Why Is Child Life Important?

Coping with illness, injury, and medical treatment is often challenging and stressful for children, adolescents, and their families. For pediatric patients of all ages, hospitalization and outpatient treatment can lead to feelings of fear, confusion, and vulnerability. In addition, the isolation associated with hospitalization and certain medical conditions and treatments can inhibit children's natural development and negatively affect their physical and emotional health.


How Do Certified Child Life Specialists Help?

Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLSs) work with your child's healthcare team to reduce the distress associated with treatment and to create a more positive experience for your child and family.

Certified Child Life Specialists are educated in the psychosocial care of children and the developmental impact of illness, injury, and hospitalization. As integral members of multidisciplinary healthcare teams, child life professionals support pediatric patients and their families by working to reduce the fear, anxiety, pain, and suffering associated with illness, injury, and medical treatment. They use therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to make potentially traumatic experiences less stressful. As a result, Certified Child Life Specialists increase patient satisfaction and contribute to improved healthcare experiences for the entire family. 

From the American Academy of Pediatrics

  • "Child Life services improve quality and outcomes in pediatric care as well as the patient and family experience."
  • "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 health care settings."
  • "Play is an essential component of a child life program and of the child life professional's role."

Source: Policy Statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (May, 2014) 

From Patients and Families

"It was the child life specialist that helped me forget why I was there and what I was doing. It made me so happy, and I felt like a kid that had just met a nice lady with a nice dog. I didn't feel like a kid battling cancer."

- Luke, pediatric patient

"I want you to know how thankful I am for everything you did for my family and me. I hope you know that even though William was too sick for the doctors to save, you saved my family."

- Elizabeth's words to Emily, a Certified Child Life Specialist

Read more Parent Testimonials

When to Ask for Child Life Services

Your child's emotional well-being is important. Ask for a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) anytime your child requires medical attention:

  • an emergency room visit
  • a referral to a hospital (pediatric inpatient unit)
  • a referral to a pediatric specialty unit (surgical, outpatient, etc.)
  • an appointment at a private medical or dental practice (if your child expresses fear)
As you plan for a visit to a healthcare setting, these are some recommended questions you should ask the pediatrics department to ensure that your child has the emotional safety and support needed from Certified Child Life Specialists.

Download the Questions Guide

How to Find Child Life Services

The Child Life Services Directory allows parents and other members of the public to locate child life programs, including how to receive services and the type of programming offered.

View the Directory

Resources for Parents