The Value of Child Life

Coping with illness, injury, and treatment is often challenging and stressful for children, adolescents, and their families. Certified Child Life Specialists provide therapeutic play, preparation for procedure, and education that reduce fear, anxiety, pain, and suffering for patients and their families. Studies show these child life services result in cost savings, including reduced length of stay, decreased sedation needs, and improved family satisfaction and ratings of overall experience. The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed the important role of the Certified Child Life Specialist, and U.S. News & World Report has recognized that expertise in child life is a vital variable in the success of pediatric care and a key quality indicator in hospital rankings.

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Who Are Certified Child Life Specialists?

Certified Child Life Specialists are educated and trained in the developmental and psychological impact of illness and injury. They work in partnership with families, interdisciplinary healthcare teams, and community professionals within the evolving healthcare system to meet the psychosocial, emotional, and developmental needs of children and adolescents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that "Child life services should be delivered as part of an integrated patient- and family-centered model of care and included as a quality indicator in the delivery of services for children and families in healthcare settings."

Certification by the Association of Child Life Professionals helps ensure a high level of competency in child life specialists to provide essential patient- and family-centered care.

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Research in Support of Child Life

Child life services make a difference in pediatric care. Research and practice have demonstrated that child life services, such as play and preparation, help to decrease costs (i.e., reducing the length of stay and decreasing the need for analgesics).

Source: Wolfer J, Gaynard L, Goldberger J, Laidley LN, Thompson R. An experimental evaluation of a model child life program. Child Health Care. 1988;16:244–254

Research suggests child life specialists have a quantifiably positive impact on the care of children in imaging departments. Measures of parent satisfaction, staff satisfaction, child satisfaction, child pain, and child distress are shown to be positively impacted.

Source: Tyson ME, Bohl DD, Blickman JG. (2014) A randomized controlled trial: child life services in pediatric imaging. Pediatri Radiol. Vol 44 (11):1426-32.


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"To play out is the most natural auto-therapeutic measure childhood affords. Whatever other roles play may have in the child's development...the child uses it to make up for defeats, sufferings, and frustrations."


- Erik Erikson
American developmental psychologist
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Child Life in the News

  • Hospital Allows Family Inside Trauma Bay During Procedures

    Aug 18, 2017
    Full Story
  • For Kids With Cancer, Focusing on Quality of Life

    Jul 28, 2017
    Full Story