Innovative Virtual Reality technology being used to tackle the impact of child trauma in foster care settings

An ‘Outstanding’ independent fostering organisation has become one of the first in the UK to use pioneering virtual reality (VR) technology across its services, helping to train practitioners to better understand childhood experiences of trauma and exploitation.

Flourish Fostering, which specialises in providing bespoke therapeutic care to children and young people, is using Antser’s Virtual Reality (VR) technology to tackle prevalent topics, such as child sexual exploitation.

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 brings them into care. Antser is renowned for providing ground-breaking solutions to the health, education and social care sectors.

The partnership with Antser will help Flourish, recently rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, ensure it recruits and develops Foster Parents with the emotional resilience and in-depth understanding that is essential for them to develop therapeutic fostering skills and, ultimately, to maintain an attachment to their foster child during challenging times.

Antser’s VR films allow social workers and Foster Parents to walk in the footsteps of children and young people, helping them to better understand the root cause of difficult or disruptive behaviours, thereby increasing empathy and insight, allowing them to modify their responses to de-escalate and manage the situation.

These behaviours are more common in children and young people who have experienced trauma and can become more complex as young people reach adolescence, with age 12 years plus often being deemed the ‘most difficult’ to manage. Understanding the root causes of disruptive behaviours through innovative and engaging training programmes and intervention tools can prevent school and family placement disruption and teach people how to respond effectively.

Since its implementation, VR has been used in introductory training, directly with Foster Parents in their homes, and as a one-to-one tool with young people to raise awareness of issues such as grooming and county lines.

In a survey of 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 an impact in their work.

One Foster Parent who trialled the VR said: “This course was great, it really shows the child’s perspective. I feel it could also help new Foster Parents understand the things that could either help or hinder in certain situations”.

A Flourish Fostering social worker said: “The technology enables the user to step back from emotions and absorb the message, and makes it engaging to understand and remember. It’s really useful in Foster Parent training for specific issues, using different approaches for the same scenarios that deliver positive responses from children and young people on how adults dealt with challenging situations.”

Dr Mica Douglas, Managing Director of Flourish Fostering, said: “The ability to enable Foster Parents to virtually ‘stand in the shoes’ of a traumatised child is invaluable in promoting empathy and understanding of the meaning behind the behaviour of their foster child.

“During our recent Ofsted inspection, the VR was also used by the three visiting inspectors, who were all very impressed by its capabilities.”

Antser VR is also benefiting Flourish’s existing training programme, which includes a Level 5 Diploma in Applied Therapeutic Practice. Knowledge is accelerated through the use of VR and made more meaningful for the participants, said Mica Douglas.

VR has been validated as an effective learning tool – PwC found that VR learning, compared to classroom or e-learning, is proven to deliver 4x faster learning, 4x more focused learning and 40% more confidence in applying what has been learnt.

Richard Dooner, CEO at Antser, said: “I am excited about our partnership with Flourish Fostering and welcome their commitment to using virtual reality to enhance how they support their Foster Parents and practitioners to further support children and young people.

“Their thinking is ahead of many independent providers in how they can change lives through letting Foster Parents take a walk in the footsteps of children. Each time Flourish Fostering uses the virtual reality films, they find new ways it can and does help them achieve their goal. I’m particularly pleased to see they are embedding the virtual reality films into their level 5 diploma.”

With over 30 years’ experience, Antser provides better outcomes for children, adults, families, and communities by delivering training and practice using virtual reality within child protection and safeguarding, across children’s and adults’ sectors in the UK.


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