CLDR Member Spotlight: Kat Leibbrandt

Meet Child Life Disaster Relief member:

Kat Leibbrandt

Do you currently work in Child Life? If so, tell us about your current position.  If not, tell us about your Child Life history.
  • I am currently a Per diem Certified Child Life Specialist at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL. Additionally, I am able to use my child life skills in other areas of my profession, including my own nonprofit, the IamMore Foundation – an organization promoting passion and positive self image for children living with chronic illness and physical disability. Is addition, I am also the Soccer Director for an organization called Love Is Ministry. In this role I am able to support adolescents and young adult refugees that have been planted in Tampa, FL.
How long have you been connected with Child Life Disaster Relief and in what capacity (either directly or through our partnerships – Children’s Disaster Services, Camp Noah, etc.)?  Briefly describe some of those experiences.
  • I completed my Disaster Response Training in early 2016 after finishing my child life internship at Tampa General Hospital. Unfortunately first availability to deploy was when tragedy struck close to home and Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017. However, due to the disaster response needs of my own hospital, I was relived of duty by CDS. My first official deployment was August of 2018 in response to the immigration crisis at the border. Alongside another CCLS from my own hospital and multiple CDS volunteers, we were able to offer support to immigrant children and families who had been been reunited and approved to seek asylum in the United States. This is something very close to my heart having worked with refugee children for years, and the more I learned about the ICE processes at the southern border of the U.S., the more my heart felt pulled to become involved in any way that I could. 
What made you interested in working with children after disasters?
  • I think the initial feelings of “I must take action” have always been in my nature. Since elementary school, I was very active in volunteerism and philanthropy, and as I grew older, that feeling only intensified. In college I took advantage of multiple opportunities to serve children and adolescents internationally, but I knew as I grew older and made a commitment to a career, I needed to find programs closer to home. When I learned of CLDR, I was so inspired because I had finally found a perfect way for me to use my skills in child life, my heart for service, and my need to act to support others in some of the most desperate situations of our neighbors near and far.
What is your favorite memory from being involved?
  • I have so many incredible memories of Child Life Disaster Relief. Starting with the  training with CDS. I met Katie Nees, who was so welcoming and encouraging. At the time, I had not yet even sat for my Child Life Certification Exam, but she was so supportive throughout the process. My memories of McAllen, TX, the location of my first deployment, I hold close. I was placed in a situation, so far from my day to day routine, and I was able to use tools that I had learned throughout my life, through sports, travel, and child life, to be creative and provide innovative intervention to children whom truly had experienced the unfathomable. While the stories that they shared of their journeys are still emotionally difficult for me to recollect, their joy, gratitude, and perseverance are imprinted on my heart.
What advice would you give to others who are thinking of working with children impacted by disasters?
  • What is stopping you?! If you are someone who loves thinking out of the box and being creative with resources, has a willingness to venture out of your comfort zone, and has a passion for working with children –  This is your chance to capitalize! If you are someone who is seeking growth opportunities in your own life and desires to promote the growth of others, this is for you! There are few expectations that I can promise when it comes to deployment with CLDR. I cannot promise that you will stay in fancy accommodations and I cannot promise that you will not be stretched to your physical and emotional limits, but this is an assurance that I can guarantee; you will not regret your deployment. You will be touched by children, families, and volunteers that you serve alongside. You will grow on a professional and personal level and you will adopt a new perspective on life of gratitude, patience, flexibility, and compassion.
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