Managed Care’s Hidden Opportunity: Child Life Services

February 5, 2024

Managed Care’s Hidden Opportunity: Child Life Services

Health Equity is frequently used as managed care organizations add and improve programs to support their members.

Educating and empowering parents/caregivers is an essential step in achieving Health Equity.

What if your MCO was committed to empowering every parent/caregiver to be a confident and effective advocate for their child and your member? 

During my 40-year career, I have worked for some amazing managed care companies including Kaiser Permanente (22 years), AmeriGroup (9 years), UnitedHealth Care (7 years), and a few others. My accountabilities included Clinical Operations, Network Contracting, Business Development and more. Yet, only after becoming Chief Strategy Officer of Child Life On Call in 2021, did I discover the remarkable value of Child Life Services in Children’s Hospitals and top tier Pediatric units across the country.

What are Certified Child Life Specialists?

Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) are essential resources who are dedicated to supporting parents and kids receiving medical services and treatments for acute and chronic diagnoses. They work in NICUs, Emergency departments, PICUs, specialty clinics and general pediatric units. They save health resources by empowering parents to be confident caregivers, reducing child anxiety, lowering sedation/anesthesia costs, helping the hospital stay “on time” for high-volume surgical and diagnostic services, and facilitating discharges

Doctors office

In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics reinforced the importance of Child Life Services in a  policy statement. This statement recommended that Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) should be a key part of care teams in pediatric inpatient units, emergency departments (EDs), and chronic care centers. Pediatrics (2021) 147 (1): e2020040261. This highlights the significant impact of Child Life Services. However, the support ends upon discharge, just when the MCOs are stepping up to ensure care coordination! 

How can managed care entities leverage child life services?

  1. Encourage your children’s hospitals and other pediatric hospitals to employ more CCLS so that every family gets the support they deserve.
  2. Educate your care management teams to identify and reach out for child life support when managing difficult or complex cases.
  3. Hire Certified Child Life Specialists for your care management teams – their training and experience make them extremely effective communicators with anxious parents, and they know how to comfort even the most anxious child.


Spread the word – inform your care coordination and network management teams – there are opportunities to save resources and improve Health Equity through the education and psychosocial support that CCLS’ offer. 


Written by Jim Donovan, MPH

Chief Strategy Officer, Child Life On Call


Discover Child Life On Call

Want to ensure every member has access to child life services? See how we’re expanding child life services to thousands of patients and families every day with Child Life On Call.

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