Celebrating together while apart

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The current global pandemic has put a spike in everyone's wheels. With lockdowns across the UK and social distancing rules in place, most of the family festivities or celebrations planned for 2020 could not go ahead. Michelle, a Mockingbird hub home carer, decided however to not let covid dull the Christmas sparkle and figured out a way to celebrate together even when apart.

‘I must admit I'm very excited about our Christmas plans!’ exclaims Michelle a Mockingbird hub home carer when we ask her what her constellation are finding to look forward to at the moment. 

The Mockingbird hub home carer role is unique in fostering. Michelle and her husband Paul have built a supportive community ‘constellation’ of ten ‘satellite’ fostering families, with the support of their fostering service and their liaison worker Kelly. 

Kelly, who is also their supervising social worker, tells us how Mockingbird ‘places emphasis upon relationships, and the importance of these relationships to promote individual growth for children, young people and adults. Our satellite families experience longer periods of stability, they have a wider supportive network and families feel a sense of belonging.’ 

Relationships and a sense of belonging

Lizzie, 17, lives with Michelle and Paul in the hub home. She says: ‘Mockingbird is my fostering family. I have made good friends, we have a group chat where we sometimes like to have a catch up and have a laugh with each other. My best friend who is also part of the hub and I get on well with all the other teens. I enjoy having the kids come and stay over especially the little ones. I think of them as little cousins and look out for them.’

According to Kelly the Mockingbird is important for the children and young people in the constellation because they feel a sense of reassurance knowing that day care and sleepovers will be provided by a consistent foster family. ‘The children and young people do lots of activities together and build relationships quite naturally and have lots of shared memories. Our teenagers tend to chat online, go shopping and sometimes meet up and just hang out together.’ 

Being together during a pandemic 

This year, however, has been different. As well as missing out on teenage shopping trips, birthdays, baby showers, Easter, Eid, Diwali and Hanukah have all taken place under lockdown in 2020. Luckily, Michelle’s and Paul’s constellation like families and communities all over the country have found ways to celebrate together while apart. 
At Halloween the constellation did online pumpkin carving and this month Michelle sent out wooden advent calendars for the children to decorate. There is even a competition for the most creative design.

Michelle has been planning their Mockingbird Christmas since September. Working with the local authority to find a way for all the children and young people to have a shared Christmas experience when they can’t be together, and something that will work if their area faces changes to social distancing rules. 

‘We’re are planning a little winter wonderland. We have a decking area at the top of our garden with a little summerhouse that we’re turning into the grotto. The rest or the drive and decking area will be the wonderland. The idea behind it is that even though we can’t get together we will all have a shared memory of Christmas 2020.’

Lizzie and some of the older teens in the constellation have been helping make items for Christmas eve boxes: There will be a letter from Santa, a magic key, reindeer food, a movie, games and treats for each family to share. It’s a community effort with a satellite carer stepping into the role of Santa and a local business supporting the costs of the gifts. 

Celebrating the safe way

Michelle explains that ‘each constellation family will get a time slot for their visit to Santa to collect their box to take away ready for Christmas eve’. By having an outdoor grotto, and sticking to whatever social distancing rules are in place, they hope the youngest members of their Mockingbird community will have the opportunity to get a special Christmas memory while keeping everyone safe and healthy. 

While she’s excited about Christmas, reflecting on this year Michelle admits ‘it’s been especially hard with covid playing a huge part. However, hopefully in the near future things will return to normal and we can get together as a group again!’