‘Tis the Season for Giving

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It’s that time of year in thinking of others and giving back. With so many options of places to donate food, clothing and toys it can be a little overwhelming. I am here to speak up about child life and creative art programs in hospitals that are often overlooked but in need of so much. Here is a small breakdown of how you can impact a child and family who have been hospitalized during the holiday season and throughout the year.

Who to contact:

Reaching out to your local hospital and finding out if they have a child life program is the first step. If the hospital doesn’t have one than you can contact larger programs such as Starlight, Project Sunshine, or Child Life Wish list.org that work closely with child life programs.

Who can donate:

There is an endless amount of people who are willing to help. Think about creating a toy drive with family members, friends and neighbors. Your local community, restaurants, pediatric offices, schools and churches. Group organizations for adults and children such as sport teams, cub scouts and mommy and me programs.

What kind of items are needed:

Most child life programs are in need of toys, electronics and gift cards. Due to infection control, toys need to be new. Some toys will be given as gifts during the holidays and other items will be used for activities for children in the playroom at bedside or during medical procedures. Here is a list of what is typically needed:

  • Cause and Effect Toys
  • Mobiles, Crib Toys
  • Dramatic Play (dress up, kitchen toys, doctor kits)
  • Puzzles
  • Board Games
  • Music CDs (children’s, school-aged and adolescents)
  • DVDs and Video games (rated age appropriately)
  • Cars, Trucks, Trains
  • Dolls (clothes, strollers, baby items)
  • Action Figures and Animal Figurines
  • Musical Instruments
  • Books-different languages are encouraged (look and find, pop-up)
  • Blocks
  • Art Supplies (can be individualized art kits)
  • Scrapbook Materials
  • Wagons, Small Ride on Toys and Push Carts
  • Tablets, Hand Held Games and Headphones
  • Digital Cameras, CD Players and I-Pods,
  • Gift Cards (ToysRus, Target, BestBuy, I-Tunes)

There isn’t a lot of funding for child life programs; they are typically run by grants and donations. Reaching out and providing some of these much-needed items will surely help them in a tremendous way.

Happy Holidays!

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Veteran Child Life Specialist Really Understands HIV/AIDS

Continuing Our Celebration of Child Life Month

Welcome Rob Quinn, a veteran in the child life filed and blogger at OpenlyPOZ, bringing awareness and education to the HIV/AIDS community.

CLM 2014

2014 marks my 28th anniversary in the child life profession as a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). We as child life professionals empower children and families to master challenging events related to health care. My career has included clinical, administrative, and academic experience in Boston, Florida, and New York City. I have held positions on both the Child Life Council and Child Life of Greater New York (CLGNY) Board and committees. In 2002, I received a Lifetime Achievement Award from CLGNY.

Some on my most memorable and rewarding experience were working with the children, youth and adolescents and their families receiving HIV-related services through the Program for Children and Families at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. It was during the early 1990s when times were very different in HIV/AIDS—pediatric and adult. Children and families experienced frequent and often lengthy hospitalizations, at times requiring intensive and critical care. Issues of bereavement were not uncommon. Family support could be minimal at times, and as a child life specialist, I  developed intense trusted support bonds with many children. Going to the hospital was a reality check every day. I never referred to “going to the hospital” as work because once I found my life’s purpose, it was in no way “work.”

Hospitalized children are so very different from adults in the same situation, in the sense that one of the child’s primary concerns was figuring out how to play while accommodating the IV’s and other medical equipment in their hospital world. I often referred to IV poles to children as “Ivy” your friend, reminding them that the two of you have to always be together while you are in the  hospital. It was truly an honor and privilege that many children and families welcomed me into their world and all that changed when I literally crossed over into the parallel universe of their life as a patient now living with HIV/AIDS.

To learn more about Rob Quinn check out, OpenlyPOZ.com or on Twitter at @OpenlyPOZ

If you have a story that you would like to share about working with a child life specialist, discovering the field or how you are celebrating it this month, please click here

Amanda Porter and her discovery of Child Life

The celebration of Child Life Month continues, here is a guest post from Amanda Porter on how she discovered the field of child life.

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I first found out about Child Life while my mom was working on the Pediatric Oncology Unit in Las Vegas, Nevada. I would often times come to work with my mom and work on homework in the family room, so I got to observe many of the employees at work, one of them being a CCLS. I originally thought I was going to be a Pediatric Oncologist, but that route wasn’t for me. So, I thought I would follow around a Child Life Specialist and see exactly what they did. I fell in love. It was then that I knew that was what God was calling me to. I have volunteered at camps for children who have terminal illnesses, volunteered at multiple hospitals, done a practicum, and an internship and I am now in my masters program for Child Life and every step of the way I have fallen more in the with this field. I love that I get to be an advocate for a patient and change their view of the hospital through various ways.
One of the best parts thus far, was during my practicum. I was saying goodbye to one of our long term patients that was getting to go home…As I entered the room she said to her mom, “No mom, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to leave Manda the Pink Lady”… to think that this little girl wanted to stay at place that was once so scary for her and it was all because the Child Life Department exists. This field is powerful and growing and I am beyond thankful that I get to be a part of it.

To learn more about Amanda Porter, you can follow her blog at Love What Is True

If you have a story that you would like to share about your experience with a child life specialist, finding the field or how you are celebrating, please click here.