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.
Steve and his wife Janice, from Brightlingsea in Essex, who have been fostering for the last five years, describes it as ‘changing our lives instantly’. Their first placement in 2015 was a five-year-old boy who is still with them now.
He was a very troubled little boy when he arrived; utterly confused and scared. The consequence of that was emotional outbursts. It was heart breaking to see.
What really brought it home was when he said to us that if his own mother got rid of him then he wouldn’t expect anyone else to keep him in their home, no matter how much they loved him. It was actions and not just words that he needed.”
Steve and Janice questioned whether they would have continued without the support and training provided by Essex County Council.
Although their foster child’s behaviour can sometimes still be a challenge, they now better understand his reactions and feel able to respond more effectively.
They learnt that in his short life he had lost his home, his parents, and his sibling. He was terrified of losing yet more important people, so felt like he had to push Steve and Janice away before he thought they were going to push him away.
Steve, who is the primary carer after taking early retirement, says: “You initially want to rush in with love and cuddles, thinking that will make them feel better, but that didn’t work. The trauma informed therapy and support from the team helped us see the world through his eyes. It wasn’t just love and cuddles that he needed. It was in fact, time, stability and to feel safe.”
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”.
The experience has also been rewarding for the couple’s four biological children. Steve and Janice have three sons and a daughter together – it was their daughter who taught their foster son how to hold a pencil, draw, read and write. She was doing a doctorate in Biomedical Research at university but has since taken up a career as a teacher.
“He is now such a confident little reader who is reading to his class and can follow construction plans to build sophisticated Lego models.
He has gone from being a sad and anxious child with the lowest self-esteem to a generally happy, inquisitive and cheeky young lad.”
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. https://youtu.be/SBPJxs3pZGg
Find out more by visiting our website or calling our friendly team on 0800 801 530. We are operating under COVID-safe guidelines throughout our service.