Reflecting on Child Life Educational Policy

Child Life certification eligibility through the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) has undergone many changes in the past 20+ years from the very first certification exam in 1998 requiring an undergraduate degree in any field with 10 classes focusing on children and families, to the inclusion of a CCLS taught course in 2013, to the now specific 7 classes plus 3 elective required in 2019….to the discussion, requirement, and then rescinding of the graduate degree for certification eligibility that was to begin in 2022 (graduate degree with specialization in child life) and 2025 (graduate degree in child life). For now, the requirements of 2019 remain in effect with no anticipated changes to certification eligibility, but the discussion continues as academic programs seek to become endorsed and clinical programs seek accreditation. Clinical expectations for certification eligibility increased from 480 too 600 hours, with the added experience of a 100+ hour practicum along with the added need to bring with you to any practicum or internship the ability to be “competitive”, which is the requirement of additional paid and volunteer significant experiences focusing on a range of settings for children and/or families, simply to get your “foot in the door” for that essential internship! Where this all leads is to our focus today on educational policy, and how policy guides protocol and how we as child life specialists can guide policy discussions and development!

Rippner (2016) identifies incrementalism as building policy over time, taking what decision makers know and building small, incremental adjustments. While I believe this was the intent of the graduate degree requirements that have now been rescinded, we in the field are reminded of how manageable we are making policy to implement, as there were several academic programs which were lost in the transition due to “red tape” preventing them from getting approvals on the new graduate requirements within their university, and several undergraduate programs that were cut from the curriculum options because they were viewed as non-essential with the requirements for graduate degree confirmed…..only to see these new requirements rescinded and these academic institutions left with no child life programs as a result.

Much discussion continues on the direction of policy as it guides academic settings, as we continue to see growth of graduate programs in Child Life and with specializations in Child Life, as well as with the need for and quality of clinical (and pre-clinical) experiences, it often feels that multiple streams (Cairney & Jones, 2016) are being tackled simultaneously without truly allowing for the stakeholders to be involved in the process and to voice the realities that impact policy and academic change within academic institutions, and the reality of how these policy changes can impact students working towards careers in the field (while limiting even more the diversity being represented for those who are able to move forward in the field)! Rippner (2016) discusses the disconnected nature of the system of policy development as a whole, as well as the disproportionate number of minorities advancing in high education, and the changes experienced within the field of child life appear to reflect this in recent years.

There is a huge need for collaboration (Rippner, 2016) between the various sectors in educational policy, and it is this shared voice that has been lacking. Knowing that social media allows this shared voice to be spoken amongst the masses, perhaps this is how we better address policy development in the future…..how do we grow our field and support an increase in diversity both in academic and clinical settigs, how do we address the limitations to our field growing (such as through billable services), and how do we expand the physical spaces for supports beyond the traditional hospital where Child Life can uniquely “help children and families overcome life’s most challenging events” in a range of settings (ACLP, 2019)?

Association of Child Life Professionals: Eligibility Requirements (2019). Retrieved from https://www.childlife.org/certification/students/requirements-after-2019

Association of Child Life Professionals: Graduate Endorsement (2019). Retrieved from https://www.childlife.org/resources/for-educators-internship-coordinators/graduate-endorsement

Association of Child Life Professionals: Internship Accreditation (2019). Retrieved from https://www.childlife.org/resources/for-educators-internship-coordinators/internship-accreditation

Association of Child Life Professionals: The Case for Child Life (2019). Retrieved from https://www.childlife.org/the-child-life-profession/the-case-for-child-life

Association of Child Life Professionals: Undergraduate Endorsement (2019). Retrieved from https://www.childlife.org/resources/for-educators-internship-coordinators/undergraduate-endorsement

Cairney, P., & Jones, M.D. (2016). Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Approach: What is the Empirical Impact of this Universal Theory?. Policy Studies Journal, 44: 37-58: doi: 10.1111/psj/12111

Rippner, J.A. (2016). The American Education Policy Landscape. Rutledge Publication: New York, New York.

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