The Mockingbird Family Model at Work


What is the Mockingbird Family ModelTM (aka, the “MFM”)? 

It is a way to have children, youth, and adults be a part of the foster care system in a community.  It is a way for youth to feel a part of family that may not be their biological family but a family that cares for them and supports them through a season of life that may not be easy. 

Here is a story of a 13 year-old girl who has experienced the support of the MFM Constellation – the Constellation where I and my husband are Hub Home providers. As Hub Home providers, we support 6-10 foster families in our Constellation through providing respite care, organizing monthly gatherings for all the families, and being the “go-to” people for the foster parents and youth when they have questions, need a listening ear, or just want to hang-out. Much like an aunt or uncle.

Emma has been in foster care for the majority of her life.  She has been in and out of the system three different times.  None of her time in foster care was her fault. We met Emma in the summer of 2015 when she was 10 years old and joined our Constellation.  She was placed with one of our Satellite Families.  Emma is a happy, active, caring, and loving child.  Often people stereotype foster youth as bitter, angry, or even withdrawn since they have been navigating challenges for a long time.  But Emma doesn’t fit that stereotype.

When Emma was only a month away from reunification, she needed to change placements and could no longer live with her Satellite family.  The change in placement was a surprise for everyone. 

This was when we really saw the magic of the MFM at work!  Emma’s social worker called us and asked if Emma could stay with us until she was reunified. Sure thing!  While Emma was not aware of the change coming her way, the social worker was able to give the news to her and also tell her that she would be going home to the Hub Home where she knew us well.

Immediately a little layer of anxiety released for Emma.  Was she sad that she is leaving the home that she has felt comfortable in for the last 2 years? Absolutely.  However, her social worker brought her to our house, the Hub Home, and within moments Emma settled into her room and asked her social worker to come see it.  The MFM provided another safe place for the child and an easy transition for the SW. 

Fast Forward!

Three days before Christmas, Emma was reunified with her biological dad.  What a great Christmas present – being home!  She enjoyed the holidays with her father and excited to be on the road to permanence. 

Here’s where you see the MFM at work again! Just 30 days later, we received another call from the social worker letting us know that she needed another placement for Emma.  There had been a slip up and they needed to have Emma in a foster home.  And this time around Emma has a puppy!  At that moment we as the Hub Home had commitments to other children within the Constellation, but there was a larger community built to lean on – the entire Constellation of foster families.  

The MFM has created community so that the Hub Home and social worker can partner together and ask the Satellite Families for a placement.  Emma knew the families and the children within the Constellation to yet again reduce stress and anxiety for this unexpected crisis.  A Satellite Family quickly stepped up and agreed to placement for Emma.  While it took an overnight process to get everything figured out, the receiving foster home went above and beyond - picking up the puppy and being willing to support Emma and her new little friend.  To provide additional support, a former Satellite Family met Emma at the DSHS office while she was waiting to hear where she was going.  This family was there to be a familiar face in crisis. This support system for Emma would not have been possible without the Mockingbird Family Model.