Child life

Child life: Supporting children and families

The experience in a hospital can be scary for kids, their siblings and families. Our child life team helps patients and families adjust to and cope with the hospital or clinical setting, illness or injury and the treatments involved.   

Our team supports patients and families by:

  • Bridging the gap between home and hospital
  • Developing supportive relationships with children and families
  • Helping them cope with health care experiences
  • Increasing familiarity with health care surroundings
  • Preparing children and families for medical experiences (surgery, blood draws, imaging, etc.)
  • Providing age-appropriate activities
  • Working closely with families and the health care team to minimize stress
  • Advocating for non-medical pain management strategies when appropriate

Donate to child life

 

Services we provide to support children and families 

We provide developmental, educational, social and emotional support to children of all ages.

  • Medical preparation and pre-surgical teaching: We help prepare kids of all ages for medical tests, procedures, surgeries and imaging studies. By giving the right amount of information that is based on the child’s developmental level and situation, a child’s fears of their upcoming experience can be decreased. These services also can help parents become more familiar with hospital procedures.
  • Support during procedures: Child life specialists can help reduce pain and anxiety during medical procedures by using techniques such as alternative focus and relaxation exercises. We also provide guidance to parents on how they can support their child during procedures. 
  • Therapeutic play activities: Therapeutic play activities help with decreasing pain, meeting treatment goals, learning new skills and shortening recovery time. They can occur at your child’s bedside, in the playroom or children’s garden. 
  • Support for siblings: We understand that brothers and sisters are affected by illness, injury and hospitalization too. They may need help understanding what is happening and how to work through their feelings and concerns about their sibling. We help siblings by answering questions, providing appropriate explanations of what is happening with the ill/injured sibling and clarifying misconceptions. Siblings are welcome in our playrooms and the children’s garden. 
  • Parent education and support: We will provide you with emotional support and information to help your child cope with what is happening. Understanding how children at different developmental levels may see their experiences can help parents choose how to best support their child. 
  • Grief support: We’re here for families at all stages of the health care journey. We can help with grief support and tailor our guidance based on a sibling’s age and your needs. 
  • Holiday and birthday celebrations: Being in the hospital during a birthday or holiday can be extra challenging. We’ll be sure to help recognize and celebrate these special moments.
  • Special events and visitors: We are lucky to have generous community support through special events and visitors (Rodney the Ram, sports teams, musicians, etc.). Child life specialists escort these special visitors and make sure your child is up for a visit before entering your room. 
  • Play with a purpose: Child life manages multiple play areas, including two age-specific playrooms and an outdoor children’s garden. 
  • Pain management: Our pediatric team will work to make sure your child is getting the best, most effective pain medicine for their needs, while we also offer a variety of non-pharmaceutical techniques to help reduce your child's pain at the hospital and at home.

Requesting child life services  

Child life can be called at any time throughout your child's health care experience at CHoR. Support can be particularly helpful for:

  • Difficulty coping with a procedure
  • Difficulty taking medication
  • Injuries resulting from a traumatic accident
  • New diagnosis
  • Preparation for a stressful experience (IV, x-ray, MRI, blood draw, etc.)
  • Sibling support

We provide services throughout our hospitals and clinics, including within:  

Donating to child life

As you know, illness and injury don’t stop during a pandemic, and neither do we. While our medical teams continue to provide life-changing care for children and families – our child life and recreation therapy teams continue to make the hospital as normal, comfortable and fun as possible. Like many children’s hospitals across the country, we are updating our policies to protect our most vulnerable patients and making significant changes to how we are able to accept donations. 

We are not currently accepting donations in-person.

If you would like to continue your support for child life, gifts can be made in the following ways:

  • Online
  • Mail gift cards 
    Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU
    Child Life department
    Box 980202
    403 N. 13th Street
    Main 7-334
    Richmond VA 23298
  • Online shopping: If donating funds or gift cards doesn’t feel right to your group or organization, shopping online and shipping to us is a great option! Please visit our Amazon wish list for an idea of the types of items we need. Feel free to purchase from anywhere and have the items shipped to:

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU
Child Life department
Box 980202
403 N. 13th Street
Main 7-334
Richmond VA 23298

Accepted donations include brand new toys, clothing, stuffed animals, books and handmade blankets. 

Commonly donated items that we do not have a significant need for at this time include Barbies, Candyland and Chutes & Ladders.

Donations we cannot accept include ride-on toys (including bikes/scooters) for any age, religious items, holiday-themed items, toy weapons (including nerf guns), used items, collectibles of any kind, large shared items (i.e, doll houses), R-rated movies.

Meet our child life team

Our certified child life specialists have the education and expertise to help families in a variety of health care settings.

Meredith Burns, MS, CCLS
Meredith Burns, MS, CCLS
Kaitlyn Call, MS, CCLS
Kaitlyn Call, MS, CCLS
Maddie Carroll, MS, CCLS
Maddie Carroll, MS, CCLS
Bethany Fisackerly, MS, CCLS, child life supervisor
Bethany Fisackerly, MS, CCLS, child life supervisor
Siri Garrett, MS, CCLS
Siri Garrett, MS, CCLS
Schoni Marchio BS, CCLS
Schoni Marchio, CCLS
Shannon McWilliams, MS, CCLS
Shannon McWilliams, MS, CCLS
Molly Norris MS, CCLS
Molly Norris, MS, CCLS
Hailey-Marie Ragan, MS, CCLS
Hailey-Marie Ragan, MS, CCLS
Heather Rossi BS, CCLS
Heather Rossi, CCLS
Paige Lockamon, MS, CCLS
Paige Whitcomb, MS, CCLS