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8110 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church, VA 22042


Child Life Internship Program


(Last updated October 2021)

Thank you for your interest in the Child Life Internship Program at Inova Children's Hospital. Our 600 hour internship program is accredited by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP). The program runs for approximately 15 to 16 weeks, during which time interns gain extensive clinical experience in the field of child life. Under the supervision of a team of Certified Child Life Specialists, interns learn about conducting psychosocial assessments, implementing patient- and family-centered care, medical and healthcare play, therapeutic play, psychological preparation, support and coping techniques and more.

Please review the ACLP’s website at for further information regarding coursework, certification eligibility and internship qualifications.

Eligibility Criteria and Deadlines

The internship is open to applicants who have:

  • A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Completed 100 hours of experience with well infants, children, youth and/or families
  • Completed 100 hours of experience with infants, children, youth and/or families in stressful situations, healthcare settings and/or programs designed for children with special needs (Please note, hours from a child life practicum may be used to satisfy this requirement.)
  • Completed, or will complete prior to the internship, 100 hours of a child life practicum** under the supervision of a Certified Child Life Specialist. 
    •  **Please note: Due to COVID-19 restrictions at many facilities, practicum hours will be waived for 2022 internship applications.
  • Completed the child life coursework, inclusive of the six applied areas of study, as required by the ACLP (course or courses taught by a Certified Child Life Specialist)
  • Completed the academic coursework portion of the ACLP eligibility assessment or are actively enrolled in an ACLP-endorsed academic program

The following materials must be submitted to review and process your application:

  • ACLP's Common Internship Application (include the required cover letter and resume)
  • Additional essays that address the following questions:
    1. How can child life support a hospital’s initiative to increase patient satisfaction? Can you foresee any challenges with supporting this initiative? Why or why not?
    2. When entering any profession, it is important to consider the challenges that one may encounter. Keeping this perspective in mind, what reservations do you have about becoming a child life specialist?
    3. How have advances in technology impacted the role of the child life specialist?
    4. Tell us about an activity or hobby that you enjoy doing and describe how you believe it contributes to both your personal and professional development.
  • Copy of progress report from the ACLP's Eligibility Assessment
    • For students who are not enrolled in an ACLP-endorsed academic program, all required coursework must be successfully completed prior to the start of the internship. For any courses that are in-progress during the application period, the applicant must include the Confirmation of Child Life Course In-Progress form, which is available through the ACLP.
  • Academic transcripts from all colleges or universities that you have attended. Unofficial copies will be accepted with the application, but official copies must be supplied immediately upon acceptance of the internship offer.
  • Three Child Life Internship Candidate Common Recommendation forms and one additional letter of recommendation from someone who has directly observed your work with children.
    • The letter may be from a recommender who also completes the common recommendation form
    • Recommendation forms and letter of recommendation must be e-mailed directly by the writer
    • We will confirm receipt of recommendation forms/letters with the writer. It is the candidate's responsibility to ensure that all references have been received by the stated deadline. We are happy to confirm receipt of reference materials directly with the candidate if the inquiry is made at least one week prior to the application deadline.
  • Forms verifying required hours of experience
    • Only the hours that have been verified will be taken into consideration when reviewing applications. We require that candidates use the Verification of Related Experience Hours form and the Verification of Child Practicum Experience Hours form (if practicum hours have been completed), which are included in the ACLP's Common Internship Application.
    • Applicants completing practicum hours during the application process and/or who will have practicum hours completed by the start of the internship session must include must include the Confirmation of Child Life Practicum In-Progress form.

Questions about the internship should be directed to Emily Freeborn at or Stephanie Harris at

All applications materials, with the exception of recommendation forms and recommendation letter, must be submitted together in one email to by the application deadline.

Upon review of submitted materials, applicants will be notified of the status of their application. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that all application materials have been received by the stated deadline. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Applicants should retain a copy of all application materials. Qualified applicants will be contacted to arrange an interview with the child life staff.

2022 Internship Session Application Deadlines Second Round Interview Initial Offer Dates Acceptance Dates 2nd Offer Dates Internship Start Date Internship End Date
Summer Wednesday, 1/5/2022 Thursday, 2/3/2022 Tuesday, 2/8/2022 Wednesday, 2/9/2022 Thursday, 2/10/2022 Monday, 5/9/2022 Friday, 8/19/2022
Fall Tuesday, 3/15/2022 TBD Tuesday, 5/3/2022 Wednesday, 5/4/2022 Thursday, 5/5/2022 Monday, 8/29/2022 Friday, 12/16/2022

* Please note that we do not currently offer a Winter/Spring internship session.

Internship Offers

The Child Life Internship Program at Inova Children’s Hospital follows the deadline, offer and acceptance dates set by the ACLP. Upon acceptance of the internship, candidates will be required to submit to a background check, pre-placement health screening, and drug testing. The pre-placement screening and drug testing must be completed at an Inova facility at least two weeks prior to the start of the internship. Interns will also be required to submit proof of liability insurance, which may be purchased independently or provided through the student’s college/university. In addition, Inova Health System’s mandatory influenza vaccination policy requires that all Inova staff, employees, contracted clinical personnel, volunteers, students, vendors and medical staff receive an annual flu vaccination.

Students should be aware that Inova Children’s Hospital does not sign contracts from outside institutions. Once a candidate accepts the internship, he or she will be provided with an “Unpaid Internship Offer Letter” from Inova’s Human Resource Department. Students who are planning to complete the internship for school credit should speak with their advisors about whether that document will satisfy their school’s requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Must I Be Enrolled in a Degree Program at the Time of the Internship?

We do not require you to be enrolled in a degree program. However, independent students must obtain professional liability insurance. If selected for the internship program, the Child Life Department can provide you with the name of a company that may provide this type of insurance.

How Can I Best Prepare for This Internship?

Strong internship candidates will demonstrate excellent written and oral communication skills, a strong academic background with knowledge about the psychosocial needs of children and families in healthcare settings, and will have a variety of experiences working with children both in and out of the hospital setting. We require that candidates have 100 hours of experience working with well infants, children, youth, and/or families. In addition, 100 hours of practicum experience, under the supervision of a Certified Child Life Specialist, must be completed prior to the start of the internship. This exposure will prepare you to work in the unique environment of a hospital and help you to solidify your own commitment to the field of child life.

Is This Internship an Unpaid Position?

Yes, the internship is an unpaid position. The cost of parking and educational materials is covered by the Child Life Department. In addition, the Child Life Department will provide you with two uniform polo shirts. Additional polo shirts may be purchased at your own expense. You are responsible for your personal housing, transportation, and living expenses. Once you are accepted into the program, the Child Life Department may provide a list of potential housing options in the area.

What Happens After My Application Is Received?

We review each complete application and will notify all candidates of their application status. First-round interviews are typically conducted via recorded video. Candidates who are offered a second-round interview are required to come on-site if living within a 100 mile radius of the hospital. Second-round phone or Skype interviews may be offered to candidates living outside of the 100 mile radius. Applicants are responsible for their own travel expenses.

How Is the Internship Structured?

The internship is a 15-16 week, 600-hour internship that is divided into two rotations. There is an initial orientation week and an interim week between the first and second rotation. Rotation options vary by session, but currently include the Pediatric Medical/Surgical Unit, the Hematology-Oncology & Ortho/Trauma Unit, the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Cardiac Services, the Pediatric Imaging Department, the Pediatric Surgery Center, and the Forensic Assessment and Consultation Teams (FACT) Department. During the interim week, interns will spend two days learning about and observing the child life programs at two local hospitals, tour the Life with Cancer Dewberry Family Center, and have the opportunity to shadow other child life specialists within Inova Children’s Child Life Department. Interns are given the opportunity to structure the week in a way that best meets their learning needs, with guidance from the internship coordinators. The last week of each rotation is designated as an “independent week.” During this time, the interns are given the opportunity serve as the primary child life specialist on their units while receiving feedback from their rotation supervisors.

What Is the Intern's Typical Weekly Schedule?

Interns are expected to work 40 hours per week, following the same schedule as their rotation supervisors, in order to acquire the most realistic and consistent working experience. Many rotations follow a Monday through Friday schedule with daytime hours, but days and hours may vary according to staff schedules.

How Many Interns Do You Accept for Each Term?

We typically offer two or three interns acceptance into the program each term, depending on the pool of applicants, the availability of supervisors, and the needs of the department.