We wanted to share with you some terrific work two of the Knowsley EFA Trainers have completed with Foster Carers in the Knowsley Borough.
Ken Harrison and Nadine Hannah, both Foster Carers and EFA Trainers have delivered the Parents EFA Training to Foster Carers with some incredible feedback. We have included an article and feedback Nadine recieved from Mike Harden, Chief Executive of Knowsley Council.
Emotional First Aid course for Foster Carers in Knowsley
A pioneering new training course giving foster carers the skills they need to deal with adolescent mental health issues has been hailed a success in Knowsley.
Knowsley has become one of the first areas in the country to introduce ‘Emotional First Aid’ courses for carers, helping them recognise developing mental health issues and better meet the emotional needs of both the children in their care, and the demands of their caring responsibilities.
The training was developed thanks to the Big Lottery Funded HeadStart programme which aims to improve the emotional resilience of young people aged between ten and sixteen years old. It was designed to address the difference in the available treatments and training for physical health compared to emotional wellbeing.
Cllr Gary See, Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, explained: “It goes without saying that we ensure out foster carers have a knowledge of medical first aid, should an accident happen. But until now there’s been nothing similar to give foster carers a toolkit of tactics to help them care for a looked after child’s emotional needs – which may include feelings of failure, rejection, guilt or loss.
“Not only that, but we know carers themselves experience a range of difficult emotions whilst carrying out their vitally important role. We feel it is crucial that they get the support they need to cope with what is often a very demanding job.”
He said: “When we heard about the Emotional First Aid training that was being developed we saw it as an excellent opportunity to give our foster carers an even better understanding of how to manage the emotional and mental pressures they often experience.”
The Emotional First Aid Course was devised by experienced social work practitioners Stuart Gemmell, Dave Smith and Jacquie Kelly of Solent NHS Trust in 2009. It is specially designed to be easily accessible to all carers, regardless of their previous knowledge or training in emotional and mental wellbeing. It was brought to Knowsley and delivered to the first delegation of foster carers earlier this year by HeadStart Knowsley, a multi-agency initiative working to improve the mental resilience of young people in the borough.
Cllr See continued: “Caring for children who have experienced trauma or who are suffering from mental health issues is nothing new for foster carers, who do an excellent job and are committed to giving children all the support and care they can. Emotional First Aid training just gives them the extra tools and confidence to ensure the support they give is as appropriate and effective as it can be – it also helps them to cope with their own pressures.”
Delivered in six three and a half hour sessions, the Emotional First Aid training encourages participants to react and respond to emotional difficulties with the same skill and relevance as they would with a physical symptom. It also encourages them to think about their own emotional wellbeing, and how they cope with challenging, stressful or upsetting events.
Cllr See said: “The role of a foster carer is both rewarding but at the same time challenging and emotionally draining. So it’s important that we provide carers with the skills, tools and knowledge so they can look after their own wellbeing and resilience as well as the children in their care.”
Feedback from the foster carers who attended the course included:
Peter Murphy, Knowsley Council’s Director of Safeguarding and Social Care, said he believed delivering Emotional First Aid to Foster Carers would improve the experience of both children in care and foster carers, and could even help retain and recruit much-needed foster carers.
He said: “Times are changing rapidly and I am seeing more and more young people entering the care system with multiple needs.
“How we support our foster carers’ development is also changing, and providing carers with emotional resilience skills and coping strategies has been shown to not only increase the wellbeing of the carer but also strengthen their relationship with the young person in their care .
“I am convinced that this type of training is the way forward and will enable the council to not only retain foster carers but even encourage more people to commit to becoming a foster carer, knowing that this kind of support is available.”
Emotional First Aid courses are being delivered in Knowsley by Headstart Knowsley, which is a Big Lottery Funded initiative. For more information about these courses, contact Ken Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.