsibilities that
NAEYC gratefully acknowledges the uniqueness of each individual (child, we in the field have assumed and in so
research and development work done family member, and colleague) doing supports ethical behavior in our
for this project by Stephanie Feeney, • Helping children and adults achieve work. Practitioners who face ethical
Ph.D., Professor and Early Childhood their full potential in the context o f dilemmas are urged to seek guidance in
Education Specialist at the University o f relationships that are based on trust the applicable parts of this Code and in
Hawaii at Manoa, and Kenneth Kipnis, respect and positive regard the spirit that informs the whole.
Ph.D., Professor of Philisophy at the
University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Young Children - March 1 9 9 6
Section 1: not apply to programs that have a responsibility to bring about
lawful mandate to provide services to a collaboration between the home and
Ethical responsibilities to
particular population of children.) school in ways that enhance the child's
children P-1.3—We shall involve all of those development.
with relevant knowledge (including staff
Childhood is a unique and valuable and parents) in decisions concerning a Ideals:
stage in the life cycle. Our paramount child.
responsibility is to provide safe, P-1.4—When, after appropriate I -2.1—To develop relationships o f
healthy, nurturing, and responsive efforts have been made with a child and mutual trust with families we serve.
settings for children. We are committed the family, the child still does not I -2.2—To acknowledge and build
to supporting children’ s development appear to be benefiting from a upon strengths and competencies as
by cherishing individual differences, by program, we shall communicate our we support families in their task o f
helping them learn to live and work concern to the family in a positive way nurturing children.
cooperatively, and by promoting their and offer them assistance in finding a I -2.3—To respect the dignity of each
self-esteem. more suitable setting. family and its culture, customs, and
P-1.5—We shall be familiar with the beliefs.
Ideals: symptoms of child abuse and neglect I -2.4—To respect families' child rear-
and know and follow community ing values and their right to make
I-1.1—To be familiar with the procedures and state laws that protect decisions for their children.
knowledge base of early childhood children against abuse and neglect. I -2.5—To interpret each child's pro-
education and to keep current through P-1.6—When we have evidence o f gress to parents within the framework
continuing education and in-service child abuse or neglect, we shall report of a developmental perspective and t o
training. the evidence to the appropriate help families understand and appreciate
I -1.2—To base program practices community agency and follow up to the value of developmentally appro-
upon current knowledge in the field o f ensure that appropriate action has been priate early childhood programs.
child development and related taken. When possible, parents will be I -2.6—To help family members
disciplines and upon particular informed that the referral has been improve their understanding of their
knowledge of each child. made. children and to enhance their skills as
I -1.3—To recognize and respect the P-1.7—When another person tells us parents.
uniqueness and the potential of each of their suspicion that a child is being I -2.7—To participate in building sup-
child. abused or neglected but we lack port networks for families by providing
I -1.4—To appreciate the special evidence, we shall assist that person in them with opportunities to interact with
vulnerability of children. taking appropriate action to protect the program staff and families.
I -1.5—To create and maintain safe child.
and healthy settings that foster P-1.8—When a child protective
children's social, emotional, intellectual, agency fails to provide adequate Principles:
and physical development and that protection for abused or neglected
respect their dignity and their children, we acknowledge a collective P-2.1—We shall not deny family mem-
contributions. ethical responsibility to work toward bers access to their child's classroom or
I -1.6—To support the right of improvement of these services. program setting.
children with special needs t o P-l.9—When we become aware of a P-2.2—We shall inform families of pro-
participate, consistent with their ability, practice or situation that endangers the gram philosophy, policies, and personnel
in regular early childhood programs. health or safety of children, but has not qualifications, and explain why we teach
been previously known to do so, we as we do.
have an ethical responsibility to inform P-2.3—We shall inform families of and,
those who can remedy the situation when appropriate, involve them in
and who can keep other children from policy decisions.
P-1.1—Above all we shall not harm
being similarly endangered. P-2.4—We shall inform families of and,
children. We shall not participate in
when appropriate, involve them in sig-
practices that are disrespectful,
nificant decisions affecting their child.
degrading, dangerous, exploitative, Section II: P-2.5—We shall inform the family o f
intimidating, psychologically damaging,
Ethical responsibilities to accidents involving their child, of risks
or physically harmful to children. This
families such as exposures to contagious
principle has precedence over
disease that may result in infection, and
all others in this Code.
Families are of primary importance of events that might result in psy-
P-1.2—We shall not participate in
in children's development. chological damage.
practices that discriminate against
(The term family may include others, P-2.6—We shall not permit or partici-
children by denying benefits, giving
besides parents, who are responsibly pate in research that could in any way
special advantages, or excluding them
involved with the child.) Because the hinder the education or development of
from programs or activities on the basis
family and the early childhood educator the children in our programs. Families
of their race, religion, sex, national
have a common interest in the child's shall be fully informed of any proposed
origin, or the status, behavior, or beliefs
welfare, we acknowledge a primary research projects involving their
of their parents. (This principle does
Young Children - March 1 9 9 6
children and shall have the opportunity A— C—
to give or withhold consent.
Responsibilities to Responsibilities to
P-2.7—We shall not engage in or
support exploitation of families. We co-workers employees
shall not use our relationship with a
family for private advantage or personal Ideals: Ideals:
gain, or enter into relationships with
family members that might impair our I -3A.I—To establish and maintain I-3C.I—To promote policies and
effectiveness in working with children. relationships of trust and cooperation working conditions that foster
P-2.8—We shall develop written with co-workers. competence, well-being, and
policies for the protection o f I -3A.2—To share resources and self-esteem in staff members.
confidentiality and the disclosure o f information with co-workers. I -3C.2—To create a climate of trust
children's records. The policy I -3A.3—To support co-workers in and candor that will enable staff t o
documents shall be made available to all meeting their professional needs and in speak and act in the best interests o f
program personnel and families. their professional development. children, families, and the field of early
Disclosure of children's records beyond I -3A.4—To accord co-workers due childhood education.
family members, program personnel, recognition of professional I -3C.3—To strive to secure an ad-
and consultants having an obligation o f achievement. equate livelihood for those who work
confidentiality shall require familial with or on behalf of young children.
consent (except in cases of abuse or
P-2.9—We shall maintain
P-3A.1—When we have concern
confidentiality and shall respect the
about the professional behavior of a co- P-3C.1—In decisions concerning chil-
family's right to privacy, refraining from
worker, we shall first let that person dren and programs, we shall appropri-
disclosure of confidential information
know of our concern and attempt t o ately utilize the training, experience,
and intrusion into family life. However,
resolve the matter collegially. and expertise of staff members.
when we are concerned about a child's
P-3A.2—We shall exercise care in P-3C.2—We shall provide staff
welfare, it is permissible to reveal
expressing views regarding the personal members with working conditions that
confidential information to agencies and
attributes or professional conduct o f permit them to carry out their
individuals who may be able to act in
co-workers. Statements should be responsibilities, timely and
the child's interest.
based on firsthand knowledge and nonthreatening evaluation procedures,
P-2.10—In cases where family
relevant to the interests of children and written grievance procedures,
members are in conflict we shall work
programs. constructive feedback, and op-
openly, sharing our observations of the
portunities for continuing professional
child, to help all parties involved make
B— development and advancement.
informed decisions. We shall refrain
P-3C.3—We shall develop and
from becoming an advocate for one Responsibilities to
maintain comprehensive written
party. employers personnel policies that define program
P-2.11—We shall be familiar with and
standards and, when applicable, that
appropriately use community resources
Ideals: specify the extent to which employees
and professional services that support
are accountable for their conduct
families. After a referral has been made,
I -3B.I—To assist the program in outside the work place. These policies
we shall follow up to ensure that
providing the highest quality of service. shall be given to new staff members
services have been adequately
I -3B.2—To maintain loyalty to the and shall be available for review by all
program and uphold its reputation. staff members.
P-3C.4—Employees who do not meet
program standards shall be informed o f
areas of concern and, when possible,
Section III: assisted in improving their performance.
P-3B.I—When we do not agree with
Ethical responsibilities to P-3C.5—Employees who are dismissed
program policies, we shall first attempt
colleagues shall be informed of the reasons for
to effect change through constructive
their termination. When a dismissal is
action within the organization.
In a caring, cooperative work place, for cause, justification must be based
P-3B.2—We shall speak or act on
human dignity is respected, professional on evidence o f inadequate or inappro-
behalf of an organization only when
satisfaction is promoted, and positive priate behavior that is accurately
authorized. We shall take care to note
relationships are modeled. Our primary documented, current, and available for
when we are speaking for the
responsibility in this arena is t o the employee to review.
organization and when we are
establish and maintain settings and P-3C.6—In making evaluations and
expressing a personal Judgment.
relationships that support productive recommendations, judgments shall be
work and meet professional needs. based on fact and relevant to the
interests of children and programs.
Young Children - March 1 9 9 6
P-3C.7—Hiring and promotion shall be I -4.6—To support policies and laws the problem to appropriate authorities
based solely on a person's record o f that promote the well-being of children or to the public.
accomplishment and ability to carry out and families. To oppose those that P-4.11—When a program violates or
the responsibilities of the position. impair their well-being. To cooperat e requires its employees to violate this
P-3C.8—In hiring, promotion, and pro- with other individuals and groups in Code, it is permissible, after fair as-
vision of training, we shall not partici- these efforts. sessment of the evidence, to disclose
pate in any form of discrimination based I -4 7 —To further the professional the identity of that program.
on race, religion, sex, national origin, development of the field of early child
handicap, age, or sexual preference. We hood education and to strengthen its
shall be familiar with laws and commitment to realizing its core values
regulations that pertain to employment as reflected in this Code.
Principles: Order this informative
Section IV: P-4.1—We shall communicate openly
Ethical responsibilities t o and truthfully about the nature and
extent of services that we provide. Code of Ethical Conduct
community and society
P-4.2—We shall not accept or
continue to work in positions for which and
Early childhood programs operate
we are personally unsuited or
within a context of an immediate Statement of Commitment
professionally unqualified. We shall not
community made up of families and
offer services that we do not have the
other institutions concerned with
competence, qualifications, or
children's welfare. Our responsibilities
resources to provide.
by Stephanie Feeney and
to the community are to provide
programs that meet its needs and t o
P-4.3—We shall be objective and Kenneth Kipnis
accurate in reporting the knowledge
cooperate with agencies and
upon which we base our program
professions that share responsibility for
children. Because the larger society has
practices. A code of ethics for early
P-4.4—We shall cooperate with other
a measure of responsibility for the childhood educators which
professionals who work with children
welfare and protection of children and
and their families. offers guidelines for
because of our specialized expertise in
P-4.5—We shall not hire or
child development, we acknowledge an responsible behavior and set
recommend for employment any person
obligation to serve as a voice for
who is unsuited for a position with
children everywhere. forth a common basis for
respect to competence, qualifications,
or character. resolving ethical dilemmas
Ideals: P-4.6—We shall report the unethical
or incompetent behavior of a colleague
encountered in early
I -4.1—To provide the community to a supervisor when informal resolution childhood education.
with high-quality, culturally sensitive is not effective.
programs and services. P-4.7—We shall be familiar with laws
I -4.2—To promote cooperation and regulations that serve to protect NAEYC order #503
among agencies and professions the children in our programs.
concerned with the welfare of young P-4.8—We shall not participate in 50 cents each; 100 for $10
children, their families, and their practices which are in violation of laws,
teachers. and regulations that protect the
I -4.3—To work, through education, children in our programs.
research, and advocacy, toward an P- 4.9—When we have evidence that
environmentally safe world in which all an early childhood program is violating
children are adequately fed, sheltered, laws or regulations protecting children,
and nurtured. we shall report it to persons responsible
I -4.4—To work, through education, for the program. If compliance is not
research, and advocacy, toward a accomplished within a reasonable time,
society in which all young children have we will report the violation t o
access to quality programs. appropriate authorities who can be
I -4.5—To promote knowledge and expected to remedy the situation.
understanding of young children and P-4- 1 0 —When we have evidence that
their needs. To work toward greater an agency or a professional charged
social acknowledgment of children's with providing services to children,
rights and greater social acceptance o f families, or teachers is failing t o meet
responsibility for their well-being. its obligations, we acknowledge a col-
lective ethical responsibility to report
Young Children - March 1 9 9 6