26 Feb 2015

Mockingbird fostering helps Leeds families find their wings

Vulnerable Leeds children are to benefit from an innovative approach to fostering as part of a partnership with the Fostering Network.

Following a successful pilot project, Leeds City Council has been chosen as just one of eight local authorities to bring an innovative fostering approach, called Mockingbird, to children and foster carers in Leeds.

The Fostering Network has been awarded £1.597 million funding from the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme, to deliver ‘Mockingbird’ with selected local authorities.

The Mockingbird Family Model has been shown to be a successful way to improve outcomes for looked-after-children in the US. It uses the concept of a dedicated ‘hub home’ of specially recruited and trained carers offering respite care, peer support, regular joint planning and social activities to a ‘constellation’ of six to 10 families of foster and kinship carers living in close proximity.

Like an extended family, the hub empowers families to support each other, overcome problems before they escalate and offer children a more positive experience of care. The hub also builds links with other families important to the children’s care plans and to a wider community of stakeholders who can provide them with enhanced opportunities to learn, develop and succeed.

Leeds has been carrying out a small-scale pilot of this type of foster care for the past few months and has been supporting six children in five families. The results have been very successful.

Independent evaluation in the US demonstrates increased placement stability, more successful transitions to permanency, enhanced birth family and sibling relationships, improved retention rates for foster carers and an increased sense of community for carers and children alike.

The Fostering Network will be working with its originators to transpose the model to the UK, becoming a licensed provider of a UK model. In the first year work will focus on the delivery of kinship and foster care for adolescents, raising standards of care and realising significant cost savings. The Fostering Network will work with eight local authorities and independent fostering providers in England to achieve this.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member for children and families said:

“We are very pleased to be chosen by the Fostering Network to benefit from this funding which will help us expand on the success of our existing pilot. By adopting this unique approach we can utilise our most experienced foster carers and help create a network of support for our kinship carers and help them develop new skills to ensure better outcomes for the children they look after.”

Melissa Green, director of operations at The Fostering Network, said:

“The Fostering Network is committed to supporting foster carers and giving children in foster care the very best chance of a positive future. The funding we have received from the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme will allow us to take the learning from the Mockingbird Family Model and translate it to reflect fostering in the UK. This presents a truly pioneering opportunity to change young people's lives for the better.

“Mockingbird is a simple, innovative and research informed approach to restructuring children’s services with proven positive outcomes for children, carers and services. We believe it will inspire and engage fostering services across the UK with a new, intuitive approach to foster care.

“There is a tremendous appetite for innovation in fostering services across the country and we have brought together a strong and committed group of eight fostering services all of who have pledged to sustained delivery of the new model.”

For further information about the Fostering Network and the Mockingbird fostering model people can visiting www.fostering.net.


For media enquiries, please contact:

Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713

Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk

For media enquiries for the Fostering Network please contact:

020 7620 6425 or media@fostering.net

Contact information

Leeds City Council Communications team