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Last month saw the Mockingbird Family Model Sharing Event take place in the welcoming surroundings of Birmingham’s City Council banqueting suite.

Representatives from seven out of the eight Mockingbird Family Model sites got up early and made their way to the windy Midlands for this special occasion – the second of our shared learning events in the pilot programme. We had the opportunity to hear from the sites how they faced the challenges of setting up the Mockingbird Family Model and how early signs of success were beginning to show.

Presentations were delivered by staff and hub carers making for authentic and often moving accounts of the experience of Mockingbird so far.

Highlights (and commonalities) so far:

  • Imaginative and creative hub launches that brought families together.
  • Constellation training events and shared learning.
  • Placement breakdowns being worked on via peer support.
  • Young people getting to know other cared for young people who live within their district, forming new friendships and peer support networks.
  • Young people participating in meetings and events thereby learning life skills such as baking, shopping and cleaning.
  • Practical, emergency support provided at several sites including supporting hospital visits and providing help and care during floods.
  • Young people having positive discussions about issues important to them with hub carers as they see them as impartial.  This has led to positive outcomes where the young people are able to work towards solving these issues with a strong sense of guidance.
  • A good range of activities that engage both young people and carers have been provided and through consultation many more are planned.
  • A sense of a new and supportive family being formed.
  • Male carers engaging more and getting to know each other.
  • Constellations creating their own (private) Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups to enhance communication.

Challenges so far:

  • Finding hub homes with two spare bedrooms.
  • Attracting the right hub and satellite carers.
  • Raising and developing the profile of the Mockingbird Family Model.
  • Initial reticence from foster carers to get involved (although with 16 constellations, you can see that this has changed!).
  • Changes of role from SSW to MFM Liaison Worker and workload management.
  • Helping other services to understand the Mockingbird Family Model and how the hub and constellation work.
  • Managing hub meetings and getting into a routine.
  • Having enough space in the home to accommodate the constellation for a meeting.

However, carers and staff found ways to address these challenges and build the constellations. As each site gave their presentation there were nods of recognition, 'We’ve all been there' they seemed to say.  And with the presentations came ideas about different approaches – would something that had worked for a hub carer in Doncaster work for a hub carer in Oxfordshire?  We wait to find out, but at least those present have had the opportunity to listen and network with their fellow pioneers.

What came across time after time was the dedication and commitment of both staff and carers to make the Mockingbird Family Model work. Their grasp and understanding of its potential was palpable. They know that there will always be challenges and issues in the future, but now there is a sense of confidence in the mutual support available, there is optimism in the ability to make Mockingbird not only fly, but soar.