‘You need to become part of the family’ – What it takes to be a Family Team Worker at Acorns

Family Team Worker Katie explains how she supports families at Acorns

In many ways, Katie Battle is just like any other person. Every morning she wakes up, gets dressed, has her breakfast and heads off to work for the day. Every evening she returns home, has dinner and then gets her head down for the night.

But it’s what Katie does during her work day that makes her special. And that’s because, for 40 hours a week, Katie becomes a member of several different families.

“I love the variety of the job that I currently do,” she says.

“I love that no two families are the same and that everybody is on their own journey. It feels warm. It feels like I am part of something that is bigger than me, that is positive and that really helps and supports people in what is the toughest time of their lives.”

In her role as a Family Team Worker here at Acorns, Katie has a range of different responsibilities, all of which are designed to support children and families with anything they might need.

Sometimes this will involve practical help, such as assisting the family with filling out forms, while other times Katie will act as an advocate for the family when meeting various agencies. However, often the most valued aspect of Katie’s role is the day-to-day support she offers to families during what will be some of the most difficult moments of their lives.

“There is no typical day, it varies so much,” she says.

“One day I may be at an initial assessment for a new family who are very apprehensive about meeting us, while the next day I may be helping parents fill out forms for money they might be entitled to. I also help with housing applications, writing supporting letters or charity applications for a holiday that’s well over needed.

“But then the next day I may be working with a bereaved parent who just needs me to tell them that they’re ok and that their grief is normal. Or a parent whose child has deteriorated a lot and they need a hand to hold whilst their child is in intensive care in hospital.

“It’s a mixture really of trying to get into the shoes of the people that we’re working with, trying to feel what they feel, think how they think but then using our expert knowledge to go alongside that to provide them with the support they need to overcome some of the adversities and issues that they face.

“I think a lot of people feel that death’s a taboo and that they don’t know where to turn for somebody to talk to. A lot of the time they feel like they don’t want to talk about it, that they don’t want to talk about the child that’s passed away.

“That’s why you need to become part of the family. You need to be somebody that they feel they can connect with.

“We want to talk to them and we want to support them through the process, so that offers comfort to a lot of families knowing that they can have those difficult conversations with us.

“Some parents just need me to say it’s ok, while some parents ring me to say it’s not ok. It’s so varied and no day is ever the same.”

Acorns Family Team Workers are on hand right from the day a child is referred to us, helping families come to terms with their child’s diagnosis and being available for support throughout their journey.

And the relationships Katie has formed with some of our families are ones that will stay with her forever – with some staying in touch as long as ten years after their child has passed away.

“Support can last, depending on the child’s condition, as long as it’s needed,” says Katie.

“There’s no time limit on the support that we offer, it’s based on need.

“Many families that I’ve worked with post-bereavement, we’ve been on a journey with for a long time. And for them, Acorns represents that journey.

“We empower families to be able to move on but Acorns is always special to a lot of our families. We have families that we’ve worked with for over ten years who have experienced the loss of their child and still come back to visit us each year because the support we provided means so much to them.

“Acorns as a whole provides that comfort, that somebody is there, no matter how long it’s been. Someone is there, you just need to pick up the phone or come and visit.

“Our job is about empowering people and moving people on when they experience the loss of their loved one. We don’t like to create dependencies. We like to support them to be able to maintain a normal life after a specific period of bereavement and that’s our overall goal.

“But we are still here, and we do still get calls from parents that we worked with five years ago who say ‘I just need to chat to somebody who knew my child’. And we’re always available for that.”

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£60 will pay for one hour of face-to-face support from a Family Team Worker like Katie.