Mockingbird is an extended family model which was conceived in Washington State USA in 2004 by The Mockingbird Society.

The aim was to have a positive impact on the public perception of children and young people who were fostered, and to work with fostering families and child placing agencies to improve outcomes for children and fostering households.

The Mockingbird family model was introduced to the UK in 2015- 2016 with The Fostering Network piloting the programme in England with initially 8 fostering services with the Department for Education’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme and The Mockingbird Society in America. As of May 2019 there were 26 Mockingbird partner services; 18 of which had at least one established constellation and 8 services were in the implementation stages of the programme.

The underpinning principals of Mockingbird are:

  • Community based care – All children and young people deserve to live in settings that reflect their need for age appropriate freedom and autonomy while ensuring their safety and the safety of the community. They also deserve to grow up in a community that is familiar to them, and close to their birth family members if appropriate.
  • Unconditional care – All children and young people deserve a safe, warm nurturing environment in which they can thrive. This approach is focused on social learning and the concept of the whole child with a lifelong perspective.
  • Normalisation of care – Children and young people in foster care need to receive the same opportunities and support as well as facing the same challenges as their peers so they can learn and develop and make full use of opportunities available to them.
  • Continuity of care – All children and young people benefit from continuity in their lives; same community, same school, same sports, arts and leisure opportunities.
  • Cultural relevancy – Children do best when connected with the culture they identify with.  Children and young people say they feel more comfortable, and research suggests they do best when, they are connected to their cultures and live in families that reflect their ethnicity and values.
  • Birth family viewed as partners and future support – The Mockingbird Family Model supports practice that enables children and young people to receive age appropriate and accurate information about their past and to learn the skills and boundaries necessary to establish and maintain safe relationships with their birth family into the future.
  • Foster care support – Take good care of the adults who take good care of children. It is essential to take good care – with training, practical and emotional support and supervision – of the foster carers who take good care of children and young people. 

In 2019 the Council was successful in its application to implement Mockingbird as part of the Department of Education’s (DfE) Supporting Families, Investing in Practice Programme. The Mockingbird Model delivers foster care using an extended family model which centres on a constellation where one foster home acts as a hub, offering planned and emergency sleepovers and short breaks, advice, training and support, to six to 10 satellite households.

Graphic showing the agencies involved in fostering which include foster homes, hub home, liaison workers, adoptive homes, independent living, and kinship homes

The Fostering Network's Mockingbird Programme

The launch of Warrington’s first Mockingbird constellation, originally planned for April 2020, was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the launch of the first constellation will take place in September 2020. The Mockingbird model should strengthen the Council’s fostering approach.

The model should allow children with more complex needs to be supported in fostering placements, instead of going into residential care. The model is expected to have many positive outcomes for our children and foster carers, including:

  • Improved placement stability.
  • Stronger birth family and sibling relationships.
  • More successful, early reunifications with birth family.
  • Increased successful transition to other permanence options.
  • Improved foster carer retention rates.
Graphic showing the outcomes of the Mockingbird programme to date: 5 placements to residential care homes have been avoided, £880k estimated costs avoided with the prevention of 5 entries in residential care, £1.9m estimated costs avoided with the retention of 119 foster carers, 12% carers would hae resigned if they hadn't been supported by Mockingbird, 1 in 5 placements would have broken down if they hadn't been supported by the Mockingbird programme, £190k costs avoided with the prevention of 216 placemen

Outcomes of the UK Mockingbird Programme to date

No Wrong Door

The council are taking part in the DfE’s Strengthening Families Protecting Children Programme, following its successful application. It will receive an estimated £2.7 million in funding over two years from the DfE to support the implementation of the No Wrong Door model in Warrington.

The No Wrong Door model is an innovative approach to edge of care provision first developed by North Yorkshire County Council. The model supports adolescents who are in or on the edge of care. It integrates residential care, foster care, speech and language support, mental health services and the police into a single hub that is based in a residential home.

No Wrong Door Graphic showing the agencies involved with the No Wrong Door Hub: High need supported lodgings, bespoke placement option, supported accommodation, Hub Communities families and Edge of care Support

©North Yorkshire County Council

Evidence shows that No Wrong Door model provides extensive benefits to vulnerable children and young people, and system wide.

Graphic from North yorkshire council showing £205,585 savings to the police, a 92% reduction in hospital admissions, a reduction in the time young people spent in residential placements

©North Yorkshire County Council

The launch of the No Wrong Door model in Warrington is planned for March 2021. The following outcomes of the model are expected over the next three years:

  • Reduction in the numbers of young people in care, particularly those in residential care.
  • Growth of internal provision – including the creation of supported accommodation and supported lodgings provision.
  • Decreased use of external agency placements (residential and fostering).
  • Provision of more individualised and creative commissioning options for “bespoke placements” for young people

Families First

The edge of care project called Families First has been running from July 2016. The aim of the service is to improve outcomes for children and where appropriate, prevent children entering the care system, prevent children needing residential care or support their exit from care.

The offer includes:

  • PAM Assessments which support the social work assessment process. PAMS are often completed during pre-proceedings or care proceedings. As well as undertaking the assessments, the PAMS workers offer support to parents to assist them in making positive changes with their parenting skills. 
  • Intensive Family Support for families with children of primary school age where the child is subject to a child protection plan including issues surrounding neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug & alcohol misuse, poor mental health and domestic violence.
  • 1: 1 parenting work with a staff member who is qualified in undertaking training in parenting courses.
  • Outreach Work for children on the edge of care or experiencing contextual safeguarding challenges. 
  • An edge of care outreach hub which provides intensive community support to children on the edge of care.
  • A Short Break Service provided for children on the edge of care.
  • An Emergency Bed provision to support children in times of crisis and in need of immediate overnight support.
  • A 16/17 year old Homelessness service which provides support and mediation to potentially homeless young people aged 16 and 17 years and children who potentially are on the edge of care in order to prevent entry into care. This service support the joint housing assessment process.
  • The four Verve Place Direct Access Beds provide short-term emergency accommodation for young people aged 16 and 17 years at risk of homelessness.
  • Reunification Support is available for children who have returned to live with a parent following a period of care.
  • Foster Carer support to children at risk of needing to move to live in Residential care.
  • Special Guardianship Support to potential Special Guardians and recently approved Special Guardians.
  • A Family Time Service to support all children in care to have the opportunity, in line with their care plan, to be offered quality supervised time with their parents.
  • Family Group Conferences aim to assist the family and their wider support network in developing their own plan to ensure that the child remains at home or within the extended network.

This service is providing high levels of intervention early in the process in order to prevent that escalation in risk and thus reducing the inflow of children into care. Furthermore Families First work with families whose children are subject to child protection plans to improve parenting and reduce risk.

Key Sufficiency actions and priorities

The main areas for development over the next 2 years:

  • A continued emphasis on permanence for all our Children in Care, through prevention, effective and timely care planning (including robust pre-proceedings) and a focus on legal permanence, in order to safely reduce our numbers of children in care and the length of time children spend in our care.
  • Ensure that we focus and continuously develop our services to meet the needs of our Child in Care population, expand our provision particularly in relation to older children, via supported accommodation and lodgings and for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children.
  • Grow and sustain our Edge of Care provision through our ‘Families First’ Service and our implementation of the ‘No Wrong Door’ model. Thus preventing children from entering the care system through offering support and interventions which are specific and reflect our systemic model of practice, and when children do enter care ensure that their assessed needs are met in a timely way, and that we can respond flexibly and effectively as these needs change.
  • Keep children ‘closer to home’ and within their local communities. This includes children who are at risk of child and criminal exploitation, therefore offering them stability in other areas of their lives (education, family time, friendship groups) and enabling us to work with our local partners (health, police, youth offending services) to manage and reduce the risk of harm they face.
  • Through our ‘No Wrong Door’ model provide emergency accommodation and medium term care for children so we can undertake quality multi-agency assessment so we fully understand their needs and can match them accordingly with the correct placement type.
  • Reduce the number of children we have placed in residential provision, particularly those children aged 12 and under.
  • To continue to work with Placements North West and regional colleagues to manage the independent market by sharing information and collaborating in relation to best practice, innovation and developments, so we understand the strengths / weaknesses of the regional market and can respond accordingly to any issues regarding sufficiency.
  • Achieve a balanced budget, which will in turn offer the council more financial stability, by growing our own internal provision and by ensuring that when we do commission services from external providers via the NW framework these arrangements offer us good quality and value for money.
  • Continue to increase the number and range of our foster carers, who are able to support children of all ages with varying needs, particularly older children, children with additional needs (physical / learning difficulties) and children of other ethnicity and cultures (unaccompanied asylum seekers). Make sure that foster carers remuneration matches their skill set and they are offered good quality training and opportunities for continuous development in challenging areas, such child exploitation and emotional health / wellbeing.
  • Implement the Mockingbird model of support for foster carers to increase placement stability for children and enhance the relationships children have with their immediate and extended foster family.
  • Actively encourage children to ‘stay put’ with their foster carer and when they choose not to provide them with the right stepping stones to independence.
  • Ensure we maintain family connections wherever a child is placed and that prior to children leaving our care we bring family members together to work together to ensure a smooth transition to adulthood.
  • Improve our housing offer to Care Leavers to ensure that those who are most vulnerable have access to good quality accommodation and receive the support they require to maintain this accommodation.


As a council Warrington strive to provide a good quality service to our children in care and care leavers. We take our corporate parenting responsibilities seriously. Since our last Sufficiency Statement we have seen a safe decrease in the numbers of children in our care and service improvements in a number of key areas. We have a robust plan to ensure that through the strong foundations we already have in place and the innovation work we are actively pursuing that we will continue to adapt to the challenges faced regarding placement sufficiency.

Appendix A

As of 31st March 2020 (please note change of services due to Covid-19):

  • Online Community Network Groups (Preparing for transition / SENDIASS Managing stress / Genetic Conditions / Speech and Language Therapist / CAMHS Team / Sensory activities to keep your child occupied during summer)
  • Online learning programme for parents, carers and supporters who wish to gain knowledge and skills about their child's neurodevelopmental condition, with strategies to support the difficulties that may present around:
  • Neurodevelopmental conditions/learning difficulties and associated mental health difficulties
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder/Condition (ASD/C)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Sensory Processing/Integration Difficulties (SPD)
  • Supporting behaviours associated with ND conditions
  • Your local offer, welfare rights and special educational support
  • Online Learning Workshops for Families:
  • ASD/C - support and advice whilst at home
  • Introduction to Sensory Processing Difficulties
  • Emotional regulation and praxis
  • Sensory Strategies
  • ND and Eating Difficulties
  • Family Yoga & Keep Fit
  • Transition from home to school
  • Understanding and supporting behaviour
  • Sleep Difficulties Part 1 & Part 2
  • Virtual Coffee Mornings
  • Sleep Offer - For parents/carers and supporting professionals who would like talk to our Sleep Practitioners, to be able to better support children and young people living with neurodevelopmental conditions experiencing sleep difficulties
  • Children’s Activities
  • Professionals Online Solution Focused Drop In - Weekly online Q&A sessions for professionals working with families living with neurodevelopmental conditions

Appendix B - Fostering Placements











Statistical Neighbours


North West

All Children in care












All foster placements












Percentage of Children in Care in all foster placements












Number of Children in Care cared for by relatives or friends












Percentage of Children in Care cared for by relatives or friends












Number of Children in Care in foster placement excluding placed with relatives or friends












Percentage of Children in Care in Foster Placements excl. Placed with Friends and Relatives