Did you know that in the United Kingdom, social services are working on changing the way they deliver foster care? The UK decided that implementing the Mockingbird Family Model will ultimately reform areas that hinder systematic growth of the fostering system. There are concerns with the retention rates of foster parents (called “foster carers” in the UK), foster youth placements and stability, as well as the lack of relationships between social workers and families, which is negatively affecting the outcomes of all who are involved.
It is the “community feel” a constellation provides that will increase the support system needed for any parent of care. This includes the families who pursue kinship care, who have a higher percentage of actually being disconnected from their social workers and the extra services fit for the child.
It’s a requirement that the HUB home provider be well-connected in their community and experienced in dealing with youth of all ages. This way, the rest of the constellation has experienced people they can refer to and rely on for advice. As everyone knows, being a parent is a job in itself; the constellation provides respite support to carers who feel “burnt out” or exhausted. As a result, no one has to feel alone or confused in the unique experience of being a foster carer.
Due to the lack of foster carers in the UK, there is an outstanding amount of youth going without home stability throughout their foster experience. In a given year, almost 3,000 youth are stabilized in care for less than two months. Another study found that around 40 percent of permanent placements for youth ages 11-15 fail within the first year. Although there are many reasons why this may be, we hope that placing the youth within constellations will help decrease this percentage.
A benefit of having support from the satellite families is that the carers act as extended family. They are encouraged to support one another as well as their youth. With these families being so close, the youth will not only open up to those who are consistent in their lives but also have a fighting chance of deescalating a situation before re-location is suggested. In the HUB home, there are always two empty beds for the youth in need of a break from their carer’s house. This form of community gives the youth the opportunity to build their foundation of support, thus building the confidence youth need to open up and speak to someone about their issues and deal with them. With youth and their carers on the same page, it makes for a happier placement and outcome.
For every youth there is a social worker, but that social worker deals with an average of 25 to 30 caseloads, consistently. Since a social worker’s job is to keep records, deal with difficult situations, and provide necessary resources to the carers, there is a lack of human connection with their youth and the parents they work with. These issues result in less communication and knowledge of resources for youth and families as well as less trust between workers and youth.
With a successful constellation, there should be less stress for social workers. Since there will be more grouping of resources, placement options, and youth stability, social workers will have more time to build healthy relationships with their youth. It is not guaranteed that there will be an exact ratio of constellations to social workers, but the positive results should still hold true. The UK will be a licensed provider of the Mockingbird Family Model. The issues dealing with placement stability, foster parent recruitment, and the lack of relationships between social workers, carers, and their youth will improve over time. Going forward in this joint venture, we wish the UK’s Fostering Network the best of luck!