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The Mockingbird Model

What is Mockingbird?

The Fostering Network’s programme is an innovative method of delivering foster care using the Mockingbird Family Model. This is an extended family model that provides respite care, 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 Mockingbird Family Model

A diagram illustrating the Mockingbird Model with a Hub Home Carer in the centre of a circle with spokes out to the foster families they support, one spoke also links to the Liaison Worker who is a Devon County Council Supervising Social Worker that supports the hub home carer and the satellite families. Some of the foster family homes within the Mockingbird circle then link to either a birth family home, adoptive home or independent living outside of the Mockingbird circle showing how these links are also maintained.

Key roles

  • Hub home carer
  • Liaison worker
  • Satellite carers

Key elements of the model

  • Foster carer led advice, guidance and emotional and social peer support
  • Planned and emergency sleepovers
  • Formal and informal training and development opportunities
  • Whole community social activities
  • Support to permanence – birth family, long term placement, adoption, independence
  • Support with sibling and birth family contact

Mockingbird’s underpinning principles

  • Active child protection
  • Birth family viewed as partners and future support
  • Community-based care
  • Continuity of care
  • Cultural relevancy, identity and belonging
  • Foster carer support
  • Normalisation of care
  • Unconditional care

Mockingbird’s impact

  • Improved placement stability – reduced placement breakdown
  • A network of strong and authentic relationships able to replicate the support offered by an extended family
  • Improved experience of peer support
  • Improved sibling contact
  • Improved process and experience of respite care
  • Improved skills, confidence and role satisfaction for foster carers
  • Improved levels of carer retention and recruitment
  • A strong, robust and resilient structure able to support children, young people and fostering families through times of crisis and transition
  • Improved experience of birth family contact
  • Costs saved and costs avoided.

Mockingbird fidelity

Mockingbird is an evidence-based model supported by clear fidelity criteria. Key components of the Mockingbird fidelity checklist include:

  • 6-10 satellite homes in a constellation
  • Each constellation provides care to 6-18 looked after children and young people and constellation members (both adults and young people) should be diverse in terms of age, experience, strengths and needs
  • Constellation supported to build a micro community based on an extended family concept
  • Hub home is geographically close to the satellite homes
  • Hub home has two spare Mockingbird beds available for sleepovers by the constellation
  • Hub home carer is available nearly 24/7
  • Hub home carer hosts monthly constellation meetings and provides planned and spontaneous opportunities for social events and interactions between the hub home and the satellite families
  • The ‘Mockingbird liaison worker’ role is a key support for hub home carer to prevent burnout
  • Collaborative working – the service must support the hub home carer and members of the constellation to problem solve (e.g. deciding when to offer crisis respite, delegation of authority).