Fostering With Chrysalis- Episode 002. Therapeutic Foster Care Training

Fostering with Chrysalis is our new podcast! Which pretty much does what it says on the tin… it is all about ‘Fostering with Chrysalis’. This podcast is for everyone whether you are thinking of fostering, fostering already or just interested in the world of fostering. Join us for monthly topical chat on all things fostering. In episode 2 we were joined by the passionate and inspiring Cara Jones. Cara is a therapeutic foster carer, trainer and advocate of therapeutic parenting.

Cara Jones

You can either listen along here or read the full transcript below.

Chloe Tyas: Hello, today we are joined by Cara. She’s going to have a little chat about foster care training and we’re hoping to find out more about her passions and how she turned her passion into a career …good morning, Cara.

Cara Jones: Good morning, Chloe.

Chloe Tyas: Nice to see you today. So today we’re going to be having a chat about foster carer training. I thought it would be useful to start with a bit of your history here at Chrysalis, how you came to us and what the early days looked like for you.

Cara Jones: Well, I came to Chrysalis because I was looking for a therapeutic fostering agency. Now mind I started looking about 10 years ago I was. I came over here to England. As you can tell I’m not British. And I came with a psychology degree. Now I wanted to use my degree in England, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to get started and I was trying to decide how best to use my talents and knowledge and was bored where I was at. And then I was looking at what I really wanted to do, and I’ve always wanted to foster. I have three birth children and I wanted to foster for while I was raising them, it didn’t work. I was just too busy. So, I wanted to put together my degree. My talents and experience. Along with. What I wanted to do and that meant a therapeutic agency. At the time, which wasn’t easy to find. There weren’t very many out there. Chrysalis was really in the forefront. I think of this, and I looked at a couple different agencies. And in all honesty, I probably went with Chrysalis. Initially, because they didn’t ask me to have a driver’s license. (laughter)

Chloe Tyas: I knew you were going to say that (laughter)

Cara Jones: (Laughter) It’s true, it’s true, but every other agency I talked to you said, you know what I love your qualifications. I love your passion and what you’re doing. What you want but you have to have a driver’s license. And I was like. I’m not ready yet for that in mind. I still don’t have one. But Chrysalis said, you know what? Not a problem. ’cause your husband can. Drive and I’m like, OK, cool. And I went with Chrysalis, and very very glad that I did because I’ve been able to use my knowledge, my experience, my talents, and I’ve learned so much in the process. I can say that. I have grown and developed. Over these it’s been a little over 8 years now. I think with them. And it’s been interesting. It’s been a challenge. It’s been exciting. There’s been ups and downs and all sorts. It’s been positively brilliant. Is what I would say at this point.

Chloe Tyas: I agree so at which point in this journey of ups and downs and excitement and challenges did you decide? Actually, this isn’t enough for me, and I want to help others.

Cara Jones: I actually I’ve…always, always wanted to help others. There isn’t a time in my life where I think I’ve ever done enough. When I was a therapeutic foster carer and mind you, Chrysalis trained me in PACE, so playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, empathy, the Dan Hughes model. And that was great. I was trained in compassion fatigue, and I was trained in trauma, and I was trained in all sorts of different things. But it wasn’t enough. Because for me. There’s just always more. Well, Sarah Allkins. Found some more training for me to take and I took the therapeutic training, and I became the second person in England to receive the Therapeutic Parenting diploma. It was like the start of something that just solidified. All of my experience and all of my training and my education and it, like pulled together. The psychology degree with my life growing up, being a part of foster care and it just tied all that up together. And then I wanted to offer this. To other people. Because along the way I found out that ‘oh guess what? I’m pretty good at teaching this stuff’. And so that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to share it with as many people as possible because not only was it something I was interested in and turns out it wasn’t too bad. But I saw the power of it, and I think that’s the key.

OK, I now have. Experience of raising three children purposely, therapeutically using this model. And I have watched. As some of the. Most violent children you can imagine. Who damage their environment, who damage other people who damage themselves who? Are violent verbally like? And therapeutically, parenting takes these children that are expressing all of their trauma and their experience and.  It takes it. And heals it like literally heals it and. Right?

It can’t heal all of it, so we are not miracle workers. We can’t fix everything. Just like when a doctor fixes a broken leg. There’s always that place that was initially injured. It never goes away. And so, I can’t take away all their trauma. I can’t take away all their pain. I can’t stop all the behaviors. But what I’ve been able to. Do is take a child. That expressed so much anger and pain and hurt hurting everything in everyone around them. When they weren’t in school, they weren’t successful in any foster placement at all. I mean, they’ve gone through 6-7 different places, and they were losing another one. They were looking at residential care. They were looking at no hope. And I was able to give them hope. You know and right now. They are in college full time. They have activities that they do. They have not hit me or been damaging to myself or my home or anyone in my home, and I bet you four or five years. Now, are they a jerk sometimes? OK. They’re a jerk sometimes. Does their trauma still come out? Yes. But it doesn’t come out in ways. That is gonna end their lives. It’s not going to damage our relationship. It’s not. It’s just amazing. A child that used to bite and hit and spit now. Now uses tools to calm down. And that’s what therapeutic parenting did, and they’ve been with us now for over 8 years. And they’re an adult, staying with us through shared lives. And that is something that nobody thought was possible. Eight years ago. Nobody thought that was possible. And I’ve seen this work with more than just that child. Every child in my care. I have seen these changes and how it goes from violence. All the time. Too scary or a little bit uncomfortable, violence sometimes. And so, it’s this thing, knowing it works, knowing and seeing it and experiencing it. I have to give that to other people. How can you keep it to yourself? You can’t, you can’t.

And so that’s why I kept going to Sarah Alkins. Yeah, the manager of Chrysalis and also therapists who I’ve worked with, and I kept saying, you know, let me teach it. Let me teach it. Let me teach it and she did. And you know the rest is history and I’ve just done so much more since then, yeah?

Chloe Tyas: So that that was lovely to hear and also just to mention the relationships you’ve allowed these children to build, positive relationships not only in your home but outside of your home. So, the young person in question, they have positive relationships that extend outside of your home. Extend outside of their education provision. And this is because they felt safe therefore, they could trust people again.

Cara Jones: Oh yeah. There, uh, it went from not trusting anyone. And when I mean anyone there was nobody to first attaching to me, trusting me. Using theraplay here at Chrysalis to build the attachment. Feeling safe with us for a couple of years. And then. Trusting respite carers. And then we got another child in the home and learning to trust that child. And then trusting my husband’s family. Even going to America. And learning to meet my family and learning to trust them. And they also have friends and school relationships. And it’s just been amazing. I’ll be honest sometimes. I look at it and I wish they had more, more friends, more ability, but when I tell you we can heal a lot of it. That is still. A miracle and amazing. Their life doesn’t look like yours or mine because they also have learning disabilities and autism and other things to go along with their trauma. So those things. Still kind of hold them back from being able to communicate with the outside world, but even with all of that. They still do. Communicate with the outside world. And that is absolutely mind boggling to think about, I mean. Because this child, when they came to me really was growling and biting and swearing and running and hitting and an epic level of violence. To now goes out on Fridays with a TA without me. You know, goes on, walks around the community, and goes and buys a soda and casually chats up the lady at the tills. And this is a child that people thought had no hope. They’ve been amazing. But I know it’s the therapeutic parenting. That did it. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Chloe Tyas: Yeah, yeah, I agree, and I think you’re so right.  I think it’s a great message for anyone listening out there that the power of this therapeutic parenting and how it changes people’s lives. So obviously you badgered Sarah Allkins and said, come on, let me let me help other people. So how did that first start?

Cara Jones: Well, she said I could, she knew how much I knew about PACE. She knew I’ve been training for another agency I’ve been training in PACE for other people. And she I think she knew I could do it. And she just let me start. She let me try and started training other foster carers here at Chrysalis. And it was absolutely brilliant I cannot. It was just like. I know people think I’m nuts. We have this thing. About self-care. And we’re very much about taking care of our needs and self-care and staying strong and healthy. And I’ll be in. The middle of the worst week ever. And there will be a training date coming up. And Sarah will be like, hey, we can postpone this and I’m. Like no, don’t you dare. Or Sally, who is our education specialist here, Chrysalis will say, oh, Cara, we can, we can maybe move it to another week. I know things are hard for you and I. Screamed, no stop! Because training is actually self-character mean I enter that venue, I enter whether it’s in person or online. And I meet the people in the class, and I get to give them this information and I learn from them, and they learn from me. And by the end. Of it. I am. It’s like I rode a roller coaster, and you have that whoosh at the end, and you know you’re just in the right place and it’s my self-care. But doing teaching these courses is just. But at the beginning, you know of course afterwards they had to make sure I was. Really doing a good job and I have. You know, I’ve.

Had social workers and managers and people in there and they have to make sure. I’m still, you know, giving the information over in the right way and evaluate me thus far so good. Not too many complaints so.

Yeah, and we’ve added other training. Compassion fatigue, which is another passion of mine. And we’re going to be starting a new one. For healthy contact, which is brand new that I created, and Sarah is gonna build this with me and implement it here in Chrysalis.

Chloe Tyas: Exciting

Cara Jones: Yeah, actually it is.

Chloe Tyas: So, Cara, we know you are a busy lady and when you aren’t training yourself or others here at Chrysalis. You also like to write children’s books in your spare time.

Cara Jones: Well, my whole entire life I’ve told my children stories. And I just make up these mad crazy things and I sing goofy songs and I make voices, and I’ve always done that. Then I started fostering and. Well, of course, PACE, playfulness. I use playfulness with the strange voices and the storytelling. As a way to engage the children and teach them moral lessons or teach them about themselves in a non-confrontational way. With one particular child, I found that. If I talked about a dragon. In my head, this child is the dragon blowing the fire and showing the anger. He was able to connect with. The dragon when if I was talking about a little boy. It was too close to home. Now mind, I’ve been doing this for years. I’ve been doing this since I was, I remember doing it babysitting when I was 14 years old. Making up these stories. I’ve always had the dream of making a children’s book. It’s one of those bucket list things. I’ve just never felt, oh I don’t know. Able to or didn’t have everything put in place to do it. And then came along my grandchildren. And I go there, and I would tell them these stories. And I made-up some stories for them, and I’m like OK. What am I going to show my grandkids? So, I finally did it, I wrote. A Sir Knight Book, a therapeutic book and Sir Knight and the red feather. And I was just imagining somebody who was trying not to tell the truth ’cause they didn’t want to get in trouble and were scared and worried and all over the place. And walking them through that. And I wrote the story. In fact, I wrote other stories. Of which I really should be published by now, but I’ll be honest, it’s been a rough summer and then through friends I found an artist that was willing to do the work and that’s what started, Sir Knight and the red feather was my first one. And I did hope to get picked up by a publisher. That’s true, I didn’t, so I self-published. As far as I’m concerned though, if it helps one child, that’s all I care about and they have. I’ve had some children come back. To me and be like oh we love the book. I have the second one in that series. Is the sticky toffee frog. And it’s a Sir Knight book. What that actually means is I actually need to finish the editing and go back to my computer, and then that’ll be out. Then we’ve also got some therapeutic books that are not out yet that are based on shapes and colours. And they’re called the Circle Books. Now they’re going to be based for three to five year olds in the therapy room and help them with their trauma. They’re actually finished but I haven’t published them that ’cause I want to make a companion book to go along with. Them, and to be fair, I’m very good at telling the stories and very good at coming up with creative things, but my ability to make a companion book to explain people. How to use it? I tend to well. As you see, right now I can talk a lot. I can drag on. And they have a lot of work to be done on the companion book before they’re out. And also, there’s one other line of stories, and that is Speck. They just all come out on by me telling these stories to the kids.

And I had this dream of making them for real and I did. And so now I’ve got three different series. I can’t see me ever stop writing. Or stop telling stories. The only time I’m going to stop telling stories is, you know, when I’m dead probably. So, I think I’ll probably do it forever.

Chloe Tyas: You like to keep yourself-busy, don’t you full time fostering, Author, trainer extraordinaire like to keep yourself busy.

Cara Jones: You know what? I don’t feel like that.

Chloe Tyas: You don’t feel busy?

Cara Jones: No, no, I. But it’s because you know how when they say when you enjoy what you do, yeah. So, when I’m doing the books, it’s fun. It’s like when other people would be out shopping or out eating or doing a craft. So that’s fun. When I’m training, it’s the same way. So even though it sounds like I’m busy. I’m not because I’m out enjoying myself.

Chloe Tyas: Yeah, I get that I get that. So as part of your training, your most recent change I’ve been coming into contact with a lot about newly approved carers, and that’s been great peer support and, in your opinion, what do you think of peer support? How important it is? Especially in the early days.

Cara Jones: I would say early on it is so extremely valuable. This is one area that I think has gotten better with Chrysalis. And we went through a period, I think, where it was harder because in the beginning there were very few carers, how many carers were there to start with, like 10. Yeah, 13 OK and I think that peer support was easier. For people when it was small. And then everybody was like, oh look, therapeutic parenting. Oh, look Chrysalis is good and we got bigger. And there was a period of time where I think it the growing period. I think growing things are always hard. It was harder. But now we’re I think we’re in the period where that peer support and all of that is starting to come together again. Like we’ve had this huge growth spurt and all these people come in. And now Chrysalis is pulling together. Different ways of peer support. So, I see the podcast, as a way. The use of Facebook and connecting with them via that way. Using foster carers like myself, like Neal and Nicki to teach other foster carers. The support group that you have different ones for the men, or the regular foster carers or the respite carers. But what I’ve seen is a true development in this area that allows us to connect with each other more. And I’ve experienced other foster carers reaching out to me more. And not necessarily going straight to social workers straight to Chrysalis, but just connecting on a personal level and saying, hey. What are your thoughts? And really respecting each other for their experience and where we’re at. And I’ve also watched this. I’ll see other people in training and they’ll say. Oh hi, I haven’t seen you for so long or well I just saw you last week, how did this turn out? And I can see a real connection between some of them. And I think that’s good. I think we’re definitely as an agency headed in the right way. In such a dynamic and multi-dimensional way. And using the Internet, which honestly anymore you can’t do without. Because of COVID it all changed.

Chloe Tyas: And I think that’s one of the positives coming out of COVID. That actually we can have connections and build connections without being face to face. So, we’re lucky now that obviously that’s training can move back to face to face. What you spoke about is the trusting relationships being formed between carers between staff and I think that’s really important, because I think once there’s a sense of connection when you feel safe, you’re open to this training. Your open to not getting it right, you’re open to try more things. I think when people feel isolated and alone if they’re not attending support groups, they’re not attending training. How are they going to learn? How are we going to share experiences and how they’re going to hear about success stories like yours?

Cara Jones: Well, they can’t. But one thing. And I know I sit here, and I talk about my life with Chrysalis as sort of a wave, like an up and down part but one. Of the reasons why? I still talk about that rough middle part. Is because everybody learned and grew and got stronger. And I use that experience, because we’re all so human. And because I want to show them even in our training, whether it’s working with the agency or with your social worker, in training or with other foster carers. It’s really about reaching out during those times when it’s not so easy and accepting that we’re all human and we all make mistakes. And if you can’t. Do that. You never gonna find connection. You’re always gonna feel alone and kind of lost. I mean. I value. The times it doesn’t work because then you can find ways to. Make it work. I tell people. All the time in training. That I know my stuff. Boy, do I know this stuff. I know it like the back of my hand I can tell you this stuff. I seriously I eat, live and breathe it. OK, I do it without thinking about. And if you come to me with a problem, I’m probably one of the. Best people to come to ’cause I can come up with strategies and reasons and just boom. But I am too close to my life and my children, and I still screw up and I need to go to somebody else. To tell them what’s going on so they could tell me what they see and what they think and what their thoughts are. Now I have a psychology degree, I have a diploma in therapy parenting, I have so much training it’s not even funny. I write books in it. I train other people in it, and I still need to reach out to other carers. To get their thoughts and opinions so that A) I don’t feel alone and B) so that they can help me work through some of the problems that I can’t see passed. Because I’m too close. I accept that I’m highly qualified, but guess what? I still screw up. I still don’t know what I’m doing, and I still need help. And I can’t do that without the ability to reach out to other people. I mean, recently there’s one of the newer foster carers came in. And she was talking to me, and she showed me something. An author that I didn’t know. And she goes, hey, this is what I learned, and I went Oh my gosh thank you. And I ordered the books. So that I could read them and learn something new. I learned that from somebody else because I reached out and because we talked them because we listened. There’s just a certain connection. And learning that only happens. When you reach out and connect with other people, I don’t care how much you know I don’t care how good you are at anything. There is never a point where you can’t learn. From someone else.

Chloe Tyas: Yeah, I would agree with that. And at Chrysalis we really strive to be a relationship-based agency and what you said about ups and downs, or relationships works and nobody perfect, we are all human. We’re learning and I think on this journey. As I’ve been here a long time as well. Things have gone up and down, but actually it’s a safe environment. We have got good relationships , sustaining relationships where you can say I’m messing up or I think you should do this or try this, and I think that’s what makes it really special. Thinking about being a parent and what that means. It can be quite lonely and sometimes you can feel isolated, so actually you need a support network and in fostering. It’s exactly the same.

Cara Jones: I’m gonna say it’s even more so. Because in fostering you have people you have to deal with. There’s it’s just such a huge spider web of social workers, supervising social workers, therapists, doctors, teachers, IROs, well independently reviewing officers if you don’t know. To get that all to work in a positive way for yourself and the child in your care. To try to do that momentous task by yourself. I think it feel like you were by yourself on an island. And it would be scary, and it would be lonely. It would feel awful.

And I would agree that Chrysalis does have a family-oriented feel to it. You are allowed to be human. You are allowed to scream; you’re allowed to be angry. You’re allowed to be happy. You’re allowed. You’re allowed your personality. I think that’s one thing that. I come to appreciate. Is that when I come to Chrysalis as myself? With my strengths with my weaknesses, you know with my personality, let’s be honest, I’m an American culturally, I’m different. I am a bit louder. I am a bit more. I’m expressive. There are differences. About me. But I’m at a point with Chrysalis. Where that is accepted, I don’t have to excuse who I am, I don’t have to excuse. My accent, my personality. I don’t have to excuse. Any of that, but it’s accepted as a whole part of the family and who everybody is. And I’ve also noticed something. So, remember, we talked about this up and down a little bit and. We’re definitely in an up OK.

Chloe Tyas: I would agree.

Cara Jones: I felt though this solid up though for a good solid couple year. So, when I’m saying we’re on a solid up, it’s a steady yeah. Yeah, it’s not something I don’t think this is going to falter, I think. It’s really strong. Well, one thing I have noticed. That Chrysalis has done. Are people in the right place? I did see a lot of shuffling with some social workers, some. Employees and I don’t know what all their titles were and I’m not gonna lie. It was. It’s hard to keep up sometimes. But what I seen. Is Chrysalis. Has kind of moved people around. To where they fit their strengths. I don’t know. A lot of agencies that do. This I’ve seen a lot of agencies. They get somebody and they expect you know this square peg to fit in the circle. And what I’ve? Watched here is like Chloe right here, doing the podcast OK. I watched it, I know. Chloe, now this whole time I’ve been here. And I have seen you change what you do here, correct? But right now, but what I see. Is you really, working where you’re strong. And am I? I’m seeing that right, correct?

Chloe Tyas: Yeah.

Cara Jones: So, and but I see that with a lot of different people here. I’ve seen how I’ve watched how Chrysalis allows people who are like you, know what? This isn’t for me. I’m gonna I’m gonna go do something else and they’re like OK, I support you in that or somebody who says I’m not happy here. If there’s something else, we can do, and they support them in that. See, it’s not just me. I get that Chrysalis /Sarah. I said I’m not happy doing what I’m doing. I’m not happy where I’m at. I have to grow. I have to do something. With this knowledge and they let me do that, you know, they’ll let me do some training, and I’m talking here doing. The podcast and. But I’ve. Also watched his. They let other people do that. It’s not just me. It’s like an ethos of the company. You know? Seeing that people get put where they’re good, where they’re happiest, where they’re strong. And allowing that. But also, those people. And you know what? Don’t really want to. Yeah, and just kind of wanna chill out in the background and relax and guess what they could do that too. I think it’s very much about being accepting about who you are and allowing that. And had. They not. If they weren’t there, I wasn’t accepted where I’m at it, I wasn’t allowed to be who I am. I wouldn’t be able to be here talking being happy today, just, you know, letting it all out and we wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be talking about how amazing the last few years have been.

Chloe Tyas: I would wholeheartedly agree with that. I’ve worked here. 10 years. Yeah, there is a reason for that. So, looking to the future and therapeutic training. What’s the big ambition? What’s next? You spoke a little bit about some new training that you’re working on. So, you want. To talk a little bit more about that.

Cara Jones: OK so I help with Fiona Trewartha we started business called Treehouse Therapeutic Training. The idea is that we want to be able to get this information out, not just to foster parents. We want to get the information out to birth parents as well. I will admit we’re small and we’re just starting OK. If we started with COVID starting started, that wasn’t good timing. I’m not gonna lie. That was not a good time to start a business. But we are slowly building the idea though was that we believe that every parent needs this information. And right now, we see that foster parents are getting it through their agencies. But so many birth parents don’t have it. But both parents can use this. It’s brilliant for anybody. And so, we started that agency. Whilst in that agency were both foster parents. We were talking about. What we need? What other people don’t have? And I had this bright idea. We need a really good training on contact. On the parent relationship, because I’ve had the experience with an amazing parent. For the last five years, and we’ve built family time. To be really, it feels like family time.

They come, and they’re welcome and we love our child’s mom. We love our child’s family. We’re a part of them as much as they are part of us and what has happened. Is this child. No longer needs to sit there and go. Oh, who do I love? Do I love my mom? Do I love you? Do I love my home now or do I want to be there. They no longer have that fight because we fully accept. That they love their mom. They love their sister. They love their family. That’s where they want to be… makes sense? Scientifically, it makes sense emotionally It makes sense, so you accept it and you do what you can. To then accept their family and love their family too. Which all agree can sometimes be hard. Through this experience, I realized the power of that family time because we can’t heal our children by ourselves. And then that’s the thing. We can’t, we can do this therapeutic parenting and PACE. But we can’t do it by ourselves. And there was so much power in being able to bring the birth family into this. And what happened is they start healing too. The birth family is healing. Your child is healing, and you are healing. I probably could go off another whole day on this one subject. Anyway, so I created a training session built on this. What healthy contact looks like? How do you build up Healthy family time? And the expectations of it. How can it start from the very smallest letterbox content? Two different ways it can happen out in the community, in your home. Things you need to watch out for because. There are some situations where It’s not safe to move forward too. A longer, stronger contact, you know, family time. But there are those times when you know what it might just work, and here’s how you make that happen. Family time. Is just. I don’t want to say it’s a minefield, part of it is, because the children were traumatized. And for some, they’re not able to move forward in this area. And you follow your child’s lead no matter what you do, you follow your child for you. You fill their needs. This isn’t about you. This isn’t about the family. This is about that child. And so, I did develop this training and we’re gonna be rolling it out with Treehouse Therapeutic training and we’re gonna be rolling it out there. But also, I’m gonna be working with Sarah Alkins and she brought up wanting to do something for the birth families. A group for the parents. To help support them to help them with their relationship with their children. Something that works together doing that, and then we’ll also be using the family time training. In order to develop the foster carers to help them support in it. The idea is we really want to build stronger family time so that our children can feel safer and can feel safe enough to love their family and love their foster carers. Be in this very difficult place, finding a balance. And I’m really, I’m really excited to see this development. There’s still work that needs to be done. We’re at the beginning stages. I mean, the training sessions been developed. We’re going to implement it very soon. We were supposed to implement it in the next week or so, but some things have put that to the side, and I believe we’re going. To start in January. And you know, watch this space because I really think. This is an area that, in fostering, gets dismissed. I didn’t realize how important birth families were when I started fostering. I used to kind of look at them as the enemy. And I didn’t realize. Most of the families that have children that are taken into care. Are that way because they were traumatized? They knew no other way. Now if I can accept and love this child in my care, and accept and love that they were traumatized, and that’s why they are the way they are, and I can still love them and support them and take care of them. And therapeutically parent then. Then why? Am I going to look at their family and demonize them? Because the fact is those same people were traumatized, injured, hurt. They had atrocities put on them. This is all they know. This is all they know. So you have to use PACE with them too. You have to be accepting of where you’re at. You can’t allow violence to continue. You can’t allow the child to get hurt and injured, so there are lines. But the first step in this process is understanding that that wider network or family is your child. And in order for that child to feel fully accepted. You do have to find a level of acceptance with the family. Otherwise, there’s always going to be a part of that child to reject. I’m not sure if I’m I’m saying that right.

Chloe Tyas: No, no, I get exactly what saying I think this could be a little podcast on its own too. It’s about identity and giving them permission to be themselves.

Cara Jones: It really is. So, all of the fostering regulations what is that book we have to fill out.

Chloe Tyas: The training, support, development standards.

Cara Jones: We have to fill out. In it you see all these regulations about identity. And then we have this new piece of work that came out this last year and I won’t fully. I’m not entirely happy with the whole that piece of work. I’m terrible with words. We are going to have to edit. (Laughter) And this huge piece of work. But one thing that the children kept voicing. And they voiced loudly and clearly. Is that family time is important to them whether. It’s important because. They don’t want. It or it’s important with them because. They want more. What they needed when it came to family time wasn’t being heard and wasn’t being listened to. Now, if you have a child in your care, you’re telling them you’re important. I value you, you know, let me know what you think, and they tell you and you don’t listen. You are dismissing them, and you’re dismissing who they are, and then quit trusting you and they’re going quit coming to you. Family time can be uncomfortable, can be hard. It can be a struggle. I mean, who wants to spend their weekend traveling across England? Going somewhere for an hour? Nobody, you don’t wanna do that. But when the child in your care wants. It needs it. And they need to know who they are. They see you accept their family, and they look at themselves and they go, oh…they accept my family. They might accept me because that’s who I am. That’s who they are. They are their family. You can’t take that away. You cannot. We are taking these children out of their homes, their environment, everything they know they’re leaving, and they’re coming into a foreign land. Everything is foreign. But they are still who they are. You cannot change where they came from. You cannot change their history. You cannot change the people that they love. You cannot change who they value? You can try to heal them. To be the person they were born to be, you can try to undo the damage that was done. Believe it or not, some of those great, beautiful things in that child you see are likely great and beautiful things that at one time could be seen in their parents. And if that child is able to see you see those things in their parents. Then they’re going to believe that you can see them in them. And their sense of identity and their sense of self-esteem. There’s nothing like it when you see that happen. It’s priceless. And I have seen it happen. I have. Can it happen all the time? I have foster parents that say their dads in prison. OK! The dads a violent offender and in prison I get it. I get it. There’s some we are never going to be able to. But you know what? If you look really hard, I bet you there’s some. That we can. And those are the ones we want to get. Those are the children that we want to help build their identity. And to help them in every possible way we can.

Chloe Tyas: Yeah, it sounds so exciting. Yeah, I think it’s an area where people are a little bit afraid, but that’s OK. I think it’s gonna be a very exciting piece of work.

Cara Jones: Well, you know it. Does make sense that people are afraid of it? It does because often they come in from violence. I’m not gonna lie and has it worked with more than one parent? OK, yes. Has it not worked with others? Yes. It’s very much about small steps. And if in those small steps, incremental steps there’s no growth, you kind of get stuck there and OK, but at least you try. Right? There, there may be times where it is absolutely impossible for whatever reason. It doesn’t mean that’s its failure. But it means. As long as the child can see you tried. That’s what matters. There is value in that child feeling important enough that you actually did take into account their feelings, their emotions, and who they are. It’s just too important not to, and that’s what the children said. That’s what they screamed. That’s what they shouted. You know, constantly. And also, why? We’re trying. I still say contact sometimes out of habit, but why we’re calling it family time. Because they’ve also said. You know what? I don’t like being called contact. I want it call something better. So, we’re listening to what the children want.

Chloe Tyas: Listening and moving forward, yes. That’s all we strive to do.

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