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Child Life Department

Your generous donations to the St. Joseph’s University Medical Center Foundation benefit many programs and services at the Medical Center. The Child Life Department at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital is a recipient of your generous funding and provides much needed support and services to children and their families during treatment. Child Life is funded solely through private donations and covers the following departments: Pediatrics, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit/Pediatric Step Down, Outpatient Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Department and Pediatric Emergency Department. All of our staff members are fully trained and certified in their area of expertise.

Mission Statement

As child life professionals, we strive to reduce the negative impact of stressful or traumatic life events and situations that affect the development, health and well-being of infants, children, youth and families. We embrace the value of play as a healing modality, as we work to enhance the optimal growth and development of infants, children and youth through assessment, intervention, prevention, advocacy, and education.

Our Child Life Specialists accomplish this mission by providing:

  • Play: Therapeutic play, age-appropriate play, medical play
  • Preparation: Preparing children for procedures, surgeries, etc.
  • Education: Teaching children about illness, tests and the plan of care put in place by their medical team
  • Distraction: Relief from pain or during painful procedures
  • Programs
  • Giggles Children’s Theater
  • Contact Us
  • Location

Play Activities and Play

The majority of Child Life Funding is used for the purchase of various toys, games and crafts for patients, infant through 21 years old. These play items are used to foster normal growth and development of our patients as well as provide therapeutic play sessions to help them cope with their hospital stay, and/or express emotions related to their illnesses. These items may be used by our specialists in one of our activity rooms or brought to the patients’ bedside if they are unable to leave their rooms.

Coping Support

Various items to help children cope during procedures are purchased throughout the year. These items are often kept in our treatment rooms and either used with patients during procedures or given to children upon completion of procedures. Such items include toys that are specially designed to distract children while undergoing procedures and incentive gifts that children receive once they are finished with any procedures.

Birthday Celebrations

If a patient’s birthday occurs shortly before or during his/her hospital stay, our staff is sure to celebrate this special time with the child and family. During birthday celebrations, funding is used to purchase birthday treats such as cakes, cookies, cupcakes, balloons and presents. At times, our staff will arrange birthday parties for children undergoing prolonged treatment or therapy.

Annual Parties/Seasonal Celebrations

The Child Life Department is responsible for planning various parties throughout the calendar year. These events include a Harvest Party, Winter Holiday Party and Spring Party. The Child Life Department also recognizes all seasonal events with the children during their hospital stay. Some of the items this funding may support for such activities include decorations, food, entertainment and gifts.

Character Visits

Funding helps support character visits on a yearly basis. Favorite childhood characters visit with children on a scheduled monthly basis. These characters may also be present during birthday celebrations and they are always invited to annual parties sponsored by our Child Life Department. Characters may also visit with children as an incentive before or after procedures.


Your funding also supports the purchase of technology related items for patients to use during their hospitalization. These items include laptop computers, portable DVD players, iPads and electronic gaming systems and games. These items are offered to our patients in our activity rooms as well as at the bedside and provide entertainment and a vital link to friends, family and school.

Activity Room/Playrooms

We offer daily sessions for patients to play in groups or individually, depending on medical status. We have inpatient and outpatient areas for children to play.

Additional Therapies

In addition to Child Life Services, our department offers an array of activities and therapies that complement Child Life interventions. These include Music Therapy, Art Therapy, Artists in Residencies, weekly clown visits and horticulture sessions. Funding helps support this programming, as well as the supplies needed to perform these activities/therapies, such as musical instruments, plants, etc.

Attachment-1Located at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, Giggles Children’s Theater (a program of Medical Missions for Children) has been a haven of the arts, culture and laughter for critically and chronically ill children, and members of the Paterson community since opening in 2005. Our primary mission is to help improve the quality of children’s lives as they meet the challenges of illness and treatment. While hospitalized children are at their lowest emotional point, Giggles provides emotionally beneficial live artistic and cultural programs that are designed to reduce anxiety by inducing laughter.

Often we use sayings that make “folk sense” only to find that there is scientific evidence that it is indeed valid. Such is the case with our motto, “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” In its November-December 2010 abstract “The Therapeutic Value of Laughter in Medicine,” the U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health concluded that “Laughter has shown physiological, social, spiritual and quality of life benefits.”

Shows are broadcast, taped, edited and rebroadcast over the dedicated Giggles Channel which reaches patients and staff throughout St. Joseph’s Health which includes St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, St. Joseph’s Wayne Hospital in Wayne and St. Vincent’s Nursing Home in Cedar Grove, NJ.  Giggles’ live performances are interactive - even children who watch the show on their bedside televisions are part of the audience - they are encouraged to call down to speak to the performers or ask and answer questions. Giggles presents 2 live shows and 8 rebroadcast shows each week.

At Giggles, our passion is to uplift, enlighten and inspire sick children to overcome their environment not only in the hospital, but at home as well. From the many parents asking if their children may still attend Giggles shows even after they return home, came our secondary mission - to enhance the level of access that the Paterson community has to cultural and artistic programs. Arts programs like Giggles help to improve the quality of life of residents. According to Arts Watch, “University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher children welfare and lower poverty rates.” Giggles aspires to be part of the solution to revitalize the community by offering access to free live theater.

Giggles Children’s Theater is located at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, 2nd floor of the Seton Building, 703 Main Street, Paterson.

To see a show schedule or for more information about Giggles Children’s Theater, please visit mmissions.org.

For more information about our Child Life Services, please contact us at 973.754.3328.

St. Joseph’s University Medical Center
703 Main Street
Paterson, NJ 07503
Copyright © 2018 St. Joseph's Health