A home from home’ foster scheme to be extended

A scheme offering an alternative method of delivering foster care in Doncaster is to receive a further three years of funding from the Department for Education (DfE).

Doncaster Children’s Services Trust is to benefit from a slice of £3.76m as part of the DfE’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme to help extend its Mockingbird Family Model.

Based on the idea of the extended family, Mockingbird uses the concept of ‘constellations’ where six to 10 ‘satellite’ families of foster carers live in close proximity to a ‘hub home’. The hub home has specially trained carers who offer dedicated support with things like respite care, peer support and social activities.

Working in partnership with the Fostering Network, the Trust has operated the scheme with two groups of foster families, totalling over 20 families between them, since it was launched in November 2015. Now, thanks to the new funding the model will be extended to support other foster carers and children.   

Tracey Sinnott is one of the hub home carers, supporting 10 homes with 18 children and teenagers, ranging from 14 months to 18 years. She says: “Mockingbird has served as an extended family in Doncaster extremely well. Carers, children and young people have told us they feel a lot less isolated and feel like they belong.”

Alongside organising activities and supporting families emotionally, Tracey also gives practical help – particularly through providing respite care, sometimes in emergency situations. As all the children know her well their stay is like a home from home. “It’s just like going to grandma’s house,” she says.

The Trust is one of eight areas nationally which have been delivering the project as part of a Fostering Network pilot project and Tracey adds: “The extension of the project will mean that more carers and children can benefit from this fantastic social network, while being supported throughout some of their hardest times.”

She said the scheme had been proven to prevent breakdown of placements and the loss of foster carers. A national study of the scheme through Loughborough University, has shown that unplanned placement changes were half the estimated national rate; while no participating foster carer stopped fostering, compared with six per cent nationally.

Welcoming the funding, Trust Chief Executive Paul Moffat said: “The Mockingbird project has proved extremely successful in Doncaster. This second wave of funding means that around 20 more of our fostering families will benefit from the intense support and opportunities for children that Mockingbird brings.

“It is important that all foster placements are right for both the carers and the children and Mockingbird offers the support and stability that an extended family group can bring.”

Thinking about fostering? The Trust is always looking for new foster carers to join its team. If you are interested in becoming a foster carer with the Trust visit www.trustfostering.co.uk or call the team on 0808 129 2600

“She had been happy with you as the social work manager because you “had time for children.”

Reported comments of a looked after child made during a meeting

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