UK Social Work has launched an Oculus VR support group for adoptive teens

Lexington, Kentucky (November 7, 2022) – Building on the success Kentucky Adoption Support (Ask the Faculty of Social Work (CoSW) in University of Kentucky It is expanding a virtual reality (VR) program to support teens in foster care.

ASK is an innovative approach to providing support for caring caregivers, adoptions and relatives across the Commonwealth. The award-winning program uses technology to deliver engaging exercises and comprehensive support groups.

Peer support is a powerful tool for communication – bringing people together based on shared experiences.

Traditionally, these groups meet face to face. But virtual support is made more accessible by technology, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This setting gives participants who are homebound, socially anxious, live in rural areas, have busy schedules or prefer anonymity, an opportunity to connect with mentors and peers.

CoSW includes two ASK Teens VR support groups for 14-17 year olds who are currently in foster care. Sessions will be facilitated by both licensed physicians and former adoptive young adults. One group is specifically designed to support LGBTQ+ teens.

Ultimately, facilitators will use virtual reality to create a safe and compassionate environment for teens to engage with one another and receive peer support.

“Being a teenager can be a challenging time and finding a support system is vital to their mental and emotional well-being,” said Lauren Lynch, ASK Program Coordinator. “Technology is also a huge part of their lives, so integrating that in a way that allows teens to feel safe, connected and seen as they really want to be is the driving force behind the pilot. I am happy to be a part of this initiative.”

Why virtual reality?

UK Dean of CoSW Jay Miller stumbled upon the concept of using Oculus VR to facilitate social work services by accident – after setting up a headset for his son.

“I’ve never been into gaming concepts in general,” Miller said. “But after putting on the headset and getting involved in the experience, I really started to see the potential to approach service deployment in a very different way. Ultimately, you’re paraphrasing what you mean by “game.”

CoSW’s first Oculus VR beta program began successfully with the ASK support group for foster and adoptive parents earlier this year.

This latest expansion aims to meet teens wherever they are – a generation accustomed to interacting online with the latest technology. Using avatars also gives participants the opportunity to choose how they appear and interact with the world.

In addition, the initiative is a collaboration between the university esports program and the technology marketing office (Outside the cabin).

“Esports UK is very excited about the collaboration and success of the ASK VIP initiative. Gaming and gaming technology offer new ways to inspire, educate and innovate,” said Eric Jarvis, Chief Operating Officer of UKFCU Esports Lounge. This approach by CoSW places 21Street Century Foundation for Teaching, Learning and Sharing. The possibilities to replicate this approach in the future cannot be overstated.”

“We are excited to partner and support CoSW and its innovations to advance support services for children and families in the Commonwealth and beyond,” added Serenity Wright, Associate Director of Social Innovation. “This is exactly the kind of programming that the OTC Social Innovation Team is honored to raise.”

This latest beta version is just the beginning. Miller plans to continue expanding resources and opportunities through the e-services initiative.

This initiative is designed to prepare future social, mental and behavioral health professionals to engage with – and deploy – innovative services through technology solutions.

“The future of service is technology,” Miller said. “If we are to deliver on the promise of ensuring effectiveness, efficiency, and accessibility for those who need services, we must ensure that our workforce is prepared to use, evaluate, and improve this technology. This is what our eServices initiative is all about. We have been very fortunate to partner with some of the wonderful partners in making this work “.

CoSW will provide all equipment needed for teens to participate in the six-session program, and participants are also eligible to receive a financial incentive upon completing the series and providing feedback.

Interested and qualified participants can register by visiting CoSW website. For additional information, email ukcosw@uky.edu.

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