Meet the Staff of the Child Life Program

Kristal R. Neal, BS, CCLS
Kristal, Child Life Coordinator, has been working at The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital  since 2001.  She graduated from Utica College of Syracuse University with a degree in Psychology/Child Life.  She completed her Child Life Internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York, and was employed as a CCLS at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) before coming to Saint Peter’s.  She has helped to create a department staffed by three full-time child life specialists and other support staff.


Jessica Poland, BS, CCLS
Jessica is the full-time Child Life Specialist who works in the Dorothy B. Hersh Pediatric Emergency Department. She graduated from Kutztown University with a degree in psychology. Prior to working at Saint Peter's, she interned at Jersey Shore University Hospital and completed a practicum at Saint Barnabas Medical Center where she gained experience in the Pediatric Emergency Department, Pediatrics, and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Jessica helps relieve anxiety and stress for children by educating them about upcoming procedures and helping them cope with the unfamiliar hospital environment.

Lauren Kane, BS, CCLS
Lauren is a part-time certified child life specialist at The Children's Hospital at Saint Peter's University Hospital. She is a recent graduate of East Carolina University with a Bachelor's Degree in Child Life. During her internship at Hackensack University Medical Center, Lauren was able to gain experience rotating through the Hematology/Oncology Clinic and patient floor, Pediatrics, PICU and the Emergency Department. She has volunteered and worked with children and families in many different settings including the Children's Advocacy Center, camps and a group home.

Sara M. Kropoth, MT-BC

Sara is a board certified music therapist. She graduated from Montclair State University in 2015 earning a degree in music therapy with a concentration in voice and a minor in psychology. Sara has worked with a variety of patients with diagnoses, including adults with Alzheimer's disease and psychiatric illnesses; children with autism; and children and adults with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and Lesch-Nyhan disease. Sara focuses her individual and group sessions on addressing goals related to self-expression, pain management, relaxation and social awareness.

Alexa Curtiss, MS, CCLS 

Alexa is a full-time child life specialist.  She earned a master's degree in Child Life and Family-Centered Care and a bachelor's degree in Psychology and Human Development, both from Wheelock College in Boston.  Her internship experience includes work in the inpatient unit and pediatric intensive care unit at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tuft's Medical Center in Boston, the Massachusetts-based outpatient pediatric clinic at Joslin Diabetes Center, and work alongside the health and wellness educator at the Boston Children's Museum. She has also volunteered at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut and Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children living with life-threatening illnesses and their families. In addition to working with children, Alexa is passionate about animals and animal rescue, and has previously trained and been certified as part of an animal-assisted activity team.  

Amanda Carlson,  BS, CCLS

Amanda is a full-time child life specialist who works in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic and in the Dorothy B. Hersh Pediatric Emergency Department. She graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University with a degree in psychology, concentrating on youth and children. Prior to working at Saint Peter’s,  she interned at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, NY, where she worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings and at an annual bereavement camp for children. She volunteered for many years and completed a child life practicum at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, CT. She has extensive experience working with children and their families in different settings and is experienced also as a children’s dance teacher and nanny for children of all ages.

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