Tech’s child life program one of five nationally endorsed programs

Former child life students Lila Easter, Sarah Dowd and Kari Lockmiller work in the simulation lab.

COOKEVILLE – This past summer, Tennessee Tech’s child life program became one of the first five undergraduate programs endorsed by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP).

The program was established in 2011 in the School of Human Ecology.

“This is child life’s national professional association’s peer-reviewed recognition that the courses and content associated with our human ecology degree qualify students to meet the coursework requirements for child life certification eligibility,” said Cara Sisk, program director. “This is quality assurance for students and their families seeking a reputable child life academic program.”

Child life specialists help children and families cope with stressful experiences in hospitals and other settings. They support the optimum development of each child by providing opportunities for play, education and self-expression, even under the most challenging circumstances. 

As the program’s first faculty member, Sisk created the curriculum from the ground up. The program typically has between 30 to 40 students. Child life concentration students earn nationally competitive practicums and internships, and graduates are located in a variety of healthcare settings across the country.

Sisk is also a member of the ACLP board of directors. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Harding University and a master’s degree in human development and family studies with a concentration in child life from the University of Missouri. She has 11 years of clinical practice experience as a certified child life specialist serving children and adolescents with various diagnoses in both in-patient and outpatient settings.

She earned her PhD in exceptional learning with concentration in young children and family from Tech in 2016.

The Association of Child Life Professionals defines endorsement of academic programs in child life as an assurance that a program meets the standards and requirements set forth in the Standards for Academic and Clinical Preparation Programs found in the most current official documents of the ACLP. Endorsement is a voluntary process of self-study and external review intended to evaluate, enhance and publicly recognize academic programs which meet the standards prescribed by ACLP. 

Tech’s child life program is the only undergraduate program of its kind in the state. The program has a 100% pass rate on the Child Life Professional Certification Exam for its graduates.

The endorsement is good for five years.

For more information about the ACLP, visit

Cara Sisk in the classroom.

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