Last week, our Child Life department celebrated its 40th anniversary at a party for patients and families with cake, games and other fun activities. To mark this milestone, we thought it’d fun to look back on four decades of dedicated service.
Where it All Started
In June 1974, Sally Francis was hired for a two-year pilot project to develop a Child Life Program at Children’s, funded through private donations. It would be the first department of its kind in Texas and one of the first 15 in the U.S.
I talked to Sally recently, and she says, “The original goal of the Child Life Program, which still stands today, was to provide emotional, developmental and educational support to children and their families during health care experiences.”
She says the program would also provide advocacy, education and training for the psychosocial care of children at Children’s Medical Center Dallas and in our community.
Two years later, when the initial pilot ended, the Children’s administration, recognizing the value the Child Life Program had on patients and families, committed to establishing a permanent Child Life Program at the hospital.
Research has shown that children in the hospital who engage in therapeutic play with a trained professional exhibit less emotional distress, increased cooperation, and fewer negative physiological responses.
– Child Life Council, Inc.
My, How We’ve Grown
Over the next four decades, the Child Life department at Children’s has grown, in both the people and the unique ways they provide support, to become one of the largest departments of its kind. Here are a few highlights from the first 40 years:
- 1980 – Children’s hosted the national meeting of the Association for the Care of Children’s Health.
- 1982 – With the help of Child Life Specialists, Children’s established its first diagnosis-related summer camp for oncology patients.
- 1995 – The Child Life department expanded into outpatient areas to provide support to even more patients.
1996 – Through the generous support of the Troy Aikman Foundation, Child Life opened Aikman’s End Zone, a high-tech playroom for teens that features computers, games and unique space for older patients to enjoy.
- 1997 – The first Music Therapist joined our Child Life team (we now have four).
- 2001 – PAWS Across Texas started visiting Children’s, providing pet therapy to patients.
- 2005 – The Funnyatrics Clown Program launched thanks to generous donations from families who thought that laughter could be the best medicine.
- 2009 – The Child Life department expanded to Plano at our Children’s Medical Center at Legacy campus, and an art program was added, along with a creative art studio.
- 2012 – Thanks to a generous donation, Child Life Specialists received iPads to use in preparation and procedural patient support.
- 2014 – We recently added the Music and Games Kiosk, a Redbox-type machine that allows patients to check out new and classic movies and games while hospitalized at Children’s for free.
Click Through the Slideshow to See Pictures From the 40th Anniversary Event Celebrating Child Life
We know that many of you and your children have benefited from the love and support of our Child Life Specialists over the years, and we’d love to hear your stories in our comment section below.
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