Fostering through COVID – how the Mockingbird model supported Flintshire foster carers through lockdowns.
Foster carers Jenny and Janette with over 11 years of fostering experience between them have supported other foster carers like Sarah through last year’s lockdowns as part of an innovative fostering support model.
Foster carers with Foster Wales Flintshire, Jenny, Sarah and Janette, and 13 other local fostering families all benefit from being part of a support model called Mockingbird. Launched in Flintshire in 2019, local authority foster carers are seeing this new way of fostering go from strength to strength. Mockingbird led by The Fostering Network in the UK, delivers sustainable foster care. It is an evidence-based model structured around the support and relationships an extended family provides.
“The last 18 months have been challenging for lots of people. For some foster carers, it was a good time because the children struggle with school and found home learning easier to cope with. It was a chance to form a close bond. We would go for long walks with the dog and I educated the children as we walked and talked. Other children struggled with the loss of routine. For all of us it was the isolation that was hard.” Jenny, foster carer.
Luckily, for local authority foster carers in Flintshire they had our own small group of foster carers to talk to, as part of Mockingbird.
“Mockingbird is one of the best things you can do in fostering. It gives you a support network instantly. If something happens in your own family there’s a backup for you. When I hurt my leg, the group rallied around me.” explained Jenny, hub home carer for the Buckley constellation.
Janette who has fostered for 7 years has recently launched the second Flintshire Mockingbird constellation in the Holywell area:
“As the hub home carer, my role is to be the glue that holds the group together. I’m able to offer support. We are not that far from each other, so members are starting to support each other too. If you are going on a training course, it’s easy to pick up children who attend the same school. We can share knowledge of what’s on locally”
“The socials have been great. Seeing children playing together, with other children in the same situation, it normalizes being in care.”
“It’s so simple, but makes such a difference. In our experience of fostering over the last 7 years, the most stressful time is when you need a break and the children go to a different person each time and you feel guilty. Mockingbird means continuity with people they know.”
Everyone is welcome in Mockingbird, from children living with long term foster carers to new foster carers with their own children. Young people leaving care are part of the Mockingbird family too.
“When a new local family was in the early stages of considering becoming a foster family, I met them online and my son chatted to their son about fostering. They are now approved foster carers and have joined our constellation. They are now caring for a foster child whose sibling is also in our group and they have been able to meet up.”
Sarah a new foster carer who was approved as a foster carer during the pandemic said
“I’m so grateful to have Mockingbird as a new foster carer. It gives you experienced people you can talk to. We can talk about the children and get reassurance, understanding and praise from people who understand”
The “Foster Wales” door has been made by a care leaver practising his carpentry apprenticeship skills.
Foster Wales Flintshire are soon to launch a 3rd mockingbird constellation for local authority foster carers in the Deeside area.
Flintshire’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Social Services, Councillor Christine Jones, said:
“This innovative support model has proven to be successful and a valued resource for foster families. It is important families have support networks, the Mockingbird programme within Flintshire gives the careers involved the ability to share experiences with others and for the children and young people to socialise, this is appreciated by all.
For more information about fostering visit www.fosterwales.flintshire.gov.uk
For more information about The Fostering Network’s Mockingbird programme, visit https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/mockingbird