Launching in Lockdown
Every Mockingbird constellation is different, but the first task for the hub home carer and liaison worker is to begin building links and relationships in their constellation. This has become more challenging under lockdown restrictions, but Portsmouth found a way to spark enthusiasm.
‘I can't believe how quickly we are seeing positive results’, Vicky Laybourne, liaison worker for a newly founded Mockingbird constellation in Portsmouth, tells us. ‘The support from every carer has been fabulous and the children are starting to bond already even in lockdown!’
The Fostering Network’s Mockingbird programme is an evidence-based model structured around the support and relationships an extended family. Led by a hub home carer and liaison worker, the constellation community offers vital peer support and guidance for foster carers and young people alongside social activities and sleepovers to strengthen relationships and support permanence.
Virtual fun and games
Every constellation is different, but the first task for the hub home carer and liaison worker is to begin building links and relationships in the constellation. Ensuring all satellite families commit to being active members of the constellation community has become more challenging under lockdown, but Portsmouth found a way to spark enthusiasm: An online launch party.
The jungle theme chosen was based on ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ aka ‘I’m in Mockingbird, get me in’ and every detail was thoughtfully planned. To ensure every satellite household had all they needed to join the online games and activities, including animal bingo, a scavenger hunt and lots of fun challenges, the hub home carers Ally and Lee delivered party bags to each home the afternoon before the launch. Party bags included both treats and forfeits, such as ‘bugs’ (jellybeans) to eat and children were given the option to pass their bug to their foster carer where they didn’t want to take the risk. The chilli flavour was voted worst of all, but everyone agreed the spider cupcakes made up for it all!
All satellite families entered the spirit of the event: Children were wearing animal face masks and adults rocked the especially printed t-shirts and jungle hats. Those attending decorated their backdrops with plants and greenery to enhance the jungle theme and there was even a ‘Mockingbird, let me in’ pup!
Planning for the future
Ally and Lee are happy with how far the constellation has come since launching in January. ‘We hope that we will see all children and young people gain friendships and make meaningful connections’, they say, sharing their hope for the constellation’s future. ‘We want our young people to know that they have somewhere they can come for sleepovers, just for fun or if things are a bit tricky at home. We want the children and young people in their constellation to know we are there for them.’
To make this a reality under current circumstances the couple worked tirelessly with their service before launching to carefully risk assess and build Covid safe support plans for the families involved. Thanks to their planning some households are already able to make use of sleepovers and day time support care at the hub home and they even managed to meet the higher needs of a satellite carer who recently suffered a significant injury, by enabling them to form a bubble with a satellite carer who is close by and able to offer a good deal of support during the day.
Early shoots of success
Even though many activities still happen virtually, such as game nights, Ally and Lee are excited to keep building that extended family network with that Mockingbird is all about. And so far it’s going well.
Most carers come to Mockingbird because the sense of community and the fun activities for all and they have started to see benefits for some children already. ‘One child, who has previously struggled with building relationships and friendships, has already been able to experience a sleepover and going for tea with a new friend’, says Vicky seeing that all the effort put into the new constellation is already having impact.
This also showed when Ally and Lee supported a contact session for a larger family who have often found it tricky to get everyone together at the same time. The hub home carers worked hard to make sure everyone felt welcome and was safe in their garden and the day ended with the children talking about how they had enjoyed their family afternoon and that they can’t wait for the next visit.
We wish this and all six constellations launched in England Scotland and Wales so far in 2021 all the best for the future!