Learning that a parent has a serious illness has major implications for children. Effects can be seen in their mental health, social relationships, school performance, and overall growth and development. Wonders & Worries is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Central Texas that helps children cope when a parent faces a serious or life-threatening illness by providing a six-week comprehensive, individualized counseling program. An evaluation is needed to prove the efficacy of the program so that it can be disseminated to other cities and cancer centers in the United States.

This project is a randomized controlled clinical trial assessing the Wonder & Worries Program intervention. A total of 60 families will be randomized into either the intervention group or the wait-listed control group. The intervention entails six group sessions with child-life specialists utilizing play, recreation, education, self-expression and theories of child development to promote wellbeing. Measured outcomes consist of family communication, child behavior, and child anxiety, and data will be gathered at baseline, post intervention, and 8-week follow up. After final measures are completed, the wait-listed control families will be enrolled in the intervention, and exit interviews of both groups will be given to parents to measure parent-reported program utility and child outcomes.

To date, no studies have been published evaluating child-centered psychosocial interventions designed specifically for children dealing with parental cancer. By using rigorous methodology to test the effectiveness of Wonders & Worries, this project will contribute to the evidence-based care of families facing parental cancer.