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.
Over the past two years, Antser VR has been implemented across the organisation to upskill staff and foster parents by enhancing their understanding of trauma and, through their informed care, provide better outcomes for children and young people.
From teaching a class of 30 children, to nurturing two siblings, one Foster Parent talks about her transition from teaching to fostering with Flourish Fostering.
*Sophie always knew that she wanted to work with children, so it’s no surprise that she became a Foster Parent, and possibly less surprising that she was a teacher for nine years beforehand.
As a teacher, Sophie was always drawn to the pastoral side of her job. Highly attentive towards the children’s wellbeing, Sophie found that she didn’t have enough time at school to provide the personal level of support that some of the children needed. Sophie said: “As a teacher I felt like I was always snatching minutes here and there to support the kids and I just thought, ‘I don’t want this, I want taking care of them to be my full-time job’.”
“I would find myself saying ‘maybe at lunch time’ or ‘maybe at the end of the day’. So many children would approach me with their problems, and that’s really difficult when you are trying to teach at the same time.”
After weighing up the options and deciding that she wanted to focus on making a real difference to children’s lives, Sophie and her husband became Foster Parents with Flourish Fostering.
Sophie shared: “Working as a teacher, I found that so many children came from difficult backgrounds. They need security and support, and for lots of them school is their only safe place. Often children would find a teacher that they connect with and then talk about the things going on at home. It was a great choice to become a full time Foster Parent as now I have the time to dedicate to children who need the support and unpick their trauma.”
“I’m currently looking after two children who are siblings, but it’s certainly a bit different having them in your house”.
Reflecting back on her transition into fostering, part of Sophie’s introductory training was an Antser virtual reality session with Nicola Tunbridge, one of the directors from Flourish Fostering.
Sophie explained: “You become so immersed in the experience, it feels like you are that child at that point in time and really helps you empathise with children in your care and their experiences. After the training, the discussion amongst all of the Foster Parents was amazing. Usually, people are a bit dumbfounded after a training session, but this invigorated people, and encouraged good comments, strong connections and a deeper level of communication”.
Although Sophie has lots of experience in working with children from troubling backgrounds, she felt that the support of her fellow Foster Parents and the impact of the VR training have made a huge difference to her journey as a Foster Parent so far.
Sophie added how this type of innovative training allowed her to tap into a real, visceral, emotive experience and 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 and it is all so consuming that you forget, and become immersed in the experience.
“It feels like you are that child at that point in time, so it helps you to empathise with children’s experiences who are in your care. 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”.
Reflecting on the VR training, Sophie shared she can now apply the training in her role as a Foster Parent. Sophie added: “From my point of view it was interesting to see that even from birth the children in my care have had trauma, on trauma, on trauma, on trauma. When they behave in certain ways, I know they’re not just being naughty, I can see that it is because of all of the things that have happened to them.”
“One thing that really stuck out to me were the conversations had amongst other Foster Parents in the room. After going through the VR training, it was like you could pinpoint your own foster child in each scenario, we would take the headsets off and everything became clear! Everything we had all experienced, with our individual foster children, made sense.”
Sophie said that becoming a Foster Parent has allowed her to explore parts of her career that being a teacher didn’t allow for. Although she loved working with lots of children at the same time, she felt that switching to foster care was the choice for her, and something that she really wanted to do.
Sophie said: “This job is allowing me to do something that I’ve always wanted to do but my previous jobs just wouldn’t allow for. It’s great to be making such a positive impact on these children.”
To find out more about the Antser Virtual Reality Programme, click here.
*Anonymised Foster Parent – For privacy and safeguarding reasons, the Foster Parent’s name has been changed.