What Is a Certified Child Life Specialist?

Certified Child Life Specialists are educated and clinically trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury. Their role helps improve patient and family care, satisfaction, and overall experience.

Infants, children and youth confront a wide variety of stressful and potentially traumatic events that can impact their ability to cope. These experiences related to healthcare can lead to feelings of fear, confusion, loss of control and isolation that can inhibit their development and have negative effects on their physical and emotional health and well-being.

In both healthcare and community settings, Certified Child Life Specialists help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, loss and bereavement. They provide evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain.

The Evolution of the Profession of Child Life in North America

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 (AAP) 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. The  AAP policy statement, “Child Life Services,” was published in the January 2021 issue of Pediatrics. 

Read the complete AAP policy statement on child life services.

The following are a few additional resources that highlight the need for child life services in hospitals and a variety of other settings:

Evidence-Based Practice Statements on Child Life
How a Child Life Specialist Can Help You

LEARN MORE

Mission & Vision of Child Life

Mission: We, as child life professionals, strive to reduce the negative impact of stressful or traumatic life events and situations that affect the development, health and well-being of infants, children, youth and families. We embrace the value of play as a healing modality as we work to enhance the optimal growth and development of infants, children and youth through assessment, intervention, prevention, advocacy, and education. 

Vision: The profession of child life will continue to meet the needs of infants, children, youth and families in times of stressful or traumatic life events and situations. The philosophy and practice of child life will be applicable to any health care setting and transferable to other environments or situations in which the potential for infants, children and youth to cope, learn and master is placed at risk. The services provided by the child life profession will be holistic and will utilize applied child development and family systems theory. The objectives of such services will be to minimize the negative impact of situational disruptions while maintaining individual growth and development and family relationships. 

Read the full statements here.

GLACLP4_300x200

We, as child life professionals, help infants, children, youth, and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of illness, injury and treatment. We provide evidence-based, developmentally-appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation and education to reduce fear, anxiety and pain.

GLACLP10_300x200

The child life competencies are the minimal level of acceptable practice as defined by the Association of Child Life Professionals, and are a guide for individuals or organizations who may wish to further define competencies specific to their situation.

General_resized16


To help ensure patients and families receive high-quality care from Certified Child Life Specialists, the Association of Child Life Professional’s Child Life Certification Commission administers the examination-based certification program and ongoing certification maintenance.

ACLP Archives

The Archives Committee maintains a collection of documents, publications, photos, video footage and other materials related to the history of ACLP and the child life profession.

ENTER THE ARCHIVES

Child Life in Action

Read stories of Certified Child Life Specialists providing their patients with evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain.

Learn More


 

Awards

There are great people and great organizations making a difference in the child life community every day.  To honor these outstanding leaders, the ACLP Board of Directors presents three separate awards each year during the ACLP Annual Conference on Professional Issues.

Learn More