At Merton we support our foster carers using an innovative approach called the Mockingbird Family Model (MFM). This can bring significant benefits to the lives of fostered children and those who look after them.

Based on the idea of an extended family, MFM provides respite care through regular sleepovers, as well as peer support, joint planning and training, and social activities. It improves the stability of fostering placements and strengthens the relationships between carers, children and young people, fostering services and birth families.

How it works

MFM brings together clusters of between 6 and 10 "satellite homes" to form a "constellation". The constellation is supported by a "hub home" whose carers provide a range of support to the adults and young people within the constellation. The hub home is supported by a "liaison worker".

 

  • Each constellation provides care to 6-18 looked-after children and young people.
  • Constellation members (both adults and young people) are diverse in terms of age, experience, strengths and needs.
  • The constellation is supported to build a micro-community based on an extended family concept.
  • The hub home is geographically close to the satellite homes.
  • The hub home has two spare Mockingbird beds available for sleepovers by the constellation.
  • The hub home carer is available nearly 24/7.
  • The 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 carers to prevent burnout.
  • Collaborative working: the service supports the hub home carer and members of the constellation to problem-solve (e.g. deciding when to offer crisis respite, delegation of authority).

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.