This year marks five years of The Fostering Network’s Mockingbird programme in the UK. To celebrate this milestone we’re speaking to foster carers, young people and staff in services who joined the programme back in 2015 to hear about their experiences and how it feels to be part of a Mockingbird community.
Mockingbird is an intuitive model of foster care based on the structure, support and relationships of an extended family, where an experienced foster carer acts as a hub home leading a community known as a constellation of ‘satellite’ fostering families.
Darren, a liaison worker at Heath Farm Fostering, an independent fostering provider in Kent, told us how Mockingbird has developed in their service: ‘We have had three constellations that have been running for over four years now and in that time I have seen many changes in each of the hub carers. Their professionalism and confidence has grown hugely. This has influenced their carers so the learning from Mockingbird spreads out like osmosis.’
Heath Farm Fostering launched a fourth constellation in the summer who are busy building relationships as a new community. The trusted relationships hub home carers build with children and young people in their constellation means they can be a safe space for children and young people when they need it most. Darren: ‘We consistently see how the hub is often the glue that holds a placement together when carers and young people start drifting apart. Whether it is a space for carers to seek a listening ear, gaining advice, or the hub carer spending time with the child to help them have the space to work through their own issues'.
Ashlyn, 15, is part of a Mockingbird constellation and loves all the activities they get to join with their ‘funny and kind’ hub home carers. Ashlyn told us that Mockingbird ‘gives us a place to go, like a home from home, for sleepovers and to mix with other kids… Everyone’s really nice and everyone gets on with everyone’.
Lisa and Andrew, hub home carers for over four years, described their role as being the ones that bring everyone together. Being part of a constellation means ‘carers feel supported and listened to, birth children have other birth children to talk to about the complexities of being part of a fostering family and support each other and [fostered] young people feel safe and secure and part of a community where they can be themselves and have understanding’.
Stronger during lockdown
This year more than ever has highlighted the need for such community. Hub home carers and liaison workers across the country have amazed with the inventive ways they have found to keep their connections alive while apart. Lisa and Andrew spent lockdown devising family games, quizzes, scavenger hunts and virtual singalongs, alongside zoom carers coffee mornings and vital one to one support ensuring their constellation keeps talking and being there for each other.
‘Amazingly our community is still going strong and the support we have seen all the carers offer each other has been outstanding. At a time when it could have been so isolating our community held together, and we believe strengthened, proving what a success Mockingbird is’.