Understanding Trauma and Exploitation through the eyes of the child with Flourish Fostering and special guest Sharon Hausrath, a registered therapeutic foster parent
In early 2021, Antser partnered with Flourish Fostering, an Ofsted rated ‘Outstanding’ therapeutic provider of care for children and young people, supporting them to become one of the first independent providers in the UK to use Antser’s pioneering Virtual Reality (VR) technology across their services.
In Antser’s latest webinar ‘Understanding Trauma and Exploitation Through the Eyes of a Child’, Abby Cooke, VR Service Manager, sat down to discuss how Antser’s award-winning VR programme has been successfully supporting Flourish Fostering in training practitioners, foster parents, and young people to better understand childhood experiences of trauma and exploitation.
Key speakers of the event included Dr Mica Douglas, Managing Director and Clinical Leader at Flourish Fostering, Nicola Tunbridge, Director of Flourish Fostering and special guest, Sharon Hausrath, a qualified therapeutic foster parent, as she shared her experience using the training to better enhance her empathy and understanding of trauma and exploitation.
Reflecting on the beginning of their partnership with Antser, Nicola Tunbridge, Director of Flourish Fostering, said:
“At Flourish, we believe that understanding how our brains develop is critical when understanding the healing process for a traumatised child. We’ve studied and taught therapeutic training to our foster parents for years, but our partnership with Antser and our journey into virtual reality has been an incredible game changer for us.”
When delivering the VR training, Flourish Fostering found strong evidence that the VR acted as an innovative and highly effective intervention tool. Nicola added: “This is right at the cutting edge of what we can provide to our staff and foster parents, and now, even our young people. It helps our foster parents empathise and instinctively nurture the child in their care, even when the child is sending off non-welcoming signals, it allows them [foster parents] to understand and instinctively react appropriately to this.”
Dr Mica Douglas, Managing Director and Clinical Leader at Flourish Fostering added: “Over the last eighteen months Antser VR has been extremely beneficial to us. It’s a really quick way of providing a powerful experience to foster parents, particularly of the inner world of the child, increasing their understanding of adverse childhood experiences and childhood trauma.”
“It’s a trauma-informed approach to understanding incidents that may need de-escalation, which helps the foster parents reflect on what their initial responses are and how to modify that in order to support the child as best as possible.”
With foster parents in mind, the focus of the training is centred around enhancing parenting skills. To understand how effective the VR has been to date, registered therapeutic foster parent, Sharon Hausrath, shared her experience using the VR.
Sharon said: “I was really excited to attend the VR training with Antser. It was surprising to see how different I felt about multiple topics after attending the training sessions. Some of the topics I had researched in depth over the years, but immersive VR compared to other types of training was so much more beneficial for me. It really touched a different part of my learning and brought a heightened awareness of what some children have lived through and how that feels to them when they are navigating their path through life”.
Designed to help increase understanding, awareness and empathy surrounding children with adverse childhoods, foster parents were able to apply the VR training in their day to day lives with the children in their care. Sharon added:
“The VR training left me feeling like I’d experienced something so powerful myself that I was then able to have a much deeper level of empathy and compassion for those children in my care.”
“After experiencing the VR through the headsets, it really highlighted the importance of choosing the correct response towards these young people in a way that is more connected than before. It’s been an eye-opening experience for me to better understand children who have suffered trauma and neglect, and it’s made it much clearer to see how important the therapeutic approach is with these children”.
In terms of outcomes, Flourish Fostering believes immersive virtual reality has been an impactful and highly successful tool when training foster parents.
In a survey with foster parents and social workers, over half of respondents (60%) had never used virtual reality before. Results also revealed that after using the VR, 100% of respondents said they had a deeper understanding of the child’s perspective and that the VR had equipped them with the knowledge to make a greater impact in their work.
Mica explains: “Since the implementation of Antser VR, so far we have used it in staff inductions, in a number of training courses and directly with foster parents in their homes as a one-to-one tool with young people to raise awareness of issues such as grooming”.
Sharing an example of how effective the VR has been for Flourish Fostering, Mica added: “In a recent case, an adult mother, with a child in placement, was shown the Carnaby Street film, which is about domestic violence, to help raise the awareness of the risk to the baby and to highlight the impact of domestic violence on a baby’s developing brain. The mother was so profoundly moved by this that she finally made the decision to end the abusive relationship, which she previously felt was inescapable.”
To continue paving the way for ground-breaking training, Flourish Fostering has developed a workshop-style course called ‘Friend or Foe’, featuring ‘Aisha’s story’ and ‘Joe’s story’. The course is delivered directly to young people who are at risk of exploitation.
Flourish Fostering are keen to continue working with Antser to include VR in more developing courses, especially the struggles that traumatised children often experience within school settings.