The Mockingbird programme

The Fostering Network’s Mockingbird programme is an innovative method of delivering foster care using an extended family model which provides sleepovers and short breaks, peer support, regular joint planning and training, and social activities. The programme improves the stability of fostering placements and strengthens the relationships between carers, children and young people, fostering services and birth families.

The introduction of the Mockingbird Family Model to the UK is one of a number of innovative programmes that The Fostering Network runs to improve foster care and outcomes for fostered young people.

Please contact the Mockingbird team to register your fostering service's interest in the programme. 

For media enquiries regarding the programme email The Fostering Network's media team or ring 020 7620 6425.


About Mockingbird

The Mockingbird programme delivers the Mockingbird Family Model. This centres on a constellation where one foster home acts as a hub, offering planned and emergency sleepovers and short breaks, advice, training and support, to six to ten satellite households. The model was originally developed by The Mockingbird Society in America in 2004.

Relationships are central to the programme and the hub home builds strong relationships with all those in the constellation, empowering families to support each other and overcome problems before they escalate or lead to placement breakdown and increasing protective factors around children.

The constellation also builds links with other families important to the children’s care plans and to resources in the wider community which can provide them with enhanced opportunities to learn, develop and succeed.

Watch our short film What is Mockingbird? to hear from our hub home carers and satellite families about their experience being part of the Mockingbird Programme. 

Learn more about the impact and growth of the Mockingbird programme in our recently published programme update. 

View 2020 Programme Update


Mockingbird in the UK

The Fostering Network successfully piloted the Mockingbird Family Model in England in 2015-2016 in eight fostering services, with support from the Department for Education’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme and The Mockingbird Society in America. The Innovation Programme has continued to support our original delivery partners, and five new ones, to further expand, test and sustain the model between 2017-2020.

In autumn 2019 The Fostering Network partnered with the Department for Education and What Works Centre for Children's Social Care to gain further insight into the impact of the programme by examining the model with seven new partners. The community continues to grow with new locally funded partners implementing Mockingbird throughout the UK.

As of October 2020 there are 39 Mockingbird partners, 26 of which have at least one established constellation and 13 services are in the implementation stages of the programme. These constellations support over 1,953 children and adults in 491 hub and satellite homes with more constellations launching every month.

Through regular activities, these constellations develop a supportive community like an extended family, providing children and young people with a more positive experience of care. The average constellation in the UK has eight satellite homes containing 16 adults and 17 children and young people. Over half, (59 per cent) of children and young people living in Mockingbird households are in mainstream fostering placements.

Nationally 78 per cent of constellations contain either solely mainstream fostering placements of varied levels of need or are comprised of a mixture of placement types including; mainstream fostering, special guardianship orders, friends and family placements, adoptive placements, staying put placements and children and young people living in residential care. The model also offers supportive peer relationships for sons and daughters of foster carers, these young people make up 22 per cent of the children and young people who are part of Mockingbird households.

One of the central aims of Mockingbird is to provide proactive support and intervention that will mitigate the risk of a placement breaking down or a foster carer resigning. The unique role of the hub home carer enables both formal and informal interventions to be put in place to support placements during times of crisis.


Impact and evaluation

Interim analysis includes data from the 22 services reporting between May 2018 and March 2020. From the monthly monitoring data, services reported that 119 carer resignations were avoided through support provided by the Mockingbird programme during that year and that 216 children and young people whose placements were at risk of breakdown experienced improved placement stability and did not come to an unplanned ending. An additional five children and young people were prevented from entering a residential placement.

As part of the Department for Education's Children's Social Care Innovation Programme, The Rees Centre at the University of Oxford led the evaluation of twelve Mockingbird sites in partnership with the University of York and York Consulting. Read the independent evaluation 2017-2020 here


Joining the Mockingbird programme

We are working with a growing number of local authority fostering services, children’s services trusts and independent fostering providers across the UK. Please contact the Mockingbird team to register your fostering service's interest in the programme.

Third Sector Awards 2020

We were delighted to win the Big Impact Award at last year's Third Sector Awards, being described as "A fantastic and innovative project, bringing real change and with demonstrable impact. This is a sea-change in the way foster car is delivered".