The Mockingbird Programme is an innovative method of delivering foster care which uses an extended family model to improve the stability of placements and strengthen the relationship between carers, children and young people, fostering services and birth families. The idea is that if foster and other families have a supportive community around them, they are better able to meet the needs of the children and youth in their care.
Results from the US indicate that the model can help improve carer retention due to enhanced support, placement stability as it is sustainable support, educational stability for the child as they can remain in school during periods of respite care, and it can help keep siblings close together, even if not in the same household.
Within the model are constellations, each containing 6-10 foster families living in relative close proximity and a central hub home carer who can provide planned and emergency respite care, peer support, training and social activities or social events. They also provide a neutral venue for any potentially sensitive meetings that may take place, for example, between foster families and birth families.
Support is vital in foster care and the role that foster carers play in supporting each other through sharing their knowledge, experience and providing practical support is essential. Through regular activities, the constellation develops a supportive community like an extended family, empowering those in it to support each other and overcome problems before they escalate or lead to placement breakdown. This can help provide children and young people with a more positive experience of care.