Standards for child and youth development programs

2020 Edition

Child and Youth Development Human Resources (CYD-HR) 8: Satisfaction and Retention

The program promotes a high level of personnel satisfaction and retention.


Factors known to contribute to staff satisfaction and retention include role clarity, recognition of employee contributions, satisfaction with salary and benefits, reasonable workload, autonomy, opportunities for advancement, and career development. 
2020 Edition




A stable, qualified, trained, and supported workforce contributes effectively and efficiently to the delivery of quality programming that promotes positive child and youth education and development.
Note: See CYD-HR 5, 6, and 7 for more information regarding practices related to training, professional development, and supervision, which will impact staff satisfaction and retention.
The program’s practices fully meet the standard, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Policies and procedures for discrimination and harassment, including procedures for reporting, investigation, and corrective action (CYD-HR 8.01)
  • Policies for preferential treatment and nepotism (CYD-HR 8.02)
  • Aggregated personnel satisfaction and retention information
  • Plan for promoting personnel satisfaction and retention, including goals for satisfaction and retention (may be included in long term plan)
  • Procedures for ensuring the program complies with applicable laws and regulations (or a description of how the program ensures it complies with applicable laws and regulations) (CYD-HR 8.01)
  • Review/analysis reports regarding compliance with legal and regulatory requirements
  • Documentation that training regarding discrimination/harassment has been provided (e.g., documentation from training files or personnel records)
  • Grievance reports
  • Criteria used for assigning and evaluating workloads
  • Staff meeting schedules, agendas, and/or minutes
  • Methods/protocols used to:
    1. keep personnel informed about items of importance;
    2. obtain personnel input and provide feedback about their suggestions
  • Documentation demonstrating that personnel are provided with paid time to:
    1. plan/set up activities;
    2. participate in training/professional development
  • Documentation of:
    1. wages;
    2. benefits;
    3. opportunities for advancement;
    4. opportunities to attend trainings and conferences
  • Reports or meeting minutes related to retention/satisfaction issues and improvement/corrective action, if necessary
  • Personnel records
  • Interview:
    1. Program Administrator and/or Director
    2. Program Personnel
  • Observe staff interactions

Fundamental Practice

CYD-HR 8.01

The program complies with applicable laws and regulations governing fair employment practices, and provides a workplace free from discrimination and harassment.
Related Standards:


Programs should promote a workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment by: (1) establishing and adhering to policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment; (2) providing relevant training to personnel at all levels on an annual basis; (3) establishing an accessible, clearly-defined reporting process that is communicated to all personnel and allows personnel to bypass the alleged offender in the reporting process; (4) conducting timely, thorough, and unbiased investigations following a complaint; and (5) taking immediate and appropriate corrective action when discrimination or harassment has occurred. 

Non-discrimination policies should apply to all aspects of employment practices including, but not limited to: recruitment, hiring, promotion, termination, transfer, compensation, benefits, and working conditions. Programs should review guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other federal, state, or local human rights agencies to determine the legally protected classes applicable in their jurisdiction.
Note: As noted in CYD-AM 8.01, programs are expected to review and monitor their compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations.  Typically, state or local law or regulation, when more stringent, supersedes federal regulation.

CYD-HR 8.02

The program employs only those persons who are qualified according to the job descriptions and selection criteria for the positions they occupy, and policy:
  1. prohibits preferential treatment; and
  2. addresses nepotism with regard to hiring, supervision, and promotion.


This standard does permit the hiring of relatives, provided that relatives are qualified. Whenever possible, relatives should not work within the same hierarchy of supervision. However, COA does recognize that in some cases this may not be possible (e.g., if the program is a small, family-owned business).

CYD-HR 8.03

The program establishes a formal mechanism, including steps and timeframes, through which employees can express and resolve grievances.

CYD-HR 8.04

Employee workloads support the achievement of positive outcomes for children and youth, are regularly reviewed, and are based on an assessment of the following:
  1. the qualifications, competencies, and experience of personnel, including the level of supervision needed; and
  2. the work and time required to accomplish assigned tasks and job responsibilities.

CYD-HR 8.05

Personnel demonstrate that they work well together by:
  1. communicating with each other while the program is in session to ensure that the program flows smoothly;
  2. meeting outside of program time to plan activities and discuss issues or problems that arise;
  3. cooperating with each other;
  4. being respectful of each other; and
  5. modeling positive adult relationships.


There are a number of ways for personnel to show that they work well together.  For example, personnel should share work fairly and be flexible about their roles, pitching in to help one another as needed.  Similarly, personnel can help to ensure that the program flows smoothly by checking in with one another, communicating about their needs in a way that promotes cooperation, responding supportively to non-verbal cues, saving complicated discussions for times when children, youth, and families are not present, and keeping conversations about personal matters brief. Personnel should also take care to ensure that respect is shown to all, even in tense situations. For example, when problems occur personnel should discuss their differences and try to devise fair solutions, being mindful of their tone and demeanor. 
Note: As noted in CYD-HR 8.08, it is also important that personnel be compensated for the time they devote to planning.

CYD-HR 8.06

The program establishes a culture that supports open communication and collaboration by:
  1. holding regular staff meetings;  
  2. keeping personnel informed about items of importance, including any changes or potential changes at the program;
  3. giving personnel ample opportunities to discuss their ideas for and concerns about the program; and
  4. providing feedback to personnel about their suggestions and recommendations.


While it is important that staff meetings are held on a regular basis, programs should also strive to ensure that the content and quality of meetings is meaningful, and helpful to both staff and the program as a whole, rather than holding meetings simply to meet specific frequency-related requirements. Consideration should be given to the type of information/data that staff need to do their work, the frequency at which that information/data changes, and the meeting format that will make the information/data most actionable.

CYD-HR 8.07

The program encourages initiative, creativity, and innovation and rewards and recognizes the contributions of personnel.
Related Standards:


The program should strive to encourage contributions that: (1) advance important program values; (2) help the program become more effective in meeting the goals specified in its logic model (or equivalent framework) or long-term plan; and/or (3) facilitate the program’s ability to better meet the needs of the children, youth, and families it serves.

CYD-HR 8.08

In an effort to promote quality programming and compensate personnel for their time and energy, personnel are provided with paid time to:
  1. plan, organize, and set up program activities and events; and
  2. participate in trainings and other professional development activities.
Related Standards:


Regarding element (a), the amount of paid time provided should balance the program’s financial considerations with the amount of time needed to plan quality programming and activities.  More time should be provided if personnel are responsible for developing their own curricula.  Regarding element (b), a program might compensate personnel for the time they spend in training activities by arranging for substitutes and paid time off so that personnel can participate in trainings during the work day, or by paying personnel for the time they spend in training outside of program hours.  Programs can also support professional development by offering tuition reimbursement. 
Note: The program’s budget should reflect and support these priorities. 

CYD-HR 8.09

The program strives to offer:
  1. the best wages it can afford;
  2. benefits, including health insurance and paid leave, for personnel who work full-time;
  3. opportunities for role enhancement and advancement at the program, including opportunities for leadership; and
  4. opportunities to attend supplemental trainings and conferences.
Related Standards:


Programs may take different steps to ensure that they provide appropriate compensation and opportunities for advancement.  For example, a program might pay all personnel above the minimum hourly wage, take education and experience into account when determining compensation, offer opportunities for higher pay and/or advancement based on performance and/or length of service, and conduct an analysis to ensure that wages are competitive with those paid for other human service jobs.  Programs might also strive to offer benefits that extend beyond health insurance and paid leaves of absence (e.g., dental insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, retirement benefits, subsidized child care), or provide non-monetary benefits such as flex time, when possible.  Conducting additional fundraising efforts and supplementing paid staff with volunteers (including AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteers who receive stipends from other sources) can help programs make progress toward ensuring they have the funds needed to compensate personnel appropriately. 
Note: The program’s budget should reflect and support these priorities. 
The turnover rate in these fields is high, and some research suggests that this is at least in part due to low wages.  Accordingly, increases in wages and access to benefits might help to stabilize the workforce, advance the profession, and promote program quality.  Although many programs have limited resources and thus may feel ill-equipped to make improvements in this area, some literature suggests that there are still steps that can be taken to address the problem.  For example, if a program establishes a formal pay structure, and communicates its compensation policies, staff may be less likely to think they are being treated unfairly.

CYD-HR 8.10

The program:
  1. develops and implements a plan to promote personnel satisfaction and retention;
  2. establishes goals for satisfaction and retention (i.e. percentage goals);
  3. annually measures personnel satisfaction and the rate of personnel turnover; and
  4. takes action to address identified satisfaction and retention concerns.
Related Standards:


The plan to promote personnel satisfaction and retention will likely include attention to practices addressed elsewhere in this core concept, as well as in CYD-HR 5, 6, and 7.  
When the program utilizes volunteers with defined term limits (e.g., AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteers), this should be taken into account when establishing retention goals and analyzing turnover rates.
Note: The plan to promote personnel satisfaction and retention may be developed in conjunction with the long-term plan addressed in CYD-AM 3, and the action undertaken to address identified satisfaction and retention concerns will likely occur in the context of the CQI efforts addressed in CYD-AM 11.
Studies have shown that youth who attend out-of-school time programs with little staff turnover report higher levels of adult support and more opportunities, which the research correlates to the achievement of positive outcomes for youth. Conversely, high levels of staff turnover can interfere with the development of relationships between youth and adults. Since turnover in the field tends to be high, it is important that programs attempt to identify and remedy any staffing issues they face. Reasons for turnover include: (1) inadequate compensation; (2) competition in the job market; (3) long hours of work compared to other jobs that pay more; (4) personality clashes among staff; and (5) hiring young staff who have recently graduated from college who do not stay in the position very long. 

Early childhood education workforce research suggests that with the tremendous growth in the field, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and retain experienced and qualified workers.  As referenced in CYD-HR 8.09, low wages and benefits have been cited as obstacles for sufficient recruitment and retention of teaching staff. Lower turnover rates are associated with improved outcomes among children receiving out-of-home care.