What is a Child Life Specialist?
Child life specialists are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life’s most challenging events.
Armed with a strong background in child development and family systems, child life specialists promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. They provide emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization. Because they understand that a child’s well-being depends on the support of the family, child life specialists provide information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members. They also play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress.
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Professional Standards of Practice
Child life specialists have earned a minimum bachelor’s or master’s degree, with an educational emphasis on human growth and development, education, psychology, or a related field of study. They adhere to a code of ethics and standards established by the Child Life Council, and many have participated in the rigorous process for obtaining the Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) credential, which is administered by CLC. All Certified Child Life Specialists must complete a supervised 480+ hour clinical internship, pass a national examination, and adhere to a minimum standard for continued professional development in order to maintain their certification.
Child life specialists focus on the psychosocial needs of children, collaborating with parents and other members of the team to:
- Ease a child’s fear and anxiety with therapeutic and recreational play activities
- Encourage understanding and cooperation by providing medical preparation and support for children undergoing tests, surgeries, and other medical procedures
- Advocate for family-centered care
- Engage and energize children and families by coordinating special events, entertainment, and activities
- Consider the needs of siblings or other children who are also affected by a child’s illness or trauma
- Support families confronting grief and bereavement issues
- Provide education and resources for parents and members of the interdisciplinary team
For additional information including Child Life availability, please contact:
Child Life Program
To learn more about Child Life, please see the following links: