The Virtual Reality of fostering

A child looks through a makeshift virtual reality headset, made of cardboard. This picture connects virtual reality with fostering children and how it can help understand their behaviours.

Virtual reality and fostering, why?

Independent agency, Eastern Fostering Services are using virtual reality in their fostering training. But why? And how?

In reality, fostering is hard. Foster carers are expected to be able to cope with a range of challenges within their own home. Children come into foster care with all manner of grief, pain and damage and this can manifest itself in many ways.

Virtually anything can happen…

  • Challenging behaviours
  • Attachment issues or disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Self harm
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Violence or aggression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Mental health problems
  • Confusion
  • Delayed development
  • Hypervigilance

The list goes on. Indeed, foster carers need to be able to cope with whatever fostering throws at them. Many foster carers will say that they are prepared for any eventuality! And it is a good job.

What effect does this have on foster carers?

From time to time, dealing with the daily reality of fostering can leave carers care-worn and overwhelmed. Nonetheless, it is vital for the healing of the child that the carer can continue to have empathy and understanding for the children they are caring for. Therefore, carers need to be able to put themselves into the child’s shoes in order to keep the child at the forefront of their care.

How can foster carers stay empathetic?

The professionals at Eastern Fostering Services are constantly thinking of ways they can support their carers. Moreover, they keep the care of carers central to their objective of making a positive difference in the lives of children.

They understand that supporting their carers in a variety of ways helps build resilience. In turn, this helps build successful fostering.

Virtual reality, the key to successful fostering?

A woman is using a virtual reality headset and is holding her arms out. Eastern Fostering Services are using virtual reality to help support foster carers to put themselves in the children's shoes.

When Eleanor Vanner, Director of Eastern Fostering Services, heard about Cornerstone, she knew she had found something that could help carers understand why some children struggle in foster care.

The team at Cornerstone have developed a series of Virtual Reality films to help carers and professionals to understand the needs of children in or from the care system. The films range from a child in the womb, hearing domestic violence to a baby experiencing neglectful, abusive and inconsistent parenting. In addition, the films provide helpful versus unhelpful responses on the part of carers or professionals.

What benefits do the virtual reality films bring to fostering?

“Because you are IN the film,” says Eleanor Vanner. “You experience first hand what many of our children have lived. And the films really stay with you. You experience the hypervigilance, the dread and the fear – during and following the watching.”

You experience the hypervigilance, the dread and the fear.

Eastern Fostering Services are now offering the Virtual Reality films as part of the training programme for foster carers. Moreover, they have begun using it as part of the Skills to Foster Training which is part of the fostering assessment.

“It is vital,” says Eleanor. “That carers are able to understand what our children have experienced and how this has affected them.”

As a result of watching the films, new and old carers alike can bring that frightened child to the front of their minds.

Because of the upsetting nature of the films, carers are offered one to one support before and afterwards to help them process what they have experienced.

“The films really stayed with me and I found myself thinking about the images even weeks later. This is all happening second hand to me. So, what must it be like for my child, who lived this first hand? It has really helped me to walk in my child’s shoes,” says foster carer, Lucy.

Want to know more? Contact Eastern Fostering Services at info@easternfosteringservices.com