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Supporting families 24-7

In the last year, thanks to wonderful donors like you, Childlife has been able to pass £100,000 to each of our partner charities.  To the families across the heart of England who use the services provided by Acorns Children’s Hospice, the impact of this is huge.  Each of Acorns 880 families has a dedicated Community Team Worker who is there for them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They can provide advice and support to the entire family or just an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.  The money received from Childlife can pay for 100 families to receive this support for a year.

We caught up with Community Team Manager, Julia Woolley, to find out how her and her colleagues are helping families to carry on through the worst imaginable time of their lives – during the illness and the loss of their child.

Julia has worked at Acorns for the last 11 years and manages a small team of highly skilled family support professionals working across the region, much of the time working with families in their homes, but also at the hospice.  They work closely with the nursing staff, physiotherapists and other medical professionals, offering the family practical support in locating resources and services as well as emotional support, during and after the child’s illness. 

Julia explains “Our support is called ‘psycho-social support’ – our colleagues are covering the medical needs, whereas our role is to listen and support families through the day-to-day challenges they face.  And, crucially, we are there for them when their child reaches the end of their life, and we continue to be there for as long as they need us.”

The team are based in the hospice, but are usually out working with families in their homes.  “This helps us to get a picture of the whole family so we can build a full understanding of how the ill health of the child impacts on everyone” says Julia.  “As you can imagine we meet families at a very traumatic and stressful time, but we are able to help parents learn to enjoy time together with their child, allowing them to create lasting, happy memories for the future. It’s also rewarding to help bereaved families to begin to re-build their lives, whilst still remembering their child and not feeling guilty.”

An Acorns parent explains “We couldn’t have got through it without Acorns. Our community team worker is a great help. She has stuck up for us, with friends, family and healthcare professionals; when we didn’t have the strength.  And she does little things that mean a lot, like bringing our favourite treats of cashew nuts and chocolate éclairs! We still have bad days and know the support is there if we need to talk about our problems. “

Asked to recount her fondest memory of her time so far at Acorns, Julia struggles to choose, “Sorry, but I couldn’t give you just one!  Many of the young people that I’ve known who are no longer with us have made a lasting impression.  And I have a deep respect for their parents and siblings, who have to carry on living after such an enormous loss.  Families entrust us with their thoughts and fears, and I am just thankful that we are able to help them through their journey”.

Your donations are helping to support Acorns families.  Staff like Julia cannot thank you enough; you really are making a difference where it counts. 

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