CLDR Member Spotlight: Tiffany Heinz

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 full time Certified Child Life Specialist at Children’s Hospital of Michigan located in Detroit. Some of my time is spent conducting research in our Radiology Department while the other portion is spent between two Outpatient Clinics (Hematology, Oncology, & Sickle Cell Clinic & Burn Clinic). I have been working there for a little over a year now and just hit my one year anniversary on being certified. Prior to my current position, I completed a child life internship at Advocate Children’s Hospital (Oak Lawn Campus). I graduated from Concordia University in Ann Arbor, MI with a Bachelors degree in Family Life Education with a Child Life minor.

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 have been connected with Child Life Disaster Relief for about four years now. It all started when I attended a session at a local conference about how child life skills can so easily transfer into the field of working with children after a traumatic event such as a natural disaster. At the time, I was still a child life student but I instantly knew I wanted to become certified with Children’s Disaster Services (CDS). I became officially certified as a volunteer in May 2015 and jeepers what an amazing choice that was to complete. Since then, I have responded to three deployments; one of which was to a wildfire in California, the second to a flooding in Louisiana, and the third to the border crisis in Texas. Throughout my time with this organization I have been invited and became a Certified Volunteer for the Critical Response Team within Children’s Disaster Services. These trained individuals often respond to mass casualty and man-made disasters. I have also had the pleasure of co-facilitating three CDS trainings for new volunteers over the past year as well. Every interaction that I have had with CDS and CLDR have simply been wonderful and I cannot wait to collaborate more with these two organizations in the upcoming years!

What made you interested in working with children after disasters?

  • I have had a passion for helping children for many years now, but there is something so special to me about helping them after a disaster strikes. Disasters are so different for a variety of reasons and often times the people impacted by them can get overlooked and not gain the resources that they need. Over the past few years I have also realized that there was such a strong need for individuals to collaborate and provide safe spaces for children during hardships to express themselves and do what they do best as children, play. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that there were organizations so specific to these needs! I am so thankful that CDS and CLDR formed and continue to grow each year with volunteers eager to make the world a better place during a potentially traumatic time. I feel proud to be a part of such an amazing group of people.

What is your favorite memory from being involved?

  • It’s hard to just pick one memory from being involved with Children’s Disaster Services and Child Life Disaster Relief over the past few years. I think that one of my favorite parts about being deployed is that you not only see how resilient children are but you also notice this about each community. Whether it’s a community of people that belong to an organization, a city as a whole, or the CDS volunteers working together to provide services, there are countless acts of kindness and resilience that are witnessed each day from both children and adults. For instance, I had a brief interaction with an older school-aged boy in the arts and crafts corner of our center. Although his family’s property was untouched by the wildfire, his friend’s family lost everything when the fires swept through their community. I will never forget the sense of community that I experienced when this boy told me all about his friend and how he was making a card to make him feel better and let him know that people were there for him if he were to need anything. It is truly astonishing to see a community suffer so deeply due to a disaster and then band together to create such a strong support system. I felt honored that this boy was willing to share his craft and the meaning behind it with me and the other volunteers out on that deployment.

What advice would you give to others who are thinking of working with children impacted by disasters?

  • The best advice that I could give to others who are thinking about working with children impacted by disasters is to simply be present in your interactions, enjoy the power of play in live action, and remember how important self care is to both caregivers and yourself. Every deployment to a disaster is different; however, as a trained Children’s Disaster Services volunteer, you have already learned all the necessary tools for working with children and their families after a disaster… its just about getting out there and meeting them where they are at with support and compassion. If you have ever thought about helping out in this capacity but are hesitant to make the jump towards getting certified… I say jump… because I know that personally, becoming a volunteer and member of these two communities (CDS, CLDR) has changed my life and brought me so many wonderful opportunities to build a network of not only friends, but family.
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