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Child and Family Development: Helping to build and nurture a positive future


If you like working directly with children and families to help make a difference in their lives, the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Child and Family Development offered at Missouri State University-West Plains might be the degree program for you.


“The AAS in Child and Family Development (CFD) prepares students to work in a wide range of human service careers, ranging from pre-conception to end-of-life stages of life,” CFD Professor and Department Head Dr. Renee Moore said. “CFD students find employment working with all ages across a variety of settings and are highly sought after by many local, regional and national employers. Students on the West Plains campus can obtain their associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in child and family development without ever having to leave West Plains.”


Moore said the AAS in CFD degree program prepares students to work with all ages, typically and atypically functioning children and adults, and involves a great deal of hands-on, laboratory based experience.  In addition, students network with the community through volunteer efforts, professional development experiences and class projects.


Graduates of the CFD program work in a wide assortment of jobs, from parents-as-teachers, juvenile officers and nutrition educators to social services, child care and Head Start staff, and many more. “In fact,” Moore said, “contact the CFD department to see a list of over 150 careers CFD majors are currently employed in.”


Moore can be reached at 417-255-7925, or by email at ReneeMoore@MissouriState.edu.


A Student’s Perspective


Cory Neal, Mountain View, is currently pursuing the degree, and said he chose the program because of the many career options available.


“While many only view the degree for working in a daycare like field, there are so many other options that are available with the degree, from a daycare profession to counseling, working in public schools or private, from working with the Child Advocacy Center to working with the Children’s Division and everything in between,” Neal said.


He plans to continue his education through the Missouri State Outreach program offered on the West Plains campus to complete his bachelor’s degree in CFD and then earn a master’s degree in counseling to hopefully become a school counselor for an elementary school setting.


Neal has enjoyed his time at Missouri State-West Plains and his pursuit of the AAS in CFD.


“The professors who are in this program are great,” Neal said. “They have so much advice and stories to help you grow as an individual and in the future career that you wish to join. They also plan their classes to help you have examples to put in a portfolio for a future employer or ways to become involved with the community and to start networking with possible employers.”


Hard Work Pays Off


Autumn Kuyper, Willow Springs, started classes at Missouri State-West Plains in 2009. She initially wanted to pursue a degree in law enforcement then switched to elementary education before realizing that wasn’t the correct path for her, either. She settled on CFD because of the broad range of career options available, not just in larger areas but also close to home. Kuyper earned her Associate of Arts in General Studies in 2011, and then started to pursue a bachelor’s degree in CFD. By the time she had enough credits for an AAS in CFD, she had also attained her bachelor’s degree and earned both at the end of the 2014 fall semester. In January 2015, she was hired at the Department of Social Services Children’s Division, where she worked until November 2016, at which point she started working at her current position as a community support specialist at Ozarks Medical Center Behavioral Healthcare in West Plains.


“This degree made me very marketable, and it’s been very easy to find employment,” Kuyper said. “I’ve also looked into and been offered jobs as a juvenile officer, youth specialist for the Department of Youth Services and caseworker for Behavioral Healthcare.”


Kuyper described her path toward earning her degrees “treacherous,” and added, “Exam after exam, resource file after resource file … and I worked sometimes two jobs to keep going. But it was totally worth it, just not in a way that made sense at the time. It’s kind of like algebra. They say you won’t ever use this stuff, so why study it? The answer: It exercises your mind. The information is valuable, yes. But even when you’re studying things that don’t seem relevant at the time, do it anyway and appreciate the effort. For example, all those resource files helped me to effectively assemble information in a child’s file when they came into state custody. All those exams helped me learn to study and prepare for testifying in court on a child’s case. All those presentations I had to make and speak awkwardly in front of the class by myself helped increase my social skills and my ability to read people, and developed my confidence, allowing me to better communicate with the children and families I served. All those APA and MLA papers I had to come up with helped me understand how to eloquently write court reports to be read by juvenile officers, attorneys and judges. All those lectures, PowerPoints and note-taking helped me learn to listen, remember and write down information I would need later in a case that would help keep a child’s life safe.

Everything they teach and everything you learn will help you.”


Kuyper encourages students who are considering studying CFD to do it, and not to stop at an associate’s degree.


“Go the extra mile and put in the time to get your bachelor’s—it’s so worth it!” she said. “The time is going to pass anyway, so make it worth your while. No one can take your education from you, it’s something you’ll always have and will hopefully pass on to someone else.”


For more information on the required courses for the AAS in CFD program, visit http://wp.missouristate.edu/catalog/aas-child-and-family-development.htm.