Higher Education Programs


Becoming Entitled for the Family Specialist Credential

The Gateways to Opportunity Family Specialist Credential (FSC) is designed for those who work in direct partnership with families. This Credential validates those who work with families have the education and knowledge required to:

  • Build strength-based relationships with families 
  • Encourage families to identify and set achievable goals 
  • Support families in developing the skills and knowledge needed to access resources 
  • Promote and strengthen bonds between parent and child

Family Specialist Credential professionals include Family Advocates, Family Engagement Specialists, Family Support Workers, Parent Educators, Social Workers, etc.

Family Specialist Credential

Student/Workforce Potential

According to the Head Start Performance Standards 1302.91 (e) (7): “A program must ensure staff who work directly with families on the family partnership process hired after November 7, 2016, have within eighteen months of hire, at a minimum, a credential or certification in social work, human services, family services, counseling or a related field.” With over 900 Head Start locations in Illinois, family support specialist staff can use the Gateways Family Specialist Credential to meet this qualification.

The State of Illinois’ federal Preschool Development Birth to Five (PDG B-5) Renewal Grant funding supported an examination of the degree of alignment between the Illinois home visitor core competencies, the Gateways to Opportunity® Family Specialist Credential competencies, and the Home Visitor CDA. The crosswalk and final report can be found here:  pdf Illinois Home Visitor Credential Crosswalk Report (2.18 MB)

Excelerate Program

ExceleRate Illinois helps you prepare children for success in school and in life.

It also provides standards, guidelines, resources and supports to help you make sensible changes that lead to better quality outcomes for children.