Programs in communities and medical centers

Many different types of programs are available for children, teens, and families. Some of these are provided in the hospital, some are online, and some are found in your local community. Team social workers, psychologists, and nurses usually can help you find them. You can also call your American Cancer Society to find programs or support groups near you. Examples of the kinds of programs commonly offered are listed here:

Support groups

These groups can be for parents, siblings, or children with cancer. They may be only for certain groups of patients, such as teens or patients with a certain kind of cancer. Some are offered in hospitals and clinics, and others through organizations like the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or the American Childhood Cancer Organization.

School programs

Medical centers may have organized school programs, planned school re-entry programs, education programs for staff members at the child’s or sibling’s school, and contact with classroom teachers or teachers who teach homebound or hospitalized students. Some use volunteers for tutoring.

Patient and parent visitation programs

Where available, these programs help parents meet other parents with common issues – such as children’s ages, diagnoses, or the area in which they live. There are also programs that help patients meet peers with cancer and other people who can help support them through this time.

Buddy programs

These programs use volunteers (sometimes college or medical students) to play with or befriend patients.

Summer camps

Many medical centers, communities, or groups sponsor summer camps for children with cancer and sometimes their siblings, too. The focus is on the fun aspects of the camping experience, rather than on having cancer.

Special events

Medical centers often develop special programs to meet fundraising, recreational, or educational needs of children with cancer and their families, such as conferences on certain diagnoses, parent weekends, picnics, and survivors’ days.

Wish fulfillment organizations

Many agencies are set up to grant the wishes of seriously ill children, including cancer patients. Some accept parental referral, but most ask for referrals from a doctor or other team member.

Ronald McDonald Houses

These houses originally were created to be a home away from home for children with cancer and their families. Now they often serve children with other serious illnesses, too. They give parents and children who are outpatients a place to get away and relax, offer another option besides staying in the hospital, and have low or no-cost housing for families during treatment. They also help provide parent-to-parent connections and support.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: December 17, 2014 Last Revised: November 11, 2015

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