The Mockingbird programme

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The Fostering Network’s Mockingbird programme is an innovative method of delivering foster care using an extended family model which provides 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 10 satellite fostering or kinship care families. 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.

Through regular activities, the constellation develops a supportive community like an extended family, providing children and young people with a more positive experience of care. The model also offers supportive peer relationships for sons and daughters of foster families and foster carers. 

Continuing Development and Innovation  

The Fostering Network sucessfully piloted the Mockingbird Family Model in England in 2015-2016 in 8 fostering services, with support from Department for Education’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme and The Mockingbird Society in America. In 2017 we were granted additional funding allowing our origional partners to test innovative and targeted approaches aimed at supporting specific groups of children and young people based on specific locally needs. 

Alongside our work with partner local authority and independent fostering services we are exploring:

  • children and young people being cared for through special guardianship orders and adoption
  • children and young people living in residential care.

The Fostering Network are currently working with 26 services to deliver the Mockingbird programme:  Banardo's, Bradford Metropolitan Borough Council, Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, Flintshire County Council, Fostering People, Fostering to Inspire, Heath Farm Fostering, Hertfordshire County Council, Leeds City Council, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, London Borough of Hackney, London Borough of Merton, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, London Borough of Waltham Forest, NFA, North Somerset County Council , North Yorkshire County Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Royal Borough of Greenwich, Slough Children’s Services Trust, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, Surrey County Council, Walsall Council, Wigan Council.


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, with the aim of working with 40 services by 2020. Please contact the Mockingbird team to register your fostering service's interest in the programme.

During the two year implementation period The Fostering Network provide each partner service with the support and guidance needed to tailor the programme to meet local needs within fidelity criteria. this ensures they embed the programme in their policies and staff teams, and launch sustainable constellations. Once constellations are launched we offer ongoing support and shared learning opportunities to all services. 

Programme evaluation

To support the further development and expansion of the programme, we are working with the Rees Centre at Oxford University to provide an independent evaluation to be published in 2020. This will add to the existing evidence base for the programme and showcase the ongoing impact in the UK.

What impact is the programme having?

The project aims to develop a flexible evidence-based delivery model for foster care that will meet the varied needs of the diverse population of looked after children and young people across the UK. The national programme team supports partner services to adapt the model to meet local needs within fidelity criteria, develop new protocols, and demonstrate impact. Fostering services that took part in the pilot and have continued to deliver the programme have reported change in the following vital areas:

  • Improved placement stability and reduction in placement breakdown.
  • Stronger relationships that support looked after children, young people
  • and fostering families.
  • The provision of a robust and resilient structure, which offers support through times of crisis and transition.
  • Improved respite care.
  • Increased skills, confidence and role satisfaction for foster carers.
  • Higher levels of foster carer retention and recruitment.
  • Improved experience of peer support.
  • Better experience of birth family contact, including siblings.
  • Costs saved and costs avoided.


Case study: Stockport

For episode three of our monthly podcast, All About Fostering, we visited Stockport to hear the thoughts of fostering service staff and foster carers on being a part of Mockingbird. Stockport Council was one of the eight original pilot sites for the programme which began in 2015.

Listen or download the podcast below.

Music: "Heartwarming" Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

You can also read about the Mockingbird programme in Stockport in our blog.

Children and Young People Now Awards

We were delighted to have been Highly Commended for our Mockingbird programme as part of the 2018 Children and Young People Now Awards as finalists in the Children in Care category.