11 April 2022

Foster Carers in central Victoria will be the first in the state to benefit from a ready-made social support system that creates a ‘care community’ around the children who have been placed in their care.

MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ is an evidence-informed model, which has had great success in New South Wales, South Australia and internationally. It creates a ‘constellation’ of six to ten local foster carer households that work together and support one another like a traditional extended family would. Research from existing constellations has shown that this approach increases placement stability and foster carer retention.

Anglicare Victoria, in partnership with Life Without Barriers, will be trialling the innovative approach to caring in Bendigo, where there is already a strong sense of community among existing Foster Carers.

Michael Oerlemans, Regional Director of Anglicare Victoria North Central, said he hopes the MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ model will see an increase in the stability and longevity of foster care placements, as carers have a network they can rely on to help share the load.

“Although Anglicare Victoria has only recently implemented MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ in Bendigo, we’re already hearing positive responses to the model. Our new carer households feel relieved that they have access to seasoned carers who they can reach out to throughout their journeys as carers,” Michael said.

“High numbers of children have entered care over the past two years, but worryingly, the number of Foster Carers we have available to take on these kids is declining. As an organisation, we need to shake up the way we’re looking after both the children and carers, and we’re excited to see the impact MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ will have in our region.”

Chris Skinner, Lead representative for MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ at Life Without Barriers, said:

“We are very excited to be partnering with Anglicare Victoria to implement this new approach to Foster Care. In seeing the great experiences of Foster Carers and children in other constellations, I have every confidence that this will only continue in the community in Bendigo and beyond.”

Merryn Wilson, a newly accredited foster carer at Anglicare Victoria, said that when MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ was offered to her and partner Jade she “got goose bumps”, as this level of additional support would make a big difference to carers and foster children alike.

“We’re going to be welcoming a foster care child into our home very soon – It’s fantastic to have access to other local carers who we can rely on during the transition. We’ve just recently done a weekend respite placement with another foster child in our constellation, which went really well,” Merryn said.

“My mind has exploded with the possibilities that MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ could bring to kids and families if it becomes available in more regions across Victoria, it is a real game changer.”

  • Evaluations of MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ in the United Kingdom found that:

  • More than 90 per cent of foster carers felt well supported

  • Eighty-nine per cent of young people felt they had a safe adult they could go to for help

  • Without MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™, one in five placements may have broken down

  • Carer satisfaction increased: non-judgemental peer support was highly valued by carer families involved

  • Constellation families increased the use of respite care between carer households.

ENDS

For more information, or to arrange an interview with Michael Oerlemans, Chris Skinner, or Merryn Wilson, please contact:

Sarah Baird, Senior Media Advisor at Anglicare Victoria, on 0419 035 117 or email sarah.baird@anglicarevic.org.au

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