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Essex foster carers advocate new trauma informed therapeutic training programme

12 Jan Essex foster carers advocate new trauma informed therapeutic training programme

This January, Essex County Council are renewing their commitment to securing the best outcomes for children in care by integrating a new trauma informed therapeutic training programme across the whole service.

The training will be made available to anyone who may come into contact with a child in care – giving them a ‘trauma lens’ to better understand their experiences and how to support them. Essex County Council have adapted quickly to the challenges of Covid-19 with the training sessions being switched to online delivery.

The programme has been developed due to the overwhelming evidence that the outcomes for children who have suffered trauma are much better if they live with families and are parented in a trauma informed way.

Whilst fostering can be transformational for children who have experienced a traumatic upbringing it can be just as life changing for the foster carers themselves.

Poppy, from Harlow in Essex, who has been fostering for the last 4 years, describes it as ‘bringing back the laughter into her house and giving her so much joy’.

“After my husband died nearly 7 years ago, naturally, I was all over the place emotionally.

When a childhood friend, who was already a foster carer, suggested that fostering might be a good option for me, I took a long time to consider it.

I just wasn’t sure if I could handle getting close to someone and then watching them leave. But I knew that I had so much more love to give.”

Poppy started off by looking after young people who needed respite or emergency care over the holidays. Since she started fostering full time 18 months ago, Poppy has had a 14-year-old boy in her home.

Since receiving trauma informed therapeutic support Poppy says that although his behaviour can sometimes still be a challenge, she now better understands his reactions and feels able to respond more effectively.

“The biggest change was giving him a routine and setting boundaries which is something that he has not had before. By explaining why something is wrong, as opposed to just telling him he shouldn’t be doing it, is laying the foundations for a confident young man, ready to face the world at 18”.

As part of the integrated trauma informed therapeutic training programme, foster carers will have access to a team of professionals, including Mental Health Coordinators and Principal Clinical and Counselling Psychologists. Foster carers also get a dedicated social worker and access to support networks including peer to peer, 24/hr support line, respite, and lots of training packages, including bespoke training to the individual.

Essex County Council’s Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Barbara Canepa said: “Moving forward, our aim is to recruit people who want to work therapeutically with children. Our goal is to help give children in care the best possible environment in which to feel safe and secure, and to go on to thrive.

We see foster carers as the agents of that change, and our role is to give them the knowledge, support and tools with which to heal the trauma and transform the lives of the children and young people they care for”.

Foster carers can be single, married, from a same-sex family or retired. It can be undertaken on a part-time basis alongside a full-time job or offered as a full-time role, both always with the full support of Essex County Council.

Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council, said: ”All children deserve to feel safe, secure and be nurtured. Our foster carers help build better, brighter futures for hundreds of children across Essex every year. We need more foster carers, like Poppy, to foster on a full and part-time basis”.

Poppy, who has a 32-year-old biological daughter, credits the support she has received with transforming her foster child from being quite depressed and reserved to being much more content and relaxed around the whole family.

“I’m starting to see a very thoughtful young man develop. During lockdown he was a little upset that he could not get me a birthday card but ended up making one himself. Yes, it’s been hard work. But the benefits at the end are amazing. I absolutely love him and very much regard him as my family now.”

Children in care have often experienced trauma in their past and need foster carers who can help them to heal. Essex County Council are encouraging people to watch this video, inspired by foster children from around Essex, to understand how they bring back the light into a child’s life and set them on a path for a better future.