Mockingbird Family Model
The Maryhurst Mockingbird Family Model (MMFM) was developed and implemented in South and West Jefferson County as an innovative approach to overcoming several shortcomings of the current foster care system, including:
- Children enduring multiple placements
- Children being placed in culturally irrelevant environments
- Siblings being placed in separate homes, and
- Lack of support for foster parents/caregivers who often are caring for children with challenging behavioral and emotional disorders.
Under the Mockingbird Family Model, 6 –10 foster homes form a “constellation” around an experienced home, known as the “hub.” The Hub Home provides respite care, support, training, resources and family-focused social activities to build a micro-community of support among the foster families. Respite care is available on both a planned basis and as needed for emergency situations.
- Reduce the number of African-American children removed from Louisville neighborhoods and placed outside their community.
- Maintain and strengthen cultural, familial and neighborhood connections while children are in out-of-home placements and after they are reunited.
- Provide children with a family-focused micro-community that serves as a support network of “extended family.”
- Facilitate healthy interaction between children and biological family members as appropriate.
- Promote placement stability and permanency.
Maryhurst uses the Risking Connection® (RC) model as the treatment framework throughout our programs. We adopted this model in recognition of the extreme trauma endured by our children in their early lives which has left them with clear disabilities that can manifest as cognitive impairments, severe mood swings, disrupted emotional maturation, and an inability to bond with others. Research shows that young children who have suffered trauma, whether as a single event or extended exposure to violence or neglect, experience actual changes to their brains’ chemistry and development. These changes cause the children to be hyper-vigilant, highly fearful, and internally agitated. It is paramount that we use treatment techniques that recognize and address these issues.
- Common trauma symptoms and how many negative behaviors are actually understandable responses to trauma;
- Relationships which are strength-based and present-focused are the primary agent of change;
- Respect for, and care of, both the client and the service provider are critical to healing (vicarious traumatization) and preventing re-traumatization.
At its core, RC uses the RICH® (Respect, Information, Connection, Hope) relationship as its central tool. RC seeks to reframe behavior, developing self-capacities, and integrate trauma-informed thinking into action. RC helps children regulate their emotions and build/restore healthy connections with others.
The Restorative Approach™ (RA) is a trauma-informed alternative to traditional “point and level” systems for child congregate care. RA is based on brain science, attachment theory, and restorative justice. It includes a system for responding when children hurt others, using restorative tasks to teach children skills and to make amends. It includes taking care of the staff that performs this difficult work.
RA includes strategies for using and understanding the adaptive role of behavior to create change. It calls for responding to behaviors on an individual basis and designing milieu structure and programming so they promote healing relationships.
Benefits of using Risking Connection® and the Restorative Approach™
- Staff understands the causes of and individual factors influencing negative behaviors.
- Physical interventions and seclusions are greatly reduced because during crises, staff is more flexible, patient, collaborative, and able to focus on helping the child calm down.
- Staff injuries caused by client misbehavior decrease.
- Responses to problem behaviors are based on building skills and restoring relationships.
- Children’s individual progress increases and negative discharges decrease.
- Attention to Vicarious Traumatization is embedded in the agency and staff have ample opportunity to examine and discuss the way this challenging work affects them.
- Staff has increased self-awareness of their own reactions to various children and families.
- Staff members express greater job satisfaction, and turnover decreases.
Alcohol and Other Drug Services
Maryhurst offers an array of alcohol and other drug services, including prevention/education, intervention and treatment options. Children are screened at admission for alcohol and other drug issues. Those with a substance use disorder receive specialized individual and group treatment, primarily through the use of the Seven Challenges® (SC) program, which is recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) and listed on the National Registry of Evidenced-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP).
SC is designed to motivate substance abusing adolescents to make wise, informed decisions about their alcohol and drug usage by carefully considering the benefits and risks. Based on an understanding of adolescent development, SC helps youth learn how to make systematic and logical decisions while still defining their own independent identities. Youth learn to identify and understand the psychological/environmental problems that motivate their drug use and then develop positive coping mechanisms to meet their needs in positive ways.
Clients have the opportunity to attend weekly on-site 12-step fellowship groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Alateen.
Transitional/Independent Living Services
Transitional Living/Independent Living Services are offered at varying intensities for all youth.
- Transitional support to youth moving to less restrictive structured settings.
- Weekly life skills classes focusing on the Kentucky State Independent Living Curriculum
- Groups focusing on five core aspects of independent living: health and wellness, financial attainment and stability, housing, education and community resources.
- Knowledgeable support and recommendations for aftercare options to treatment teams for youth transitioning out of care
- Exposure to basic and intermediate experiential life skills including but not limited to; cooking, baking, community activism and advocacy, healthy relationships, educational attainment, money management, job readiness and preparedness, networking, and community building.
- Individualized assistance to aging-out or recommitted youth who have left or are leaving the care of Maryhurst.
- Day programming for high school graduates or those who have attained their GEDs (teaching life skills, providing educational opportunities, community involvement and job preparedness.
Health and Wellness Services
Maryhurst’s Health and Wellness services support the overall well-being of the children in our care.
- Our on-site Health Services Department is staffed by licensed practical nurses and collaborates with the University of Louisville Pediatrics Department for assessment, treatment, prevention, education, and follow-up medical care.
- All Maryhurst children meet regularly with our psychiatrists as part of their comprehensive therapeutic individual treatment plans.
- Structured physical/recreational activities are conducted in our Kosair Charities Wellness Center utilizing our gym, fitness room, garden, teaching kitchen and arts & music room.
- The Health and Wellness Division also provides administrative and support services throughout the agency as well as training and development programs benefitting all Maryhurst employees.
Programming for Children designated as “Level 5 SPECIALIZED”
Maryhurst is the only child care agency in Kentucky offering services for a distinct group of adolescent girls who have received a “Level 5 Specialized” classification by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Served through our Euphrasia Program, these children, ranging in age from 11 – 18, have suffered such profound trauma they have developed complex mental health and behavioral issues that require intense levels of supervision and treatment. With significant histories of hospitalizations and failed placements, most have been rejected by all other state treatment facilities. Were it not for Maryhurst’s programming, most of these youth would be sent to out-of-state agencies for treatment.
Within the “Level 5 Specialized” classification, Maryhurst has developed specific interventions for three particular populations of adolescent girls: 1) those who are dually-diagnosed as MRDD and Severely Emotionally Disabled; 2) those who have significant challenges with anger management; and 3) those who struggle with sexual behavior problems.
The following services and accommodations are specific to this programming:
- pre-placement conferencing regarding the child’s needs and interview if needed
- placement in program best suited to treat child’s primary treatment issue: cognitive disabilities, anger management or aggression, sexual reactive behaviors
- 1:3 staffing ratio
- increased frequency and intensity of individual and group therapy
- smaller groups running concurrently for daily programming
- engagement of an intervention team, including a Support Therapist, for the purposes of crisis prevention
- additional teaching aides in the classrooms
- weekly contact with ongoing social worker and family to provide updates and discuss each child’s progress in treatment
- phase advancements more focused on and in concert with treatment goal achievement
- family engagement services