Award-winning scheme to support foster families launched in Stockton-on-Tees
A new scheme to support looked after children, foster carers and their families has been launched in Stockton-on-Tees.
The award-winning, national Mockingbird programme is led by The Fostering Network in partnership with 62 fostering services across the UK and has now been adopted by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.
It was officially launched at a special event at The Playground in Thornaby on Saturday (2 September).
It aims to support and build relationships between looked after children, young people and foster families by building a network of six to 10 foster families - called a 'constellation' - to support others.
At the heart of each constellation is a hub home carer - an experienced foster carer who families can contact to access practical and emotional help.
As well as offering vital support and guidance, the hub home carers organise activities such as coffee mornings, parties, sleepovers for the children, respite breaks for foster carers, and other social events.
Mark Robinson and his wife Colette have been foster carers for nine years and they are the home hub carers in the first Mockingbird constellation in Stockton-on-Tees. Mark said: "We started the Mockingbird programme in Stockton-on-Tees to help retain foster children in their placements and maintain strong relationships with their foster families and other children.
"As home hub carers we act like grandparents, offering children a place where they can go to relax and make friends, and where foster carers can get practical help and advice so they can build resilience and receive support from people who are also carers.
"The idea was to create a large family and offer personal support from experience, which they may not receive elsewhere."
The Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Lisa Evans, said: "It's vitally important that all looked after children and their families feel well supported so we are really pleased to launch the Mockingbird programme in the Borough.
"Foster families get ongoing professional support and guidance from the Council, as well as preparation, training, and access to local support groups. But the constellation acts like an extended family where people can meet each other in a caring environment, to build connections and maintain a healthy and positive home life."
The Council is calling on more people to consider becoming foster carers and provide space for children in need of a loving home. Anyone interested can request an information pack by calling the Council's Fostering Team on 01642 526218, email email@example.com or visit the Council's fostering webpage.