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A group of six young boys and girls playing dress up in outfits such as a nurse, firefighter, doctor, construction worker, chef, and business professional.

A new online graduate certificate at the University of Kentucky offers students the tools and expertise to make a difference for young children and their families through policy development. 

The 12-hour Leadership for Early Childhood & Family Policy Graduate Certificate covers essential policy development and analysis skills, with a focus on setting the foundation for a child’s development and future well-being. The program is designed to prepare students for careers in advocacy, policy analysis and leadership in early childhood organizations. 

"Students and professionals interested in developing a more nuanced understanding of complex issues surrounding early childhood, such as health care, education, family leave, mental health, minimum wage and child abuse and neglect policy, can benefit from the curriculum in this program. It is an opportunity to be part of framing a new era for early childhood policy," said Beth Rous, Ed.D., professor in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies in the UK College of Education. 

The online certificate program connects students to a national network of professionals passionate about creating a new field of early childhood and family policy. Through a curriculum designed and taught by UK faculty, students gain essential policy analysis and development expertise. 

"We are proud to partner with universities across the country to prepare the next generation of early childhood policy leaders," Rous said. "Given the need for evidence-based, equitable policies supporting children and families, we are grateful for the opportunity to empower students to drive meaningful change." 

Students in the program will enroll in four courses and learn to: 

  • evaluate the equity and effectiveness of early childhood and family policies; 
  • propose and advocate for equitable and effective policies and 
  • communicate with a wide range of stakeholders including policymakers, researchers, educators and advocates. 

"The need for trained professionals who can critically evaluate and improve policies affecting young children is clear," said Sheerah Keith, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar at UK and instructor in the program. "This certificate program is an important investment in developing leaders who can impact education, health care, family services and more.” 

For more information about the Early Childhood & Family Policy Graduate Certificate, email