A Seventh-day Adventist Organization

MS in Child Life Specialist

Program Director: Michelle Minyard-Widmann, MS, CCLS
University of La Verne (1994); Assistant Professor; Certified Child Life Specialist.

Clinical Coordinator: Alisha Saavedra, MA, CCLS
California State University, San Bernardino (2009); Assistant Professor; Certified Child Life Specialist.

Contact Information

Michelle Minyard-Widmann
Program Director
Phone (909) 558-4547, extension 47072
Email maminyard@llu.edu

Alisha Saavedra
Clinical Coordinator
Phone (909) 558-4547, extension 47225
Email asaavedra@llu.edu

Suzie Monell
Administrative Assistant (for Master's programs)
Phone (909) 558-4547, extension 47001
Email smonell@llu.edu

MS in Child Life Specialist Degree

The Master of Science in Child Life Specialist is a 73-quarter credit program, which includes a 100 hour practicum and a 600 hour internship. Students are admitted into the program during the Fall and Winter quarters.

As one of the few graduate programs in the nation that offers a child life degree, students can expect a high level of both preparation and personal interaction as they embark on their career. Since inception, we have kept our commitment to maintaining small class sizes. Loma Linda University shares the same campus as Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital (LLUCH). This enables the program to provide in-class clinical training by utilizing the hospital staff and their facilities as a working lab. All of the core child life courses are taught by certified child life specialists that have ten or more years of experience working in a clinical setting. Additionally, we collaborate with our nursing department to teach within our program.

We pride ourselves on exposing our students to various clinical experiences within the community. Students are able to facilitate and actively participate in our Family Grief Support Group, Teddy Bear Clinic, Annual Child Life Symposium, Family Health Fair, Grief Camps and Teen Retreats. Students also have the opportunity to engage in research within our department. Additionally, students enrolled in the program engage in global community work in areas such as China, Belize, Bolivia, and Honduras, where they provide lectures on psychosocial care of children and their families and facilitate Teddy Bear Clinics.

Based on the program's alumni surveys, results indicate a high success rate of employment in the field and on the child life professional certification exam.

Child Life Symposium

Child Life Specialist Profession

Child Life Specialists are well-versed in the field of child development. They promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. Child Life Specialist provides emotional support for families, and encourages optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization. Understanding that a child’s well-being depends on the support of the family; child life specialists provide information, support and guidance to parents, siblings and other family members. They also play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators and the public about the needs of children under stress.

(Taken from the Child Life Council.)


The MS Child Life Specialist degree is housed in the Department of Counseling and Family Sciences in the School of Behavioral Health. Masters degree students may choose to combine one or more certificate options with their degree program. Certificates are offered in the following specializations: child life, clinical mediation, drug and alcohol counseling, family counseling, family life education, and school counseling.

Mission and Vision

The department's mission is to facilitate wholeness by promoting health, healing, and hope to individuals, families, and communities through education, research, professional training, community service, and global outreach. Our vision is that of transforming relationships.

"Loma Linda University's Child Life program exposes its students to an array of clinical settings where child life skills can be practiced--including hospital sites, Camp Good Grief, Children's Day, and Teddy Bear Clinic, among others. The education, clinical experience, and staff support that I obtained throughout the program has prepared me to excel in the Child Life profession. I am very pleased to have been a part of the program!"Mayra, Alumni 2011

Boy Doctor

Admission Requirements

Applicants to the MS degree in the Child Life Specialist Program must meet the School of Behavioral Health admission requirements as outlined in the Loma Linda University Catalog and give evidence of academic ability, professional comportment and mature judgment. Those who meet these requirements as well as the published deadlines for any of the following terms may enroll during fall, winter, spring or summer quarters. Additional admission requirements include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in the Social Sciences or equivalent
  • Minimum grade point average 3.0 (on 4.0 scale) in bachelor’s coursework for at least the final 45 units prior to graduation
  • Health clearance
  • Prior to matriculation students must pass a background check
  • Official transcripts on file
  • Three letters of recommendation as specified
  • Written statement of purpose for applying to the Child Life program
  • Interview with department faculty as scheduled (on-campus group interviews are scheduled for mid-February and April; other on-campus and phone interviews are scheduled individually)
  • Those for which English is not their first language must present a minimum score of 213 for the computer test and 550 for the pencil test on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
  • Those who are not citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. must provide a valid student visa

Children's Day 2012

Program Schedule

73 Quarter Units

2015-2016 Catalog

  Fall Quarter - 1st Year (15 units)  
CHLS 502 Child Life Seminar 3
CHLS 505 Cross-Cultural Perspective in Health Care 3
CHLS 506 Therapeutic Play for Children Affected by Illness and Injury 3
COUN 576 Exceptional & Medically Challenged Children 3
CFSG 584   Global Practice Experience 3
  Winter Quarter - 1st Year (15 units)  
CHLS 501 Hospitalized Infant and Toddler Development 3
CHLS 504 Child Life Administration and Program Development 3
CHLS 509 Child Life Assessment 3
MFAM 644 Child Abuse and Family Violence 3
MFAM 553 Family Systems Theory 3
  Spring Quarter - 1st Year (15 units)  
CHLS 503 Child Life Seminar 3
CHLS 606 Parenting Medically Fragile Children 3
RELR 568 Care of the Dying and Bereaved (or equivalent) 3
MFAM 501 Research Tools and Methodology I (quantitative) 3
COUN 584 Advanced Child and Adolescent Development 3
  Summer Quarter - 2nd Year (6 units)  
CHLS 608 Child Life Practicum (100-120 hours) 1
MFAM 516 Play Therapy 2
MFAM 568 Groups: Process and Practice 3
  Fall Quarter - 2nd Year (15 units)  
CHLS 508 Grief and Loss 3
MFAM 515 Crisis Intervention and Client Centered Advocacy 3
CHLS 507A Aspects of Illness and Disease 3
CHLS 507B Aspects of Illness and Disease 3
CHLS 607 Child Life Professional 3
  Winter Quarter - 2nd Year (4 units)  
CHLS 604 Child Life Internship and Supervision I (300 hours) 4
  Spring Quarter - 2nd Year (4 units)  
CHLS 605 Child Life Internship and Supervision II (300 hours) 4

1st year core = 41 units
2nd year core = 32 units

Child Life Lab Coat


CHLS 501: Hospitalized Infant and Toddler Development

This course will emphasize the development of infant and toddlers in the hospital setting. Theory, research findings, including socialization, emotional development and temperament will be shared. Bereavement topics, appropriate health, safety and nutritional practices will be discussed. Students will develop the competencies and skills necessary to effectively work with this population.

CHLS 502: Child Life Seminar

This course will help students develop a child life specialist identity through readings, presentation, discussion of child life history and practice.  Application for student membership in professional organizations, such as the Child Life Council will be encouraged.  Students will review standards of clinical practice using the Official Documents of the Child Life Council.

CHLS 503: Child Life Seminar

The students will develop a child life specialist identity for clinical practice through readings, discussion of clinical practice placements, and case study overview.  Interviewing and applying for clinical placement will be discussed as well as other child life topics.  Students will review standards of clinical practice using the Official Documents of the Child Life Council.

CHLS 504: Child Life Administration and Program Development

This course introduces students to the history and development of the child life profession. Students also learn about the health-care environment, administrative issues, program development, and outcome assessment process. Students learn how to develop competencies and skills necessary to effectively administer a child life program.

CHLS 505: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Health Care

This course introduces students to the diversity of cultures and the powerful impact it has on the delivery of health care services. It was designed to assist the student in understanding human differences, preferences, biases and stereotypes to foster the development of awareness, sensitivity, knowledge, and competencies required to affirm diversity in health care and practice settings.

CHLS 506: Child Life Specialist: Educational and Therapeutic Intervention

This course is designed to teach the developmental aspects of play therapy in collaboration with the developmental stages of the child/teen and family in the context of a health-care setting. The course will provide the student with an experiential understanding of play therapy, recreation therapy, education, and practice.

CHLS 507A: Aspects of Illness and Disease

Designed to teach the child life student about the childhood disease process, the course will cover the pathphysiology, symptoms, diagnostic test, and treatment of disease.  This course will also introduce elements of medical terminology, such as the etymology of words used to describe the human body.  Students learn to apply proper terminology and spelling for major pathological conditions.

CHLS 507B: Aspects of Illness and Disease

This course is designed to teach the child life student about the childhood disease process and will describe the pathophysiology, symptoms, diagnostic test, and treatment of disease. The student will learn how each disease affects the child and family's behavioral, social, and emotional development and coping strategies.  Specific developmentally appropriate interventions to educate, prepare, and support children and their families through illness, treatment, and recovery will be shared. Prerequisite is CHLS 507A.

CHLS 508: Grief and Loss

This course is designed to help the student understand the various theories and practice specific interventions that assist hospitalized children/teens or adult family members when they encounter issues of death, loss, and/or grief. Students will be required to examine how these issues affect them personally and professionally. Students will learn to describe their own epistemology regarding death, loss, and grief. Examination of these issues will be with a family system's perspective in a hospital setting.

CHLS 604 and 605: Child Life Internship and Supervision I and II

The student will work with children/teens and families in a hospital and/or related clinical setting under the supervision of a Certified Child Life Specialist. The student will accumulate 600 hours to meet the eligibility requirement to sit for the Child Life Professional Certification Exam.  Special attention will be given to legal, ethical, moral, educational, cultural, spiritual, and gender issues as they relate to working with children, youth, teens and their families.

CHLS 606: Parenting Medically Fragile Children

Students are introduced to parenting issues of the medically fragile infant, child and adolescent.  Theories, techniques, and skills regarding parenting this population will be discussed. Community resources, legal and ethical issues pertaining to this specific group will also be addressed.

CHLS 607: Child Life Professional

Students are prepared for entering the professional field of Child Life by demonstrating clinical assessment, documentation, and skills related to child life practice. Applications of ethical principles and professional effectiveness are included.

CHLS 608: Child Life Practicum (100-120 hours)

Students carry our assigned playroom duties: supervise activities that foster creativity, divert patients from stress and worry and normalize their environment; and provide opportunities for patients and families to socialize and engage in developmentally appropriate activities. Students assist with bedside interaction and interventions and assist staff with escorting patients to other locations of the hospital for special programming.

COUN 547: Social Ecology of the Individual and Family Development

Study of human individual development and its relationship to the family life cycle from birth through aging and death of family members. Biological, psychological, social, and spiritual development discussed in the context of family dynamics involving traditional two-parent families, alternative partnerships, single parents, blended families, and intergenerational communities.

COUN 576: Exceptional and Medically Challenged Children

Study of the determinants, characteristics, problems, and adjustments of individuals who deviate markedly from the norm in their mental, physical, emotional, or social aptitudes, traits, and tendencies. Emphasis on education, hospital care, and career planning.

COUN 584: Advanced Child and Adolescent Development

Psychodynamics' involved in child and adolescent problems with respect to the family relationship. Demonstration of a variety of counseling approaches to the treatment of children and adolescents with emphasis on diverse settings (e.g. education, hospital, and agency).

MFAM 501: Research Tools and Methodology I (quantitative)

Current social research methods, practice in the use of techniques, consideration of the philosophy of the scientific method, and familiarization with MFAM test instruments

Prerequisite: An introductory course in statistics as an undergraduate research methods course.

MFAM 516: Play Therapy

Experiential course designed for practitioners and graduate students to learn how to apply play therapy techniques in dealing with childhood problems such as molestation, physical abuse, depression, trauma, and family conflict.

MFAM 553: Family Systems Theory

Review of Bowen theory, theory of family systems. Introduction to family psychotherapy as an outgrowth of the theory. Students examine their own families of origin.

MFAM 568: Groups: Process and Practice

Major theoretical approaches surveyed include individual theories, marital groups, network, and family therapy groups. Group laboratory experience provided wherein students apply theory to practice and develop group leadership skills.

MFAM 644: Child Abuse and Family Violence

Definition and incidence of physical and emotional abuse, neglect, sexual molestation, dynamics of family violence, and offender and non-offender characteristics. Treatment of children, adolescents, the family, and adults abused as children. Treatment modalities, including individual, group, and family therapy. Ethical and legal issues, referral resources, multidisciplinary approach to child abuse, assessment, interview techniques, and confidentiality.

RELR 568: Care of the Dying and Bereaved or Equivalent

Studies the biblical, theological, cultural, religious, relational, and psychological aspects of dying and death.

CFSD 584: Global Practice Experience with Families

This course introduces students to child life practice in a global context. It examines the ethical and practice issues associated with delivery of pediatric psychosocial services in health care systems in underdeveloped and developed environments. It gives critical attention to issues of pediatric and adolescent growth and development, family-centered care, grief and loss and advocacy. Models for learning and collaboration within the context of health care delivery will be shared.