Change from theraputic service to fostering agency

Fostering services: Manager Margaret Davies and therapist Sarah Allkins, left
Fostering services: Manager Margaret Davies and therapist Sarah Allkins, left
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A NEW fostering agency that has been set up in Sheffield is taking a unique approach that it hopes will help to change the way that foster parents are trained to work with children.

Chrysalis Consortium, based in Nether Edge, uses a technique called Theraplay.

Chrysalis fostering services manager Margaret Davies said: “As far as I’m aware, Chrysalis is the only fostering agency that’s grown out of a therapeutic service. We’ve been providing therapy and support for a number of years for foster carers and doctors, working alongside other fostering agencies and their carers.

“There’s lots of situations where people are struggling to get therapy into the mix. Sometimes it’s seen as valuable and needed and sometimes you have to fight to get it in.

“Chrysalis Associates is one of the go-to organisations to provide that therapy. Now they are setting up fostering themselves, so that the therapy is part of the whole thing, right from the beginning. I think that’s brilliant, finally.”

The first carers have now been approved and are waiting for children to be placed with them. The first group were recruited by word of mouth but now Chrysalis is advertising for foster parents to come forward.

She said: “The placements will be set up in the right way right from the beginning. I think sometimes it is like sending a sick child to hospital, saying to the nurses ‘look after this child using your common sense and life experience and what you know. We’re not going to give you any medical equipment you might need’.

“That’s what it’s like putting a child with a lot of trauma in foster care. We want our system to be like nurses who have had medical training with equipment at hand and know what sort of drug regime to use, so we get it right from the beginning.”

Theraplay uses games to build trust between a traumatised child and their foster family. The foster parents take the lead in engaging kids through lots of fun, being animated and playful with them. The sessions then use play to help them feel safe and appreciated and loved. Margaret said that the system is well tried and tested in the US and has excellent results.

She continued: “The whole set-up is working from the understanding of what children who have experienced trauma will need. Children need love in a family. Often in fostering agencies they shy away from that. They are called foster carers, not foster parents.

“This happens for lots of very good reasons but it gets in the way of a warm, loving relationship between child and parent.

“They don’t behave like your own children might. The therapy is about finding ways of safely allowing those kinds of loving exchanges to take place. Some of it will be in therapy sessions, with witnesses around, so everyone is safe.”

Margaret said that she had worked in fostering for a local authority and understands only too well the frustrations for staff.

She added: “You’re just firefighting all the time. You haven’t got the space to think creatively or do something different or get your workers trained in this new way.

“I remember that often a worker had to come back with three children in tow and we had to find beds for them when we were already full.”

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