About the Emotional Safety Initiative

The Association of Child Life Professionals defines emotional safety as:

An intentional, interdisciplinary practice to promote resiliency, healing, and trust for pediatric patients and their families during medical experiences.

The Emotional Safety Initiative is a movement to prioritize emotional safety at the same level as physical safety in all pediatric medical experiences. We know that by centering the emotional needs of children and families in every aspect of care,—from environment to treatment plans—we can help eliminate trauma and stress that leads to potential lifelong health implications.

Healthcare providers also pay a price for the staffing logistics, institutional policies, time constraints, and inadequate staffing that can lead to harmful care. Delivering emotionally unsafe care leads to burnout, distress, and job dissatisfaction.   

Our Emotional Safety in Pediatrics paper outlines these consequences and promotes widespread adoption of specialized strategies including atraumatic, patient and family-centered, trauma-informed, culture-centered, and developmentally appropriate care to create a new standard of emotionally safe care around the world.  

The framework of the Emotional Safety Initiative is built from four pillars of focus: screening and assessment; intervention; environment; and education, training, and communication.

Timeline of work

  • ACLP Board of Directors has initial discussions about emotional safety.
  • ACLP Board of Directors makes emotional safety a priority. ACLP begins to seek funding to host a multidisciplinary meeting.
  • Emotional Safety Summit hosted in Reston, VA, featuring keynote speakers Nancy Kassam-Adams and Anne Kazak. Child life specialists, physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals, and parent representatives outline the Emotional Safety Framework.
    November 2019
  • The ACLP Patient Experience Committee shares the Emotional Safety Framework with multidisciplinary healthcare professionals, teen advisory council members, and family advisory council members at selected children’s hospitals to solicit feedback on the emotional safety definition and framework.
    March-June 2020
  • Healthcare equity and inclusion experts provide insights on the Emotional Safety Framework.
    July 2020
  • Jenaya Gordon, MA, CCLS, NCC presents “Patient Emotional Safety in Pediatric Healthcare” at the Beryl Institute Virtual Patient Experience Conference.
    August 2020
  • Emotional Safety Initiative launches with the release of the Emotional Safety Paper.
    March 2021

Heading to the hospital or just want to be prepared? Download our Emotional Safety Conversation Guide for Caregivers, which includes top questions to ask your providers and tips for accessing emotionally safe care quickly and successfully. 

Sign up below, and we’ll text you our abbreviated Guide so the questions are right at your fingertips.

And let us know how your experience goes! Unable to access child life services? Have an incredible story to share? We want to know it all. Email us at emotionalsafety@childlife.org.