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 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 10 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. 

In June 2019 we conducted some interim analysis to assess the outcomes of the 17 services reporting between May 2018 and April 2019.

View the interim findings


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 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 Center 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 July 2020 there are 39 Mockingbird partners, 24 of which have at least one established constellation and 15 services are in the implementation stages of the programme. These constellations support over 1,900 children and adults in 492 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 16 children and young people. Over half, (59 per cent) of children and young people living in Mockingbird households are in mainstream fostering placements.

Nationally 86 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 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

Our interim analysis includes data from the 17 services reporting between May 2018 and April 2019. From the monthly monitoring data, services reported that 87 carer resignations were avoided through support provided by the Mockingbird programme during that year and that 115 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.

In addition 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.

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.


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.

During the 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.

The Fostering Network are currently working with 38 partners to deliver the Mockingbird programme: Barnardo's Edinburgh, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Bradford Metropolitan Borough Council, Cheshire East Council, Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, Flintshire County Council, Fostering People, Fostering to Inspire, Heath Farm Fostering, Hertfordshire County Council, Isle of Man Council, Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council, Leeds City Council, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, London Borough of Hackney, London Borough of Haringey, London Borough of Merton, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, London Borough of Waltham Forest, NFA London and South East, The North Midlands Regional Adoption and Permanency Partnership, North Somerset County Council , North Yorkshire County Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Portsmouth City Council, Rochdale Borough Council, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Royal Borough of Greenwich, Sheffield City Council, Slough Children’s Services Trust, South Tyneside Council, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, Surrey County Council, Wakefield Council, Walsall Council, Warrington Borough Council, Wigan Council.


    Case study: Stockport

    For episode three of our 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.