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Mockingbird - Together for the child

'Just the idea that I can call on you gives me relief'

Last November, the very first hub home in the Netherlands was launched, based on the American Mockingbird method. Kinderposttempels, together with our partners*, is at the origin of this project in the Netherlands. Foster parenting is not easy and has a major impact on the entire family. The pressure can become so high that foster parents quit. Lack of support plays an important role: many foster parents indicate that they need practical support, training, contact with other foster parents and occasionally time to refuel.

In a number of countries, foster families are already successfully supported with the Mockingbird method. Six to ten foster families are linked in their own region to an experienced foster family who supports other families with a listening ear and advice. Such a hub home organizes monthly meetings, family days, training sessions and foster children can come and stay there occasionally.

Miranda Maas, an experienced foster parent who runs this first hub home in the Netherlands, talks about her experiences since it started on November 18, 2022.

Miranda: 'We are the hub of a network of foster families who live close to each other and support each other. Because it is nearby, it is familiar and also practical: we can easily take care of the children if they need to charge the battery. We are their backup. We've had play dates to get used to things and even sleepovers with 5 kids at the same time. We also already have agreements for staying over during the summer holidays. Hub homes provide stability, as one of the connected families said: 'Just the idea that I can call on you gives me relief.' I thought that was very nice to hear.'

Miranda started weekend foster care 12 years ago, where she cared for Maartje and her brother for many years. Maartje is now 17 and no longer needs foster care, but she still visits Miranda and her husband Ron a lot. She is also involved in the monthly meetings that are organized.

Maartje: 'The first meeting was very exciting but it felt very good. During that first meeting everyone stayed with their own family, but now it is freer. We have already done a treasure hunt on the land here, we went bowling once and we often play games. It comes very naturally. I actually always join in with the other children and I also enjoy contributing ideas.'
Miranda: 'They see you as an example, I am very proud because she is doing very well. We try to let her enjoy herself, do fun things, be a child. It's nice how the children mingle, I didn't expect it that way. The children are of different ages and that works. It was astonishingly beautiful.'
Maartje: 'The recognition is also nice, you don't have to explain anything.' Miranda: 'No one likes to say they are a foster child.' Maartje: 'There is such a weight to the word foster child. You never talk about it among yourself here.'

That recognition is also very nice for the foster parents.

'Being a foster parent is not always easy, sometimes you just want to be able to tell your story. People around you then quickly respond that it might be better to stop, while you often just want to get rid of it so you can get on with it. It is sometimes quite difficult to lead a normal family life in a foster family. Sometimes they get so stuck that they decide to quit, and then there are only losers. Mockingbird tries to contribute at this stage by supporting them. Recently a family asked 'could they come for another weekend?'. I say don't hesitate, then we can plan that. And then you see the eyes shine, I can imagine that," says Miranda.
Maartje: 'When a few children came to stay here recently, a girl asked if I was there too. So I thought great, why not.'
'My husband said: 'All the times the children are here give them a feeling of home and if there is a crisis it is easier for them to be accommodated here.' We have a tacit agreement that the door is always open for the children," Miranda said.

Also unique to Mockingbird is that a hub home is a neutral place where foster children can meet their parents and other family members.

Miranda: 'You notice that there was a need from the foster parents and their own parents to have such a meeting happen elsewhere. That feels freer for everyone. The added value of meeting at a hub home is that the child is already familiar with it, who often shows the parents what is there. Recently a parent was playing hide and seek with a child. It is an icebreaker, suppose it is elsewhere in a strange environment, then the child and the parent both have to adapt. I only facilitate the environment, provide games, snacks and something to drink.'

The ultimate goal is to stabilize foster care placements. With financial support from Kinderposttempels, the National Postcode Lottery and the Oranjefonds, the Foster Family Support Foundation (OP) wants to set up as many Mockingbird networks as possible in collaboration with foster care organizations and municipalities.

'I hope that they will spring up like mushrooms and that a lot of foster parents can join. I wish it for the foster parents and foster care organizations," says Miranda.

Want to read more about Miranda's experiences? Also read the interview of Miranda and Mockingbird supervisor Noor:

*Foundation for Foster Family Support and the Dutch Association for Foster Families

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