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Meet the team: Tom and Jill talk developing hub homes to support foster families

Callum Murphy

Senior Campaign and Events Officer


10 May 2024

As part of Foster Care Fortnight 2024, we're shining a light on the team who support foster families in Portsmouth using the innovative mockingbird programme.

This unique model works by creating a 'constellation' of up to 10 satellite fostering households. This approach offers the relations and support that are similar to an extended family.

At the heart of each ‘constellation’ is a ‘hub home’ where a specially recruited and trained hub home foster carer offers vital peer support and guidance to all the carers within the constellation, in addition to respite care in the form of sleepovers and social activities.

Tom, mockingbird team leader at Portsmouth City Council supports the hub home carers and families within the programme. He told us the difference he's seen in the foster families that are supported within each constellation.

"When mockingbird was launched, it became clear quite quickly that the connections and relationships that formed between the home hub carers and their satellite carers were really strong and central to the mockingbird model. We also found foster families within each constellation started to connect and support each other".

The programme was first introduced in the United States and brought to the UK by The Fostering Network, a charity that champions the sector. The model creates a type of extended family. Tom agrees that mockingbird has gone beyond just support, with foster carers sharing best practice.

"All foster carers in the constellations have the opportunity to support one another. They share their experiences, training and signpost each other to help and advice they've found useful. This is one of the other successes from the programme as it encourages foster carers to use peer-to-peer support."

Jill, a social worker in the fostering team has seen the benefits of the programme. It has improved confidence among new foster carers.  

"I have been using mockingbird as part of my practice for the last two years. During my second year, I was working with a brand-new foster carer who was experiencing some challenges. Alongside my guidance, I introduced them to one of the constellations. The group immediately put their arms around them instantly. That support made all the difference and has built up their confidence too."

Jill works closely with the constellations to ensure they are receiving the help they need. She highlights the impact mockingbird has had on Portsmouth's foster families.

"The social aspect of mockingbird is also important as it is used for respite. As the relationship between fosters carers grow, so does the trust and support, making the transition between carers easier."

Both Tom and Jill have recognised the strengths of mockingbird, building resilience and all-important support networks. As a direct result of this programme, feedback from foster families continues to show positive results. Tom said:

"The introduction of constellations has meant that foster carers and their networks can socialise together. They tell us how much they value this and the relationships they create. This directly benefits the children they care for within mockingbird as it acts as a substitute family experience. Their feedback continues to be positive."

Learn more about the mockingbird programme

Portsmouth is leading the way with the mockingbird programme, supporting children, young people and their foster families. Discover more about the innovative model and its impact on the city.

Find out more