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The Alder Centre celebrates 35 Years of service to those affected by the death of a child

3 weeks ago

The Alder Centre celebrates 35 Years of service to those affected by the death of a child
The Alder Centre

The Alder Centre, based at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, the first and only purpose-built dedicated child bereavement centre in the UK and internationally, celebrates its 35th anniversary this Friday.

The Alder Centre supported by NHS and charity funding is a unique and free service providing care and education for individuals and families who have been affected by the death of a child, of any age.

It is also the home of the Child Death Helpline, a national service, staffed by child bereaved parents. In line with the Alder Hey Vision 2030, The Alder Centre aims for a healthier, happier and fairer future, where those affected by the death of a child can achieve their full potential.

The Alder Centre was established in 1989 by a small group of health care professionals in partnership with bereaved parents who identified a gap in the services available to child bereaved families.

The service has reached over 10,000 families over 35 years. The Alder Centre will celebrate the day by opening their doors to the public from 10am-7:30pm with staff and child-bereaved volunteers meeting and greeting visitors, providing guided tours of the Centre and sharing the history, the current services and future aspirations as well as kids activities and crafts.

The Alder Centre team
The Alder Centre team

Simon Riley, the Head of The Alder Centre, said:

“It is a great privilege to stand on the shoulders of the Centre’s pioneers, working together with staff and volunteers serving a community of individuals, families and professionals who are often hidden from the public-eye. I am proud to be heading a unique service that together with other child-bereavement services across the country are striving to care for and normalise the needs of those affected by the death of a child.”

Feedback from parents that have accessed and continue to engage with The Alder Centre acknowledges their connection to The Centre and the instrumental role it has and continues to play in them processing and coping with their grief.

37 year old Sarah from Norris Green in Liverpool first started using the Alder Centre 14 years ago. Sarah’s first daughter Tamia – Louise  was tragically stillborn at 38 and a half weeks.

Sarah said:

“My world was turned upside down when my daughter passed away. The grief never goes away. Tamia – Louise  would have turned 16 in March this year and I think of all the milestones we’ve missed. I fell pregnant unexpectedly a few months after her passing and my daughter Millie has been my rock along with my six year old son Lincoln.

Sarah with her children
Sarah with her children

“I’ve been using the Alder Centre on and off for the past 14 years and it’s my safe space. I feel protected from the world. The group sessions were really beneficial for me; I wasn’t alone going through this tragedy. My therapist is amazing and is one of the best people I’ve ever met, she has really helped me to process my thoughts and feelings around everything in my life.”

Diane has been volunteering at the Alder Centre every week for the past seven months welcoming and talking to families. She is also training to work on the child death helpline.

In 2017 Diane said goodnight to her son Ryan and when she went to wake him in the morning he had sadly passed away.

Diane said:

“I was in a really bad place when I first came to the Alder Centre but through counselling, various therapies and just being in a place where I could be normal and talk about anything, they have helped me get to where I am now.

“They have built my confidence and now I can help others going through the same thing which I think is really special. I wanted to make Ryan proud and knew this is what he would have wanted me to do.”

The Alder Centre opened its new building in 2020. It has been designed around the expertise and real experiences of families themselves and the dedicated staff and volunteers who help run it.

Diane and her son Ryan
Diane and her son Ryan

A place like no other, the £2.1 million facility, funded by charitable donations, offers a nurturing place of safety, warmth and support. The facility sits within Alder Hey’s evolving health campus and creates the perfect place to provide a whole host of varied therapeutic services for bereaved families and hospital staff in person, via telephone or online.

Central to the building, ‘The Heart Space’ is a dedicated space where bereaved families can drop in for peer support, remember their child and use the space as a place of sanctuary.

There are meetings rooms, used for counselling, parent meetings, and the national Child Death Helpline, and a holistic therapy room, with every room having a view and access to the communal gardens. Externally this unique building is viewed as a community of spaces that come together to provide a place of immediate and long-term refuge and resource for those affected by the death of a child.

The Child Death Helpline is run jointly by Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust. It is a freephone service for anyone affected by the death of a child of any age. Call Freephone: 0808 800 6019.

Find out more about The Alder Centre here.

For the latest news in Liverpool click here.

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