Mockingbird programme to be expanded as a result of further funding

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The Fostering Network is delighted to have been successful in securing further funding for the next phase of the pioneering Mockingbird programme.

An additional £3.76m has been allocated from the Department for Education’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme to work with new partners as well as testing additional innovations to the model.

The Mockingbird Family Model is an alternative method of delivering foster care based around the idea of replicating the support available from an extended family network. It has the potential to improve placement stability, safety and permanency for children and young people in care and to improve support for, and retention of, foster carers.

Developed by the Mockingbird Society in the USA, the model is based on six to ten ‘satellite’ families of foster and kinship carers living closely to a dedicated home hub of specially recruited, trained carers. Like an extended family, the ‘constellation’ gives households the opportunity to support each other, offering children a more positive experience of care.

The Fostering Network has been piloting the model in England since April 2015 with seven fostering services: Heath Farm Fostering Service, Doncaster Children Service’s Trust, Leeds City Council, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Oxfordshire County Council, Royal Borough of Greenwich and Stockport Council. The new wave of funding will allow the project to expand to five new services: Hertfordshire County Council, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, North Yorkshire County Council, Suffolk County Council and independent agency Fostering People.

The additional funding will also allow for testing innovative and targeted approaches with existing partners aimed at supporting specific groups of children and young people based on locally identified needs (for example, better support to young people at risk of sexual exploitation, improving sibling contact, developing mental health and wellbeing support for teenagers). The expectation is that this approach will lead to one flexible model which can meet diverse needs.

The funding will also now support formal evaluation of the Mockingbird’s impact over the next three years in order to showcase the real potential the model has to improve the outcomes for those involved.

Melissa Green, director of operations at The Fostering Network, said: ‘The opportunity to provide fostering services with an effective, innovative, self-sustainable programme is vital and will give children in care a better chance of experiencing a normal family lifestyle. This second round of funding will not only give us the opportunity to take Mockingbird to more places but will also allow us to work on making the existing pilot hubs even more effective. 

‘Ultimately Mockingbird will help improve wellbeing for looked after children, improve placement stability and strengthen family relationships, as well as enabling successful transitions to permanence and a reduction in costly and inappropriate placement options.’