Keep Our Kids in Kent With MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™
Keep Our Kids In Kent With MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ is a community-led, state-supported effort in Kent, Washington where we are building momentum for our vision of a world-class foster care system. Youth from Kent who enter foster care are typically removed from their community and placed wherever there is an open bed. Often moving as far away as Monroe, Everett, Bellingham, or Walla Walla. This means a youth in care could spend up to six hours a day on transit to and from school. Time that could be better spent on other activities such as getting support from teachers, connecting with their peers, spending time with their foster family, or participating in an after-school activities. Current information indicates that:
- During the last 15 years, 82% of all Kent youth who entered foster care were removed from their families and community and placed outside of Kent.
- Currently, only 35% of the youth in foster care in Kent are originally from Kent. The other 65% are from elsewhere, meaning that they too were taken away from their natural family and community.
- On average, Washington’s foster youth experience three placement changes, each costing four to six months of education loss, leading to poor literacy, low graduation rates, generational poverty, and often generational homelessness.
- Roughly 51% of foster youth will not graduate high school; while 44% of those who do graduate go on to college, only 3% will finish with a degree
- 28% will experience homelessness in the first year after exiting foster care
- Foster youth are 2x likely to experience PTSD, a rate higher than returning war veterans
- Historically, the state of Washington retains only 47-52% of its foster parents.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In Kent, child placing agencies, the school district, community leaders and business owners have come together to change the way foster care is delivered in their community. By increasing the number of foster families, building intentional communities that act as extended family, and increasing the number of supports available to families. We are working to saturate the Kent School District with Mockingbird Families. Kent aims to keep its kids who have to go into foster care in Kent with MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™. Our hope is that Kent and other communities like it will become a model for our state, nation, and foster care systems around the globe.
MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ is an empowerment-based approach to delivering foster care that reflects how communities have cared for children for generations – as an extended family. It creates an intentional community with an experienced foster parent providing support and guidance to 6-to-10 foster families (6-to-18 children and youth). In these micro-communities (Constellations), parents and youth support each other. And foster youth have typical childhood experiences: stability, safety, community, and a supportive family structure. MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ has been demonstrated to be significantly better at retaining parents and stabilizing placements than traditional foster care; these foundational elements help young people thrive.
We at Mockingbird and our partners believe MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ is the foundation on which to build a transformative system and end the poor outcomes experienced by children, youth, and families in foster care.
MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ is the foundation for the next evolution in foster care.
MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ has been demonstrated to stabilize placements and retain foster parents at rates well beyond any traditional system. It is community-based, family-focused, and youth centered. And, if some important changes are made to the foster care system, MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ can do more for children, youth and families.
We envision a system that saturates school districts with Constellations of Mockingbird Families. In this system, young people remain in their home community when they enter foster care. Biological parents are viewed as a support and not the problem, promoting reunification. Families who are about to have their child removed can connect to a Mockingbird Family, so they can receive the support needed to avoid having their child enter foster care in the first place. Our system ensures that siblings who can’t live in the same house can still be in the same Mockingbird Constellation. And, if a placement change is needed, it happens in the same Constellation. All of this to ensure that the young person doesn’t lose their sense of community and their connections to school, friends, and family just because they have to go into foster care.
Our vision for a child welfare system transformed is one that centers the needs of and understands the development of youth. It recognizes that our kids can only thrive in adulthood, if we stop traumatizing and retraumatizing them in childhood. It understands the need to have consistent, stable, supported adults in the lives of our most vulnerable children and youth. This is a system that understands stability and connection to family, whether it be biological or simply the feeling of family, is critical.
Launched in Washington state in 2004, MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ has now been implemented (and is growing) in California, New York, Washington, Australia, and the U.K. By the end of 2018 there will be approximately 608 Mockingbird Families with 1061 kids, worldwide. In 2018, the U.K. is expected to double its Mockingbird Families. And, pending approval of the Department of Children Youth and Families’ FY 2019 – 2020 requested budget, Washington state will soon double the number of its Mockingbird Families.
Keep Our Kids in Kent With MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™
Learn more about how to engage with our efforts in Kent
or bring MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ to your community: