Giving Hope: the launch of Hope Boxes in Blackpool
Adrienne McKie, Development Support Officer at Blackpool Better Start, lifts the lid on a project offering hope to vulnerable mothers.
Last week I was privileged to support the launch of the Hope Boxes in Blackpool.
The Hope Boxes are an intervention to support women who are separated from their baby close to birth due to safeguarding concerns and follow the Born into Care - National Guidelines when the state intervenes at birth.
Over 50 colleagues attended the event and were welcomed by senior leaders in health and children’s services, who spoke about the importance of being trauma-informed, trauma-responsive and compassionate to families and babies. The aim of introducing the Hope (Hold On, Pain Eases) Boxes is to reduce trauma at the point of separation.
The Hope Boxes were developed with co-production at their heart. A group of mothers with lived-experience of separation at birth, came together with midwives, charities, recurrent care services, and perinatal loss services, to plan, design, and create the Hope Boxes. The logo was hand drawn by one of the Hope Mothers, who felt their design signified that they were not alone.
We were honoured that three of the Hope Mothers attended the event. They spoke passionately about their experiences and how each item in the boxes had been specifically chosen to help keep connection between mother and baby, to support with the ongoing loss and grief, or to help with the identity work for the child.
The Hope Boxes were designed to be given in pairs; one stays with the mother and one with the baby at their kinship or foster placement. The Hope Mothers explained that baby blankets and elephant teddies are given in both boxes so that they can then be swapped between mother and baby to keep the smell of each other.
They also spoke about some of their favourite items in the boxes such as acknowledgment of life certificate and baby record books to allow mothers to give their babies information through their pregnancy and birth which is often missing and is crucial for their identity.
Other items included are candles, pens and notebooks to support mother’s wellbeing throughout, and memory cards to keep precious photos of baby.
Packing 60 pairs of Hope Boxes for Blackpool
A packing event was held after the event and colleague were invited to stay after the launch to help pack 120 boxes (60 pairs). It was heart-warming to see how many colleagues stayed to pack even one Hope Box.
Two packing stations were set up: one for the baby’s box and one for the mothers. Colleagues moved around the room to pack their box; being able to see and feel each item really helped capture the hearts and minds after hearing why each item had been specially selected.
Each box was then finished with a handwritten note with the words “Thinking of You”, “Giving Hope” or “Made with love,” letting the mother know that she is not alone, reducing the stigma and shame.
We had fantastic feedback from the event and received comments about how the Hope Boxes will provide much needed support for mothers and babies in Blackpool.
Development plans for the Hope Boxes
The next steps for the Hope Boxes are:
- Consider ethnic and cultural diversity.
- Develop a Hope Box for fathers.
- Develop “Hope Rooms” in hospitals, a calming space where mothers can spend time with their babies, whilst privately discussing proceedings.
About A Better Start
A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.
Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.
The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier
The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.
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Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.