Innovative fostering programme helps 48 children in Hertfordshire

Diagram of typical constellation structure for Mockingbird programme. Credit: Hertfordshire County Council.

Young people in foster care across Hertfordshire are benefitting from a pioneering scheme.

First introduced in 2015, the Mockingbird programme is an award winning foster care model delivered by The Fostering Network throughout the UK, based around the support and relationships an extended family provides.

The programme aims to nurture the relationships between children, young people and foster carers helping them to form a community of six to ten satellite families, known as a constellation.

Led by a home hub foster carer and liaison worker, the constellation community offers peer support and guidance as well as social activities and sleepovers, to strengthen relationships and permanence.

The scheme has helped Hertfordshire County Council provide 48 looked after children with secure and stable families.

Jools Newman and her husband Ed are Mockingbird hub foster carers in Hemel and Tring. The couple were the first hub carers within Hertfordshire and have supported the scheme for the last three and a half years.

At present there are seven families in Jools and Ed’s hub – receiving both practical and emotional support.

Foster carer Jools Newman. Credit: Hertfordshire County Council.

Jools said: “Mockingbird is as much about the carers as the children because the carers need support as well, and that leads to happy children. The families in our hub become like extended families.

“I sometimes help picking up children from school, we offer sleepovers, we organise coffee support chats, we organise events like barge trips, Ninja Warrior and Easter egg hunts.

“I also go to all the care plan meetings for the children, and I am still connected to some of the children who used to be on the hub. It’s an amazing programme, as it creates a community.”

The Mockingbird programme is continuing to grow across the UK – with 84 Mockingbird constellations in England, Wales, and Scotland. There are currently 4 constellation groups in Hertfordshire.

Councillor Teresa Heritage, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “Here in Hertfordshire the Mockingbird programme is a game changer, both for our children and our foster carers and we’re so proud of the achievements of all of those involved.

“This extended family model provides a high level of stability to children and young people and strengthens relationships between all members, including birth families and social workers.

“Our Mockingbird foster carers feel supported and we are seeing an increase in the retention of foster carers because of it.”

Hertfordshire County Council’s Fostering and Adoption service welcomes people from all backgrounds, different ages, genders, ethnicities, no matter their relationship status or sexual orientation.

For more information on fostering in Hertfordshire visit:  

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