Children today confront a wide variety of stressful and potentially traumatic events that may overwhelm their natural ability to cope and heal. Difficult or unexpected experiences, such as chronic illness, hospitalization, the death of a loved one, or the aftermath of violent acts or natural disasters are upsetting for everyone involved. Children are particularly vulnerable, and parents or other responsible adults may feel unsure of their ability to help children to successfully understand and manage these experiences.
Because children process information from the world around them much differently than adults, they have distinct needs for managing the effects of stress and trauma. Without the assistance of a professional who understands their unique perspective, children of all ages may experience emotions such as fear, shame, confusion and loneliness, which can inhibit their natural development, and have lasting negative effects on their wellbeing.
Child life specialists are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life’s most challenging events, and the importance of their services has been well documented. The following are just a few resources highlighting the need for child life services in hospitals and a variety of other settings.
The updated American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Policy Statement on Child Life Services appeared in the October 2006 issue of Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the AAP. The revised policy statement includes strong recommendations for the inclusion of child life services across many different settings, and concludes:
Child life services make a difference in pediatric care. Although more research is needed, there is some evidence that child life services may help to contain costs by reducing hospital length of stay and decreasing the need for analgesics. Observation and consumer satisfaction feedback further confirm the positive effects of child life programs on children, families, and staff. It remains essential for child life specialists to adapt and grow with the changing health care system in support of the emotional well-being of children and families.
Read the complete AAP Policy Statement on Child Life Services now.
Child life specialists recognize that clinical care and decision-making must be grounded in evidence-based practice. Evidence-based practice represents an integration of clinical experience, the best available research, and patient preference/needs. To date, the Child Life Council has published three evidence-based practice statements, each of which offer a review and analysis of outcome research that specifically addresses child life practices. The series is intended to provide child life professionals with the evidence they need to continually advance quality of practice and to communicate with others about child life work. Topics covered include:
Visit the Resource Library to review and download the evidence-based practice statements. One-page summaries of each document are also available.
The CLC Resource Library offers a wide variety of valuable resources to assist child life specialists in their day-to-day practice and in the administration of a child life program. Among these is a section devoted to Promoting Child Life Programming, which highlights CLC tools such as the Child Life Promotional Flyer , as well as member-authored resources like Top Ten Reasons to Call a Child Life Specialist!