Antser has partnered with Flourish Fostering to raise awareness about the importance of foster care and discusses the virtual reality (VR) training that the foster company is currently adopting.
Working in conjunction with Antser, Flourish Fostering began to implement this innovative training to help their Foster Parents better understand the children in their care.
Antser’s VR Service Manager, Abby Cooke, sat down with Flourish Fostering’s Dr. Mica Douglas, Managing Director and Clinical Lead, and Nicola Tunbridge, Director of Flourish Fostering, to find out more about the impact the Antser VR programme is having across their services.
Specialising in providing bespoke therapeutic care to children and young people, Dr Mica Douglas shared: “Fostering is simply looking after children who can’t be with their own families. There are different types of fostering, and at Flourish we focus on therapeutic fostering. We want Foster Parents to be able to look behind the behaviour of the child. That means not taking the things that distressed children do at face value, and understanding that there might be trauma or attachment issues.”
Mica Douglas and Nicola Tunbridge have been delivering training to Foster Parents for close to 25 years, and think it’s important for individuals to experience the full programme. As a company that is run by proven experts, Flourish trains and supervises foster families to provide the very best quality care and provide a safe environment for children to thrive. Their training ranges from beginners and introductory sessions for foster parents-to-be, through to more advanced academic training, and qualifications for those who wish to broaden their knowledge further. Using Antser VR, the team have also recently implemented a VR module around trauma in their Level 5 diploma.
Nicola said: “When we heard about Antser’s VR training, we thought it would bring another dimension to our training. What VR films have done for us is provided our Foster Parents and applicants an insight into what it is actually like for the children, and what their lived experiences are really like.”
Many of the children who enter foster care come from chaotic homes where there might be violence or substance abuse. The films used in the VR foster training are short and snappy, but have a profound impact on the people who see them. Nicola explained: “They get across quite an advanced subject matter in such a visceral way. You take the learning on board in just a few minutes, when ordinarily we would have been through entire modules on childhood trauma. VR gives foster parents empathy from day one.”
The training provided for Foster Parents is about enhancing parenting skills. Most Foster Parents who are new to the career will not have had experience in supporting a traumatised child, and it’s important to learn that raising foster children is very different to raising biological children. Mica spoke about the VR training: “Our films help to demonstrate the kinds of backgrounds that foster children have come from, showing their experiences and their trauma so that it helps Foster Parents understand how this can lead to behavioural difficulties or attachment issues. The whole suite of films helps give people different perspectives, so that they can confidently say ‘I could manage that now because I understand where the behaviour is coming from’. It helps foster parents to feel competent and empowered.”
When carrying out the VR training, the staff at Flourish found that it had as strong an impact on new Foster Parents as it did on those with more experience. Nicola said it was exciting to see existing Foster Parents furthering their academic learning through the training, and that within just a few seconds they were amazed to learn something new about children who have lived through trauma.
After receiving the training, many Foster Parents expressed how brilliant they thought the training content and approach was, and suggested that if they had been shown this type of content at the beginning of their fostering careers, they might have been able to support some of the children in their care better. Through using this new training approach, Nicola and Mica have found that it has opened up a world of conversation between Foster Parents, and has ensured that parents who are new to fostering don’t become overwhelmed in the early days.
Mica and Nicola have been paving the way for ground-breaking training within fostering for the last 15 years of their careers, but feel that the VR training from Antser has had a stronger impact than anything they have done before.
Mica said: “There is a different kind of reaction when we do VR training. It actually breaks through into the hearts of the Foster Parents, and really blows them away.”
“The subject matter of these films resonates for a long time, and comes to mind in general everyday situations within fostering, and this is so valuable. No matter how good the training was in a classroom, no matter how animated the trainer was, or how great the handouts were, ultimately, you do forget a lot of the content” Nicola added.
She concluded: “These films are like little golden nuggets that create a memory in your own brain. You don’t forget this subject because you have taken it on emotionally, and internalised it in such a powerful way that it does not get forgotten.”
For more information about Flourish Fostering, click here.
For more information on Antser’s VR programme, click here.