MOCKINGBIRD Family Reflection by Foster Carer Ambassador Kristy Smith

2 December 2021

Kristy and her husband Gregg are Home Hub Providers of South Australia's first MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY Constellation.

Kristy & Gregg showing their fun side and pulling faces with a baby.

MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY is an innovative way to structure the support and supervision provided to foster and kinship carers to create caring homes, inclusive of family, culture and community. Here, Kristy shares her experience of being part of this community.

Gregg and I feel great joy and satisfaction in having the opportunity to use our life experience and knowledge to help others. We are currently limited in how many children we can provide fulltime care for, but we’ve discovered, in broadening our network through involvement and commitment to MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY, we can positively impact far more children’s lives.

This was evident within the first month of our MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY launch. Through offering empathy and ideas to carers and connecting and building relationships with the children in their care, we are supporting children to experience the benefits of additional healthy relationships, in turn, improving their internal world view and helping carers to feel connected and supported.

Below is a reflection on what we’ve noted so far. Bruce* and Mandy* and their child Lucy* have enjoyed a meal and bonfire at our home with lots of laughs and fun. The carers shared some of their challenges and frustrations while the kids went off to play. We quickly built a rapport with K as she relaxed in our home. We feel confident that she will soon be ready to come for respite, giving Bruce and Mandy a much-needed break from the day-to-day pressures of meeting Lucy's complex needs and subsequent therapeutic commitments.

Claire* felt confident to express her fears to me about her child Jerry* having nowhere to go for playdates and respite now that his previous respite carer has taken on a high needs long term placement. This was creating concerns around not getting a break from Jerry's high needs and also heartbreak for him feeling hurt by the growing notion of having no friends. I was able to reassure Claire of how being part of MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY will open multiple options. Gregg and I can provide respite for Jerry, and another member of the MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY will also be able to meet their respite needs. Further to this, it has often been the case that Jerry has found it very difficult to develop friendships quickly and easily; however, our son has been asking to see Jerry again, as they connected well at the launch, and another young person in the constellation has also expressed a desire to catch up with Jerry for a play.

Being part of this wider family network creates opportunities for children to experience positive connections and be supported to establish friendships.

Carer Mindy* has gained reassurance that she is on the right track with her recent new placement James*. Mandy is experienced and has a high skillset with children with a trauma background and other additional needs.

As often happens, when you're in the thick of it, she began doubting herself because each day is so challenging. Through discussion with the group, she was able to be reassured that her approach to James' needs was right and was reminded that it takes time to see positive results in the early days of a new placement. In fact, as Mandy relaxed into the knowledge that her skill set was sufficient, she was able to reflect and identify how James had already started to display signs of benefiting from living in her home.

Kristy and Gregg.

Respite carer Jill* has found it satisfying to know her support is helpful, not just by providing respite for children, but by engaging in social activities and group discussions. Jill is building deeper relationships with the carers and their children and taking opportunities to support and encourage them and acknowledge their incredible work. As part of the MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY, Jill has been able to spontaneously offer to babysit for one of our carers when it was shared that she was in a bind, wanting to attend a biological child’s performance without taking her highly energetic child with her. This was an unexpected outcome for the carer who was blown away by the support J was able to provide.

Carers Pam* and Ben* have sought support from constellation members for ideas to make Christmas a more positive experience for their family as their children struggle with big trauma triggers around the season. The group was able to brainstorm ideas, some of which have already been implemented successfully by Pam and Ben. This group discussion also gave me a thorough understanding of the children’s struggles, and I was able to create a social story for the children.

Pam used this to name some of their fears and thus alleviated some of the unknowns for them. Pam was thrilled to have this personalised resource as she is always busy dealing with the everyday issues, which takes up most of her time and energy, leaving little left to create useful support tools.

All of this has happened in the opening months of the constellation launch. We are excited to see these relationships continue to develop and grow and to discover more opportunities, and creative ways, to provide support and encouragement to our satellite families.

*Names changed for privacy.

How does it work?

MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ unites 6 to 10 foster and/or kinship carer homes called Satellite Families in a local community called a Constellation, supported by an experienced carer who takes on the role of Hub Home Provider.

The Hub Home Provider is an employed team member who supports carers through providing connection, information, training and emotional support.

The Constellation is like the extended family and the Hub Home is like a grandparent’s house that is familiar and comfortable. Each child in the Constellation is welcomed by the Hub Home Provider for sleep overs and social events, or if there is difficulty at home and the child and/or carers could benefit for a break. MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ also promotes ongoing meaningful relationships with parents, brothers and sisters and other family members.

MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™

The innovative model that supports foster and kinship carers.

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