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Fostering Stories: Deborah, Mockingbird liaison officer

Hear the story of Deborah, a Bradford foster carer of older children and Bradford Fostering’s Mockingbird liaison officer.

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As a foster carer for more than 20 years, Deborah has decades of experience in caring for children and young people.

From being part of the Shared Care team in its earliest days (when it was called Give Mum a Break), to being a hub home carer in the initial roll out of the Mockingbird program in 2017, Deborah has contributed tremendously to the lives of young people in our district. Hear her story:

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Becoming a foster carer

Deborah started working life as a nurse looking after people with disabilities and moved from nursing to looking after children and adults with disabilities in her own home on the Give Mum A Break scheme, now called Shared Care.

Deborah found it a natural progression after that to become a full-time foster carer and she joined a scheme that provided specialist one-to-one foster care to teenagers and looked after three children on that scheme.

It was in between placements, that Deborah was asked to provide some support to another carer, who was looking after three young brothers and needed to take some leave.

She’d never fostered young children before and found that when the three young children came to stay for a couple of weeks, she absolutely loved it and promptly changed her approval from one teenage placement to 3 siblings.

Over the years, Deborah has looked after 45 children on temporary, short term and long term placements and has developed a wealth of skills and experience as a foster carer.

That’s why she was an obvious choice to become a hub home carer when the Mockingbird Family Model of Care was first rolled out in Bradford.

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What is a Shared Care foster carer?

Shared Care foster carers are matched with between 3 and 8 children and young people with physical and learning disabilities (depending on the time/commitment they can offer as it is a part time fostering scheme) and provide short breaks from an after-school visit to days out to sleepovers.

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The Mockingbird programme

The Fostering Network’s award winning Mockingbird programme is an innovative method of delivering foster care using an extended family model which provides sleepovers and short breaks; peer support; regular joint planning and training and social activities.

The programme improves the stability of fostering placements and strengthens the relationships between carers, children and young people, fostering services and birth families.

The Mockingbird Family Model of Care was initially rolled out as a pilot project in Bradford in 2017 and after the pilot project ended, Bradford Fostering decided to review and begin again in 2021.

When the initial project came to an end in Bradford, Deborah found she was still very passionate about the project and the value it brings to fostering services, so when the new Mockingbird programme began, she desperately wanted to be involved but in some other role than the hub home carer.

She pitched the idea of becoming the liaison worker to the project manager and successfully applied for the position from a strong group of candidates.

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What is a Mockingbird liaison worker?

A liaison worker is a bridging role between the Mockingbird constellation and the fostering agency.

The liaison worker provides support to the foster families in the constellation in many different ways, including helping plan constellation activities, reviewing the progress and needs of the children in the constellation and reporting on the outcomes.

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Next steps

Deborah is very excited about her new role that she is doing alongside her fostering role looking after 3 boys aged 6, 12 and 15, she recently said:

“I am so excited about supporting the new hub home carers and being part of such a successful project.

I have seen first-hand how the model supports fostering families; prevents placements from breaking down; see foster carers grow their skills and confidence through the peer support from fellow carers and, most importantly, seen how children in foster families really come into their own and grow in confidence through shared experiences with children who have experienced similar lives to their own.

I think when foster carers become part of a community of connected carers, it really helps them to feel supported and to improve their skills and develop as foster carers.

Fostering can be quite an isolating task – you can’t chat about what you do at the school gates with other parents as you have to protect your children’s confidence – but being part of a close community of carers lifts you up as a carer.

You go from being on your own and doing what you think is right, to being part of a peer support group that you can learn and develop from, so your fostering skills become even more effective and useful.”

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Would you like to learn more about the Mockingbird scheme and fostering for Bradford?

If you have questions or concerns that have not been answered here, get in touch with Bradford Fostering. We are ready to talk to you and answer your questions today.

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