Fostering children and the way to achieve the best outcomes is at the centre of government thinking. This is because the cost of failed outcomes to society at large is growing alarmingly. In the previous blog, the Mockingbird Family Model was discussed in view of the fact it could represent a significant and positive departure in the provision of Foster care. Briefly: Mockingbird utilises the idea of creating a dedicated ‘hub home’ comprising specially recruited and trained carers for Fostering Children. They will have received additional training and be in a position to offer peer support and respite care, as examples, to a ‘constellation’ of up to 10 foster and kinship carers all living in close proximity.
The principle is analogous to that of the extended family. It leads to empowerment and solidarity. Families can address problems before they develop; the knowledge there is support and understanding freely available is powerful. Fostering children can often seem isolating, but just as the foster carers themselves benefit from this model, so too can the children and young people. On one level, children can see there are others in their situation – never a bad thing – as well as providing them with a wider experience of care.
Leading charity on fostering children and MFM
The ‘hub’ is organic able to build links with other families who are important to children’s care plans – as well as other professionals who can have a positive input into their future development. Of real significance, is the possibility of improving outcomes for carers and the children they foster – as well as saving money.
Lily Stevens from The Fostering Network reports the model appears successful – “it’s not rocket science, it’s very intuitive”. She says there have been a reduction in costly placement moves.
The Fostering Network in introducing this model will be working with eight local authorities in England as well as independent fostering providers –
The director of operations at The Fostering Network, Melissa Green, reported: “The Fostering Network is committed to supporting foster carers and giving children in foster care the very best chance of a positive future. The funding we have received from the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme will allow us to take the learning from the Mockingbird Family Model and translate it to reflect fostering in the UK. This presents a truly pioneering opportunity to change young people’s lives for the better.
“Mockingbird is a simple, innovative and research informed approach to restructuring children’s services with proven positive outcomes for children, carers and services. We believe it will inspire and engage fostering services across the UK with a new, intuitive approach to foster care.
“There is a tremendous appetite for innovation in fostering services across the country and we have brought together a strong and committed group of eight fostering services all of who have pledged to sustained delivery of the new model.”
A departure in fostering children
The Mockingbird model does represent a challenge to the established norms of foster care provision. Hub carers are paid to take on the role, rather than simply receiving allowances. It means they have an expanded set of responsibilities – Lily Stevens again: “We have had the luxury during this year of challenging old ways of working by delegating authority and by actually employing the hub foster carers They are part of the professional team, which is very different from the current system but it’s a big role.”
Such a new model represents a major departure in fostering children and there are implications for social workers. Each constellation has its own dedicated supervising social worker known as the liaison worker and is the hub carers main source of support. They also act as the supervising social worker for all the other members within the constellation to help reduce the number of individuals involved. This has led to a concern that MFM will take jobs away from social workers. They need to understand that the model is trying to address head on their main concern, namely, that they do not have enough time with families because of all the admin work required.
For more information on MFM visit http://www.mockingbirdsociety.org/index.php/what-we-do/mockingbird-family-model
When there is a desperate shortage of foster families with people also giving up fostering through retirement or disillusion, there is only one priority: putting in place a system that provides the kind of support and solidarity likely to motivate and retain the carers we have. This will address the key goal of creating far greater placement stability – known to drive the best outcomes for looked after children. And this is the ultimate objective in fostering children. The sensitivities of all involved in the delivery of foster care have to be sublimated to this overarching goal. Foster carers working within a model that provides such support will be motivated and become the best adverts for fostering generally. And they are also likely to drive referrals: these effects combined can only be beneficial in addressing the current shortage of over 9,000 foster families.
And the good news at the end of this rainbow…our youth participation officer is looking to arrange for a heart warming song “All we need is love” – capturing much of the essence of fostering – to feature on our Rainbow site – just to add more ‘colour’ to the experience of fostering children with Rainbow.
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