Kate and her partner Natalie have been foster carers for four years and became Mockingbird hub home carers for Trust Fostering, part of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, in 2018. Over the last 15 months going in and out of lockdown, they have started setting regular competitions and organised activities to keep the children in the constellation entertained. This has not only supported relationship building within the constellation but with the wider community as well. Kate tells us more.
‘One competition was around the launch of the new SpaceX spacecraft that our young people were particularly interested in learning about’, Kate tells us. ‘We pushed our luck and even contacted NASA, however it appears they were very busy and we didn’t receive a reply from them’, she adds laughingly. Instead, a member of the team at The National Space Centre agreed to judge a competition where the children designed a rocket. They received some amazing entries and the whole constellation have since been invited to the space centre for a tour when lockdown has lifted.
Building community connections
If the constellation is not reaching for the stars, Kate and Natalie make sure to encourage their young people to support others in the community.
‘One young person was concerned when they heard about people not having enough to eat and needing foodbanks’, Kate remembers. ‘With support from their foster carer the young person requested and collected donations, then personally took them to the food bank in full PPE. She is very passionate about supporting the local community and passed knowledge onto others in the constellation about things she had learnt on the way.’
‘Another young person chose to cut her long hair and donate it to The Little Princess Trust, a charity that supports young people with cancer to design and make hair pieces. She never had her hair short and it was quite challenging for her and emotional for all involved. She learnt a lot about herself.’
Learning from each other
It’s not only the young people, however, who are learning through the Mockingbird programme, which is a relationship-based model where one hub home supports six to ten fostering families that form a constellation. Peer support and learning comes from all directions which means that Kate and Natalie are able to learn a wide range of new things from their young people and foster carers too.
Both were drawn to the hub home carer role by the idea of supporting a diverse group of children and families and offering their skills from previous roles to the constellation. ‘We’re currently working with a mix of families which also includes birth children and that is really exciting. It enables our young people to get to know different family types, build relationships and have a safe place to seek guidance and support’, says Kate.
From Doncaster to the US
’Overall lockdown has been a very challenging time but we feel the whole constellation has come together to help one another’, Kate adds. ‘We have formed strong bonds within the Mockingbird family and have even started writing postcards to a Mockingbird constellation in the United States.’
Kate and Natalie hope that over time the constellation will build connections across the Atlantic which will give the young people an opportunity to learn about life overseas, the similarities and the differences.
Post lockdown plans
Currently, there are 74 Mockingbird constellations across the UK, and Doncaster itself has launched their fifth under lockdown restrictions in March. Once restrictions lift the entire community in Doncaster will come together to celebrate and the hub home carers are planning a joint picnic event in the park, where each constellation will represent a different country and prepare food from that part of the world.
We hope you can get together soon!
Visit the Fostering Network Mockingbird webpage to learn more about the programme.
Blog written in collaboration with The Fostering Network.