On October 22, Forestdale welcomed Foster Parents, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio, the office of NYS Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi, ACS First Deputy Commissioner Eric Brettschneider, ACS Assistant Commissioner Trevor M. John, ACS Associate Commissioner Ray Toomer, and other stakeholders to listen to foster parents share their experience with the Home Away from Home (HAFH) program and the “Mockingbird” Family Model.
Forestdale is the first child-welfare agency in New York City to utilize the Mockingbird Family Model (MFM), which creates intentional “hubs” of foster parent networks to provide support and advice to one another. In MFM, clusters of 8-10 foster homes work together, with one “hub” home hosting training, organizing social events, and providing respite care for the other community members. This approach bolsters foster parent recruitment and retention at a time when quality foster homes are disappearing.
Six foster parents discussed their reliance on each other for daily struggles like transportation, juggling appointments, and adapting to new routines. All noted that Mockingbird has made these obstacles easier to handle, and has created a community that is fun as well as supportive understanding. “I know I can rely on the other foster moms in my group when I’m up against something I’ve never encountered. There’s no way I could do this without them, and that in turn means I can be there for a child that needs me”, stated one of the speakers. The panel also featured an adolescent who detailed how his foster mother is helping him to prepare for his future. “Growing up, I didn’t even THINK about saving money. What for? But Auntie Kay (his foster mother) told me how to start, and more importantly, why it’s important.”
This event was one part informative panel discussion, and one part celebration of our foster parents. Dr. William Weisberg, Forestdale’s Executive Director, related how foster care is changing with the times, and foster parents extend themselves each and every day for children in New York City. “Gone are the foster parents of the 1950s. Often, foster parents work full-time, and then they get a call that a child needs a placement that day. Foster parents extend themselves time and again to make a child’s placement in their home as peaceful as possible.”
Dr. Palacio summed up the feeling of the event nicely. “Scientific strides in recent years have told us what we’ve known for millennia. Love matters, kindness matters. I want the foster parents to know this: we see you. We see you and we thank you.”