Keeping Siblings in Care Connected: Improving Relationship Stability via the Mockingbird Family Model

Helen McLaren, Emi Patmisari, Michelle Jones, Kate Teekens, Hanne Brunes

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Abstract

Children and young people in Australian foster or kinship care are separated from their siblings for a range of reasons. These may include issues that are behavioural, sibling-related, the capacity of carers to host multiple children, or policies that enforce a one-child-per-bedroom rule. This study investigated strategies enhancing stability and meaningful connections among siblings within the Mockingbird Family, a social network model of foster and kinship caring. Case examples, network mapping, and visualisation of the Mockingbird Family networks are presented alongside results from thematic analysis of qualitative data. The findings suggest that the Mockingbird Family facilitates meaningful contact and sibling connections, even when coplacement was not possible. Sibling coplacement and contact provide crucial benefits such as emotional support, stability, shared experiences, and a sense of belonging, contributing to children’s and young people’s development, healing from trauma, and overall wellbeing. 

IMPLICATIONS 

Keeping sibling groups connected and in contact can reduce placement breakdown and contribute to their overall wellbeing. 

The Mockingbird Family model of foster care provides a range of options for keeping siblings meaningfully connected through coplacement within the same constellation and opportunities for other siblings to join in Mockingbird Family activities.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian Social Work
Early online date9 May 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 May 2024

Keywords

  • Child Protection
  • Child Wellbeing
  • Co-placement
  • Foster Care
  • Kinship Care
  • Mockingbird Family
  • Out-of-Home Care
  • Residential Care
  • Sibling Contact
  • Sibling Estrangement
  • Sibling Relationship
  • Siblings
  • Social Network
  • South Australia
  • Stability
  • Young People Wellbeing

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