The Fostering Network’s Mockingbird programme has seen off other outstanding projects to win the Big Impact Award at the Third Sector Awards.
The innovative, and now award-winning, Mockingbird programme uses a pioneering model of a constellation of fostering households in a similar structure to that of an extended family.
Through successes such as avoiding relationship breakdowns in fostering households and retaining foster carers who may otherwise have left the role, the programme has seen excellent outcomes. This has included having helped fostering services avoid costs of around £3 million between May 2018 and March 2020.
Head of the Mockingbird programme, Lily Stevens, said: ‘We are delighted to have won in this category, it is testament to the faith of our funders and partners in a compassionate, sustainable, new way of delivering foster care. It is also speaks volumes about the efforts of everyone involved in the programme.’
This extended family model provides a high level of stability to children and young people and strengthens relationships between all members of the constellations, including birth families and social workers.
Thomas, a young person who is fostered as part of Mockingbird, said: ‘I feel special and honoured to be part of a great group.
‘I have learnt lots of skills and I have made new friends. I get to meet great families and go for sleepovers with my friends.’
Maria, a Mockingbird foster carer, said: ‘Most fostered young people don’t have the benefit of having the experience of going for sleepovers at their aunties, uncles or their grandparents. With the Mockingbird family model this is not only made possible, but it is “normalised”.’
‘The whole idea made a lot of sense to us. The concept that “It takes a village to raise a child” is what I am so used to.’
Zanele, a social worker in the Mockingbird programme, said: ‘The Mockingbird programme has given the foster carers, children and young people [in our fostering service] a sense of a positive extended family, that is loving, caring and always present in happy and not so happy times.
‘[Foster carers] have a sense of being family members in the constellations and feel that they have a responsibility for each other to ensure that they are fully supported emotionally, practically and socially.’
The Mockingbird programme, which delivers the Mockingbird Family Model originally developed by The Mockingbird Society in America in 2004, is run by the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, and part-funded by the Department for Education. The programme now comprises 39 partners and 61 constellations across Great Britain.