Innovative foster care support scheme to expand

A pioneering support service for foster carers is set to expand in Oxfordshire following a successful funding bid by the council.

Oxfordshire was one of just seven local authorities chosen in 2015 to pilot the ‘Mockingbird Family Model’ in which foster families receive support from a central ‘hub home’. Experienced foster carers, or ‘hub home carers’, offer relief care, advice, training and social activities for foster carers and looked-after children in their community.

Having set up Mockingbird hubs for the north of the county and Oxford city, the council has received government funding of £328,309 over the next three years to establish a further three hubs to meet demand in other parts of the county. The funding, secured in partnership with The Fostering Network, will enable the recruitment of additional dedicated Hub Home Carers, support resources and training.

'Extended family concept'

The ‘Mockingbird’ model is based on an extended family concept, where families are brought together around a central foster carer, empowering them to support each other and overcome difficulties before they escalate. It helps to increase the stability of placements and improve children and young people's experience of care.

It was first developed in the United States where it was shown to be successful in improving outcomes for looked- after children.

Jenny Barney, who is the Mockingbird hub home carer for the Oxford area, said: "The young people really benefit from being part of a wider network of foster families and having somewhere familiar to come to enjoy weekend breaks. For the foster carers, it's great to be able to come together and support one another - a bit like any parent might need a helping hand from family and friends."

Highly valued

Oxfordshire County Council’s Deputy Director for Safeguarding Lara Patel said: “This is really fantastic news for foster families in Oxfordshire. We know how highly valued this scheme is by foster carers who have already been involved with Mockingbird and the children they look after.

“Fostering is a hugely rewarding but challenging role for anyone to take on and carers often need some extra support. While all foster carers already have a range of support services available to them, the ability to come together – effectively as an extended family unit - with regular relief care and round-the-clock support is something really special.”

Positive outcomes

She added: “We now have the ability to bring this support package to many more foster families, helping us achieve positive outcomes for Looked After children.”

Melissa Green, Director of Operations at The Fostering Network, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Oxfordshire on this exciting new phase of the Mockingbird programme. This is an excellent opportunity to provide fostering services with an effective, innovative, self-sustainable programme.”