Child Life Services

​Children and their families who experience injury, illness or hospitalization often need help coping with fear and anxiety resulting from unfamiliar surroundings and events, stressful medical procedures and changes in daily routines.

Child life specialists can help you navigate the hospital experience and assist children in returning back to the classroom.

The certified child life specialists at UC San Diego Health care for:

  • Patients from newborns to age 21
  • Children being treated in our burn center or trauma center
  • Children who are having a surgical procedure
  • Children of patients who are hospitalized or who are receiving palliative care

Services for Patients and Families

We take a family-centered approach to care, working closely with a multidisciplinary team to ensure that the social, emotional and psychological needs are met for pediatric patients and their siblings and families, as well as for the young family members of adult patients.

Support for patients and family members 21 years of age or younger include:

  • Explaining procedures and diagnoses in language that children understand
  • Preparing children for medical procedures
  • Providing distraction and emotional support for children during medical procedures
  • Helping children enhance their coping skills through activities
  • Providing creative outlets for children to express their feelings
  • Providing grief support
  • Encouraging play through developmentally supportive activities
  • Providing burn and trauma inpatient and outpatient services
  • Offering palliative care inpatient and outpatient services

Our child life specialists are trained health professionals with a background in child development, psychology and counseling. Our goal is to minimize stress and anxiety through evidence-based interventions and support services that meet the unique emotional needs of children.

School Re-Entry Program for Pediatric Burn Patients

We also assist children in transitioning from the hospital setting back to the classroom. To help ease the move, our team will make a presentation to your child's classmates and teachers to educate them about your child's medical condition and help them understand burns and burn prevention.

This allows the school community to gain an understanding of your child's situation so that they can help make the return to class as comfortable as possible. You and your child can decide whether or not to attend this presentation.

Before your child's return, we will contact the school to make sure all of the proper accommodations are in place and make recommendations if needed.

Child Life Community Outreach Services

Our Child Life Program offers education day programs for children in various types of school settings, including preschool, K-12, home-school, after-school programs and camps.

Our Burn and Injury Prevention and Fire Education Program helps kids learn how to be safe at home and at school. Presentations are implemented in fun and interactive ways using storytime and activities such as “crawl-under-the-smoke” exercises to enrich children’s learning.

In addition, we can also provide support programs for children who have experienced a traumatic event (natural disasters, community violence, etc.), the death of a loved one, or a significant new medical diagnosis in their family.

When something scary happens, someone special in a child's life dies or a child is injured or has a new diagnosis, caring adults may be unsure of ways to best support the child, both emotionally and socially.

Our child life team can help by talking to the child’s peers about the event, death or loss, or diagnosis in a gentle, honest and developmentally appropriate way to promote learning and understanding.

We also teach peers how to best support one other during grief and hard times while bringing a sense of safety back to the classroom.

Education presentations are customized to meet the unique developmental needs of the audience.

We Can Help You

You can contact UC San Diego Health's child life team by phone at 619-471-9458. Or email Kathryn Hamelin, LMFT, RPT, CCLS, for more information or to schedule a prevention education day for your child or program.

Donations to Child Life

We are very grateful to generous donors for the generous donations, which help us run the Child Life Program and make hospital experiences a little easier for kids and families. If you wish to donate toys or other items, take a look at our general wish list and our Amazon wish list.

If you would like to make a specific donation or if your organization would like to facilitate a project to support our pediatric burn patients, please email Sabrina Suarez, MS, CCLS.

For infection control and patient safety reasons, we cannot accept any used items. If you would like to make a monetary donation, please email Kathryn Hamelin, LMFT, RPT, CCLS.

Educational Opportunities in Child Life Program

Learn about UC San Diego Health's Child Life Training Programs, which include internships and practicum.

Learn More