Flourish Fostering, an Ofsted rated ‘Outstanding’ independent fostering organisation, has become one of the first in the UK to pioneer virtual reality to tackle prevalent topics, such as child sexual exploitation (CSE).
Antser VR has been implemented across the organisation to upskill Foster Parents in advanced subjects more quickly, thereby providing a realistic 360-degree perspective of the child’s world and what may bring them into care.
Talking about their first experience with the VR training, Foster Parents embraced and welcomed the innovative training. Starting their fostering this year, one Foster Parent said: “One thing that stands out to me from the training, is you are a toddler, sitting on the floor and you can’t move around. Mum and dad are there, dad comes up in your face and screams at you, and you really feel the fear and panic, and rationally you know you’re sitting in a room of people and safe, but you are shut off. It is all so consuming that you forget and become immersed in the experience.”
One Foster Parent couple, Nicola and Kevin Woodall, who has been fostering for almost 15 years, said: “We understand lots about children, their behaviour and what they have been through, but virtual reality provides you with a better perspective. When you look at children from their point of view and not as a Foster Parent, it is a whole new world of understanding.”
One Foster Parent added: “It’s all very well being told or shown the statistics or being shown the data, but it’s different actually experiencing it first-hand for yourself from the child’s point of view”.
When comparing Antser VR enabled training to previous training they have received, Foster Parents said it was unrivalled. Sharon Hausrath, a Foster Parent for over 11 years, said:
“Even with a master’s degree in therapeutic fostering and adoption, the VR training allowed me to learn something very new, and even though I am highly qualified and knew a lot about trauma and neglect, I found the virtual reality training offered greater insight that all the other training I have had over the years never did.
“Training with the perspective of a VR headset touches a different part of your learning. You’re more aware of what situations must feel like. Using the headset, it gives a different perspective, and allows you to fully see different environments of what it must be like as a child.”
Virtual reality helps you better understand prevalent topics often faced as a Foster Parent. One Foster Parent said: “When I did the training, everyone there had their own experiences of looking after children, but the VR allowed you to tap into a real, visceral, emotive experience. It gives you a different dimension of understanding.”
“It really allows you to see the reason that some children behave the way that they do. They are just communicating their trauma, which is different to saying it is because of how they feel.”
Designed to help increase understanding, awareness and empathy surrounding children with adverse experiences, Foster Parents can apply the VR training in their day to day lives with their children. One Foster Parent added: “I can apply the training to the children in my care because I have seen an example of what they have actually been through. It has allowed me to see that trauma is built from literally inside the womb.”
Sharon Hausrath said: “The first VR film I watched was called the ‘Unborn Child’ and having had the experience of a child living in a home that had suffered this kind of trauma, it was very insightful. I have previously read a lot about this subject matter but coming at it with the perspective of the VR headset, touches a different part of your learning. Your emotions are heightened of what it must be like for the child, as the VR headset puts you in the footsteps of the child and it makes you realise and empathise with how traumatic the situations are that children often find themselves in.”
In terms of recommendations, every Foster Parent stated they would recommend to other Foster Parents and even those in other professions. Sharon stated: “This training would be valuable for other professionals in the social care field and not just Foster Parents. To view these situations from a child’s point of view would provide so much understanding. I would happily advocate this VR training for children, education providers, health providers and anyone who is struggling to understand children’s behaviours.”
Another Foster Parent added: “I would definitely recommend Antser’s VR training. I would be interested to do training in other areas too like gangs, grooming and drug violence. It really helps to extend conversations and thought processes around a particular scenario.”
For new Foster Parents starting out, Nicola and Kevin Woodall said:
“We already have recommended the VR training. We think it will give new Foster Parents such valuable insight. It can be difficult because you experience first-hand the trauma that these children go through, but it paints a very real picture of what your children have been through, which is valuable to your training and understanding as a Foster Parent.”
“We have had conversations with our own Foster Children about our training and what we have learnt. We think it’s good for them to understand what we learn about and how it affects all of us. One of our children is particularly fascinated by the training, even though it really relates to her own life. It helps us all to learn how we can do things differently to help each other, and that it is a two-way street.”
For more information about Antser VR, click here.
For more information about Flourish Fostering, click here.