Starlight Children's Foundation Programs
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement notes that the provision of Child Life Services is, “a quality benchmark of an integrated child health delivery system and an indicator of excellence in pediatric care.” Child Life Services have been shown to reduce pain, isolation, anxiety, and depression; increase coping, disease management, adherence to treatment, willingness to return for treatment; and psychosocial symptoms, relationships with health care providers, family cohesiveness, and parent-child relationships. Child Life is also a model for health care delivery under family-centered care. We provide Child Life Services in hospital-based and community-based settings.
The Hospital Happenings program includes events and activities that provide an emotional respite for hospitalized children. Birthdays, holidays and other family occasions are celebrated, reinforcing the importance of children being surrounded by familiar activities even when the environment may be scary and uncomfortable. Special guests, cheerful parties, and regular visits from clowns, musicians, and other entertainers combat the loneliness and anxiety felt by hospitalized children.
Through Great Escapes, Starlight offers free tickets to sporting events, plays, zoos, museums, concerts, movies and other special events. Most of the tickets are for the entire family; some tickets allow parents to attend an event on their own; and some events focus on the healthy siblings. These events allow children and families to strengthen bonds within the family, start (or re-start) self-care as a coping mechanism and network with other families experiencing similar challenges.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
We are currently developing a model to provide a temporary staffing service for Starlight Child Life Specialists. We have applied for a federal grant from the Innovations in Health Care Challenge and are in discussions with Regence representatives to undertake additional research on the effectiveness of this model. If we are able to secure the start up funds to make this project possible, we will be able to greatly increase access to Child Life Services for low income and underserved children. Additionally, the earned income received from hospitals and outpatient care centers for this venture will provide critical support for our community-based Child Life Services that provide ongoing support to families in their homes and in their schools.
In the meantime, we are actively seeking funding to support our programs that provide Child Life Services both in the hospital and in the community. Many of these services are coordinated and provided by trained interns and volunteers under the supervision of Child Life Specialists. In this way, we are working to build a service model that is innovative and cost effective.
The main organizational challenge over the next twelve months will be to conduct a nation wide search for a new Executive Director to replace Steve McGraw, who has headed the Northwest Chapter for the last eleven years. In the upcoming weeks, an Interim Executive Director will be hired to lead the organization during this transition period. At the same time, the Development Director has recently resigned. The Board of Directors will be considering the skill set of the new Executive Director and the organizational budget to determine the pros and cons of restructuring the development and volunteer coordination team.
The Board of Directors remains committed to pursuing an opportunity to expand a Child Life Specialist temporary staffing service to both increase access to this service as well as provide an earned income opportunity to support the array of community and hospital-based child support services the organization provides.