Phil and Barbara are one set of hub carers for the innovative Mockingbird Family Model programme. Here they tell the story of their involvement in the project so far.
We originally heard about the Mockingbird Family Model (MFM) early in 2015 and we showed our interest right from the outset. We could see that our experience of 20 years in fostering could have benefits for other carers within the model; especially those carers who were feeling isolated when dealing with difficult placements or whose own health affected their ability to support the placement.
After some initial training, we had our launch meeting at the end of November and our first hub meeting in January. Both meetings were well attended by foster carers and young people alike. Our young people have had good fun at our hub meetings. We took seven of them on a Foster Focus day out to the Camden Roundhouse, an interesting arts venue in London, where they attended a workshop to develop their creativity. It was a good experience as many of them hadn't been to London before. They also met young people from other hubs around the South East.
The carers in our constellation benefit from meeting other experienced carers. They develop new friendships and advice channels. The meetings give opportunities to learn new skills and we’ve had some very inspirational speakers.
The respite we offer is probably the primary benefit of the hub – the fact that the hub home can make decisions on relief care at such short notice removes one of the frustrations that carers face.
We are supported locally by our liaison officer Ali Wharmby, who has guided us through the whole process, assisted us with setting up meetings and arranging speakers. Ali is an essential go between us and the department. We have also received good support from Theresa Rogers (service manager - adoption, permanence and fostering), Sandra Chapman our supervising social worker and all the social workers involved with the children of the hub. Nationally, we have had excellent support from The Fostering Network, notably Lillian Stevens and Diane Heath.
Some early successes
It is early days to count up successes, but we can see the hub meetings are helping our young people to bond with each other. The respite we provide is allowing carers more freedom. In one case one young chap, full of anxiety, has come to stay at our hub home allowing his carers a weekend away for the first time in over a year. Although this took much effort from us at the hub and carers alike, we are very pleased with this outcome.
Another young person (after visiting the Roundhouse and working with Luke Rogers at the workshop) was inspired to join the Oxfordshire Council of Foster Children.
It has been rewarding for us as well, not only sharing our home with lots of young people, but enjoying some great activities, long walks, bowling, horse riding and go-kart racing to name a few.
Providing these activities has been rewarding as well as challenging. Being a hub home carer carries responsibility to both carers and young people which is greater than the responsibilities of the fostering we were doing before. However this is offset by feeling appreciated and recognised by the carers and people in the local authority, such as Ali. This is a typical response from one of our carers from our last meeting where Luke Rodgers presented:
‘Thank you very much for having everyone to yours last weekend. I thought that it was an excellent meeting for all concerned. Luke was brilliant and I feel sure that everyone took something away with them. I know I did!’
We have now started to attract more attention from other carers in the short period we've been running and are getting applications to join the hub. These carers can see the benefits of the support available from the system for both foster care and kinship care.
Looking forward - provided the funding continues - the Mockingbird Family Model is proving to be an unstoppable force in foster care.