Child Life Volunteers
About 300 volunteers work in the child life department at Seattle Children's, a parent organization of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). They can provide fun activities and company for your child at the hospital.
How Volunteers Can Help
The volunteers can visit your child for bedside play sessions, stay with your child while you take a break or take your child to the Playroom and stay to play. Volunteers also visit the waiting area of the outpatient oncology clinic about once a week to play games and hold arts-and-crafts activities. You will see volunteers in the Family Resource Center, too.
If your child needs to stay in his or her hospital room, you may ask the child's nurse or a child life specialist to set up a volunteer visit. Child life volunteers can bring toys, games, crafts, movies, music or other resources that interest your child to the room. A small group of about 10 volunteers works specifically with children who are in the hospital and receiving treatment for cancer through SCCA.
Letting Kids Be Kids
"Part of what we want to try to provide for children in the hospital is normalization—the chance to participate in the same activities that they would at home or school," says Kim Korte, manager of the child life program at Seattle Children's.
Child life volunteers offer support, friendship and fun for the children, explains Korte, and they interrupt the boredom that sometimes accompanies a hospital stay. They also give parents a chance to take a break, knowing their child has company while they step out for a little while. "Having the volunteers allows our program to meet a lot more children’s needs for activity and recreation while they are in the hospital," says Korte.
Who Are the Volunteers?
The volunteer group is diverse in age, Korte says, with the youngest volunteers being in their late teens. Some have volunteered at the hospital for 25 years or more. All the child life volunteers complete a general hospital volunteer orientation as well as a specific child life orientation, where they learn about child development and how to approach and work with children, as well a practicalities such as how to keep Playroom toys clean. Volunteers who visit children in their rooms first gain experience working with kids in the Playroom.
Volunteers work in more than 70 departments at Seattle Children's, so you will see them throughout the hospital, such as at information desks or in infant units holding babies. You can recognize these volunteers by their blue smocks.