Celebrate ACLP Members

Community-Based Profiles




Shani Thornton, MS, CCLS


Community-Based Engagement:
Private practice;
Child Life Mommy blog; 
Standish Foundation for Children (Non-profit, social media and marketing)


Q. What inspired you to be a child life specialist?

A. Growing up with a parent with a chronic illness, I became very comfortable in a medical setting. I witnessed the pain and discomfort that my mom endured and found comfort in helping her and others. I have memories of playing with medical supplies at home and using art to help process my experiences. I never worked with a child life specialist or other discipline to help me cope, but I wish I had that option. When I discovered the child life profession, everything made sense. I felt a calling to do this work and help others cope with similar life experiences. 

Q. What drew you to community-based child life work?

A. Community based work grew organically for me. I became a parent and decided to stay at home with my son for the first few years. The urge to fill my child life cup was there, so I began to think outside of the box in applying my skills in a different way. I started my blog, ChildLifeMommy.com, began co-teaching a child life grad course, volunteered as a bereavement facilitator, wrote a children’s book for wellness visits and then launched my practice. 

Q. What is the most satisfying part of community-based child life work?

A. I am most satisfied knowing that the large gap in service is being filled with my help. I love to educate the community about the child life profession and find ways to collaborate with organizations, schools and community programs. 

Q. What is the most challenging part of community-based child life work?

A. The most challenging part would be establishment in the community. It takes a lot of time and trust to be built in order for others to understand the role, appreciate the value and collaborate. 

Q. What wisdom would you share with other child life professionals interested in community-based child life work?

A. To gather experience and skills working under a CCLS in a typical setting prior to jumping in community based work. Being mindful of the standards of practice that specialists hold, staying within those ethical boundaries and continuing to be involved with educational opportunities. 

Q. What is your go-to method of self-care? 

A. Humor, spending time with my family, yoga and high intensity workouts. Pretty much sums it up to sweat, love and giggles. 

Q. What would surprise your peers to know about you?

A. That I live life to the fullest. I know how to work hard, play hard and laugh at myself. I make a ton of mistakes, reflect and grow.




Carolyn Schneiders Fung, CCLS


Community-Based Engagement:
Hope for Henry

Q. What inspired you to be a child life specialist?

A. The opportunity to become creative and build choices into an environment that can seem so limiting.

Q. What drew you to community-based child life work?

A. The endless amount of potential for the child life field to grow within non-traditional, community-based roles played a major role in my transition from the hospital setting to community-based child life work. 

Q. What is the most satisfying part of community-based child life work?

A. The most satisfying part of being a child life specialist doing community-based child life work is having the opportunity to introduce the field of child life to those who have never heard of the role. This can range from business men and women, to potential investors, and innovators within the healthcare field. The moment one learns about the field of child life, they are instantly interested in the positive impact chid life specialists make and follow up with the desire to make sure that child life services are well-supported to ensure that every child has access to a child life specialist. 

Q. What is the most challenging part of community-based child life work?

A. The most challenging part of doing community-based child life work has been the learning curve. The transition from providing child life services at the bedside to being in an office setting and taking on a variety of tasks requires a "go-getter" and one who is willing to seek help in order to develop new skills. .

Q. What wisdom would you share with other child life professionals interested in community-based child life work?

A. Establish new relationships with other child life specialists who are in the community-based world, but also stay connected to those who are hospital-based. Child life has much to offer both settings and there are lessons for every individual to learn as new developments come from those two areas.

Q. What is your go-to method of self-care? 

A. Making sure that at the end of the day I take time to reflect and ask myself "Did I give it my very best?"

Q. What would surprise your peers to know about you?

A. I am a 3 on the Enneagram and if you don't know about the Enneagram - you should totally check it out!!




Lisa Ciarrocca, CCLS


Community-Based Engagement:
The Next Step Partners In Psychosocial Care LLC

Q. What inspired you to be a child life specialist?

A. I have always wanted to work with children for as long as I can remember. I originally enrolled in school to be a teacher and discovered child life. I was assigned to a local hospital for a volunteer experience and that is when I met my first child life specialist. I loved the hospital environment and impact the child life specialist had on the children and families she worked with . It perfectly fit with my love of children with my desire to help children, adolescents and families cope.

Q. What drew you to community-based child life work?

A. I had worked for over 27 years as a leader in a children's hospital. I enjoyed my role but the direction healthcare was going was not where I wanted to go. I had done many programs in the community and it had sparked my curiosity. I felt the community setting was missing the role of a child life specialist. I merged my child life and leadership skills and embarked on my new venture by opening a child life private practice in my community. 

Q. What is the most satisfying part of community-based child life work?

A. I think the most satisfying part of community based child life work is the comfort it brings to the children and families I meet. As one parent said , it scared her to have her child discharged with no support outside of the hospital. Her child, diagnosed with a chronic illness, was supported by child life in the hospital and wanted her to have that support for her and her family outside of the hospital walls. 

Q. What is the most challenging part of community-based child life work?

A. I think the most challenging is getting the community aware of child life and how child life specialists can work with various populations such as, children of adults, siblings and adults to help them cope with fearful and anxiety provoking situations outside of the hospital walls. In addition, depending what setting in the community you work in, it effects how people get to you. In private practice it is very important to network with other individuals and professionals in the community to let them know you are there and what you are trained to do.

Q. What wisdom would you share with other child life professionals interested in community-based child life work?

A. The best advice I can give is get a good solid child life foundation from paid hospital experience. I couldn't imagine doing private practice or any community work if I had not worked as a certified child life specialist in the hospital for many years. There are many more opportunities to learn and resources available in that setting. It is important to take it all in, learn and apply your skills at that level first.

Q. What is your go-to method of self-care? 

A. My go to method of self care is multi faceted. I do self reflection as I feel it helps me process my day. I practice Reiki.This method helps me to ground myself. I also enjoy the beach and spend my summer weekends with my husband, daughter, son and our new puppy at the family beach house in NJ.

Q. What would surprise your peers to know about you?

A. I am Reiki certified and practice it whenever I get a chance.




Danielle Eaves Hernandez, MPH, CCLS, CTRS, CPH


Community-Based Engagement:
Community Hospice & Palliative Care

Q. What inspired you to be a child life specialist?

A. My mother was a kindergarten teacher and I knew I wanted to work with children but was interested in the medical field. When I was a sophomore in high school, my Key Club brought Christmas stockings to the local hospital and a child life specialist took us around to deliver them. She shared about the profession and I immediately knew that was the perfect fit. I shadowed her and saw the profound impact child life specialty had on the coping of kids of all ages. I went to college for Therapeutic Recreation and became dually certified and the rest is history.

Q. What drew you to community-based child life work?

A. My aunt had died peacefully in hospice while I was completing my internship during my final college semester. I saw first hand the positive impact this had on my family. Shortly after graduation, a job opening in a community-based hospice and palliative care pediatric program was posted through the Child Life Council at the time. I applied and they took a chance on a new graduate and a decade later, I am still here.

Q. What is the most satisfying part of community-based child life work?

A. Almost every day is satisfying in this profession and setting. There is something special I experience from each family I visit- whether it is helping a teenager transition successfully into adult health care and college, providing classroom education for school re-entry, or bringing joy to an otherwise somber situation. I am also proud to have begun a child life program here to support children and grandchildren of adult hospice patients. It has been sacred ground to interact with families at end-of-life and to address the elephant in the room that everyone is afraid to talk about. We have been able to accomplish many bucket lists and create lasting keepsakes while encouraging the family to communicate openly with one another.

Q. What is the most challenging part of community-based child life work?

A. I never know what I am walking into when entering a home, so that keeps me on my toes but is always an adventure. Additionally, keeping my mobile Toys-R- Us clean is an ongoing battle as my SUV houses my supplies as I go from home to home. Sometimes, my interventions are at the patient's bedside, kitchen table, on the floor of a living room, or in the backyard. I do work with many of these patients for an extended period of time, so it is difficult when patients you are close to die but it is a privilege to ensure their wishes are honored and their days are lived to the fullest.

Q. What wisdom would you share with other child life professionals interested in community-based child life work?

A. Try it! I love the creativity and flexibility that comes working outside of a hospital. Patients and families are so much more relaxed when they are at home. Explore partnership possibilities with local hospices, palliative care teams, funeral homes, or schools. I have had many of these institutions approach me about consulting or expanding services after they have seen the first hand impact it has on patients and families. Funding can often begin through partnerships, community donors, grants, or fee for service.

Q. What is your go-to method of self-care? 

A. Traveling! Boundaries and self-care are especially important in this line of work, and vacations force me to disconnect and slow down. I also have a monthly dinner with my two fellow child life specialists and our music therapist. This is an awesome outlet with other professionals and friends who understand the joys and challenges that come with the job.

Q. What would surprise your peers to know about you?

A. I started in hospice as a brand new graduate. I was blessed to have an intense and robust internship, but had limited experience with end-of-life. I often hear people be weary about transferring to this field but each team member, patient and family taught me something. It was baptism under fire regarding end-of-life and working in the home setting, but the child life skills and theories remain the same as you learn in school, over the internship and in the hospital. It is important to recognize your own death awareness, limitations and comfort level, but the child life foundation is universal. This field is not depressing, but rather quite inspirational and the impact of child life is for life! My mission is to spread awareness in our profession about the value of child life in a community based setting and on the flip side, advocating for child life specialists to be standard professionals of the hospice interdisciplinary team in pediatrics and adult health care. Happy Child Life Month!

Child Life Profession