Child Life Specialists are bachelors or masters degree-trained with supervised clinical hours and a board examination for certification as a “CCLS”.
“Child life specialists are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life’s most challenging events. Armed with a strong background in child development and family systems, child life specialists promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. They provide emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization. Because they understand that a child’s well being depends on the support of the family, child life specialists provide information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members. They also play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress.”
Child life specialists have focused primarily on health-care settings, however the child life expertise and skill-set also has a unique value within the field of disaster relief.
Evidenced-based interventions for children, especially in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, point to the specific value of child-centered play opportunities implemented by individuals trained in children’s trauma and grief responses. Also, there is a huge need for professionals who can mitigate stress and trauma for children and maximize positive coping through age appropriate support and interventions in the midst of the chaos of a disaster.