Northamptonshire Children’s Trust has recently deployed virtual reality (VR) across its training in a bid to improve both staff and their foster carers’ understanding of domestic abuse, child exploitation and childhood trauma.
With the number of children and young people in care continuing to rise, the latest National Survey of Children’s Health data revealed that approximately 30 per cent of children experience one adverse childhood experience, and about 14 per cent experience two or more in their lifetime.
Working in collaboration with key partners within the local community in December 2020, Northamptonshire Children’s Trust commenced a partnership with Antser to implement a behaviour-change programme within their recruitment and training for foster carers.
Over the last two years, the Northamptonshire fostering recruitment team and the fostering support team members have received their Antser accreditation to use the 2D and VR headsets and films within supervision, training and assessments, with current and potential foster carers.
Following on from the group training, all respondents (100%) agreed that the VR experience made them think differently and consider alternative ways to respond and make decisions in their approach to children in care. In addition, results revealed that over half of new users (75%) said the VR has provided them with a deeper understanding of issues from the child’s perspective.
The Antser VR team delivered further training to Northamptonshire Children’s Trust and attendees agreed that VR is an effective tool to increase empathy as well as enable users to walk in the footsteps of young children.
One course attendee said:
“VR training is an effective way to better understand the child and the impact of trauma as it puts you in their reality. It will be a useful tool to use with our foster carers in helping them understand the child in their care and for me as part of my professional development.”
Recognising that therapeutic parenting is not a singular instance and is more like a cycle of reflection and self-awareness, Northamptonshire Children’s Trust is continuing to use the VR solely within their fostering teams as assessment and placement support tools.
Richard Dooner, chief executive officer (CEO) at Antser, said: “Through this fantastic partnership, Northamptonshire Children’s Trust has been able to use our immersive storytelling films allowing the team and foster parents to build empathy, understanding, as well as a deeper self-awareness of children in care.
“We are especially pleased to see that Antser VR is going to be continuously used as part of Northamptonshire Children’s Trust training, specifically within their fostering teams as assessment and placement support tools. The VR will allow for many long-term benefits to the team. Not only will it ensure that the children’s team becomes more mindful to flag an issue at placement or a home visit, but it will also allow those involved to become trauma-informed.
Looking ahead to the future, Northamptonshire Children’s Trust will be exploring the use of VR in the retention of foster parents. Most specifically, Northamptonshire Children’s Trust is looking to help foster carers who have had an unsuccessful placement and how VR could be an effective tool for reigniting these types of foster carers’ understanding and empathy towards fostering.