Innovative fostering scheme launches in North Somerset


A groundbreaking way of providing foster care which benefits both the foster carers and the children and young people they care for has been adopted by North Somerset Council, the first local authority in the south west to do so.

Funded as part of the Home Office Trusted Relationships project, The Fostering Network’s Mockingbird Family programme is an innovative method of delivering foster care using the Mockingbird Family Model – an extended family model that provides respite care, peer support, regular joint planning and training, and social activities.

The model centres around 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 programme improves the stability of fostering placements and strengthens the relationships between carers, children and young people, fostering services and birth families. Having originated in America 15 years ago, the Mockingbird Family Model has since been introduced in the UK with North Somerset Council one of 11 local authorities in the country to adopt the model.

The model launched in North Somerset shortly before Christmas and a formal celebration event was held at the Town Hall this week.

Cllr Catherine Gibbons, North Somerset Council’s Executive Member with responsibility for children’s services, said: “I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to launch the Mockingbird Family model here in North Somerset. This is about making sure our foster carers receive the help and support they need, and of course improving the home life stability for our looked after children and young people.

“The model replicates the network and support of an extended family and normalises foster care – for example talking of ‘sleepovers’ rather than ‘respite care stays’.

“Our ultimate long-term aim is that all of our foster carers, children and young people will eventually belong to a constellation and experience the benefits this method brings. With the first constellation now up and running, we hope our second will follow before the end of this year.”

Nick Hooper, who has been a North Somerset foster carer four years and is one of the home hub carers together with his wife Fran, praised the Mockingbird Family Model: “It is not a radically new way of doing things, in fact it is quite simple, which is why it works so well.

“It takes those aspects of support that already exist within extended families and informal foster carer networks and recognises that it is that support and communication that works so well, and provides a framework to enable all that good work to continue and flourish.”

Lily Stevens, Head of Mockingbird at The Fostering Network, the UK’s leading fostering charity, said: “We’re delighted about the launch of the Mockingbird constellation in North Somerset which joins 50 other constellations throughout the UK.

“We believe it will benefit fostered children and young people and their foster families by providing a strong, familiar and resilient support network, increased skills and confidence for foster carers, and a better experience for fostered children of maintaining contact with their birth families.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer email fostering@n-somerset.gov.uk, call 01275 888 999 or visit www.n-somerset.gov.uk/fostering.