New support programme has positive impact on foster carers and children

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Hub carers Adam and Mandy Gibbons at the Mockingbird launch in April 2023
Hub carers Adam and Mandy Gibbons at the Mockingbird launch in April 2023

A new support programme for foster carers and children in South Gloucestershire has celebrated a successful first six months.

South Gloucestershire Council collaborated with The Fostering Network to launch the Mockingbird Family Model in April 2023. The innovative new model originated in Seattle, USA, and brings together up to ten foster families to form an extended family which is called a ‘constellation’.

At the heart of each constellation is a ‘hub home’ where specially recruited and trained foster carers support foster parents and children within the constellation by offering support, advice and social activities. The model is structured around the support and relationships an extended family provides.

Since its launch, husband and wife Adam and Mandy Gibbons have provided 383 hours of support to families in the first South Gloucestershire constellation. The hub carers support eight families in total, which include 14 fostered children and young people. They meet monthly and arrange regular activities for both foster carers and the children they care for.

Mandy said: “Mockingbird has proven to be a huge success for us. We really are like an extended family. We organise fun days out together, we help each other out, we even pick up each other’s kids from school.

“I’ve been a foster carer for 15 years, so I’m always happy to help another carer when they need it. But through Mockingbird my skills have grown and changed. For example, I’m used to fostering teenagers, but now I’m spending time with younger foster children, and I love it.

“I’m always at the end of the phone if someone needs me, or if they have a question they don’t necessarily want to bother their social worker with. Sometimes, just speaking to someone who understands is all it takes.”

Mandy and Adam are also on hand to help when things get more intense, providing support to carers when they need it most. The pair supported some new carers during the summer holidays to stabilise a foster placement for a child and were able to provide intense support for a family who had children move to them on an emergency basis.

Mandy added: “The children and young people within the families are also thriving. It means they have an extra support network too – more adults to confide in if they need it, and other young people who are in the same situation as them. It’s amazing to see the impact it’s had on them.”

Councillor Maggie Tyrrell, cabinet member responsible for children and young people at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “We are really proud of our first Mockingbird constellation and the support that our hub carers, Mandy and Adam, have provided the satellite families within the constellation.

“It is a privilege to see the sense of community that has developed over the past six months between the fostering families involved and the way they support each other and the children. We are very excited for what the future may hold for Mockingbird at South Gloucestershire.”

Lily Stevens, head of Mockingbird at The Fostering Network, added: “The Fostering Network is delighted that the Mockingbird Family Model is having such a big impact to fostering families with South Gloucestershire Council.

“Since the programme began, we have seen the enormous difference it makes to foster carers, children, and young people. It helps to nurture relationships and provides vital support – building a resilient and caring community.

“We are excited to see what the next six months has in store for the South Gloucestershire Mockingbird community, where they will continue to go from strength to strength.”

The Mockingbird Family Model is just one source of support offered to foster carers in South Gloucestershire. Carers also receive comprehensive training, a dedicated social worker to support, an out-of-hours phone line and peer mentoring.

Being a foster carer is hugely rewarding and it takes a special kind of person to do it. To find out more, visit www.fostersouthglos.org.uk or call 01454 868675 to speak to a member of the team.

Follow South Gloucestershire Council’s Fostering Service – @FosterSouthGlos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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