Expansion planned for innovative new foster care service

A radical new foster care service introduced by Wakefield Council is proving so successful that it will be expanded.

The Council launched its first Beehive hub in January this year as part of the “Mockingbird” model delivered in partnership with the Fostering Network.

Recent activities for families in the hub since the easing of restrictions have included an outing to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, regular sleepovers and specialist information events on topics such as starting at high school.

A second hub is to be launched on 1 October. The aim is to create similar ones in each part of the district over the next five years.

Comments from service users at the first Beehive hub include the following:

  • “To know there are other people to turn to really helps. We have enjoyed our lunch and tea days at the hub home and are really looking forward to social events soon hopefully.”
  • “Our young person enjoyed her sleepover, lockdown has been hard for her to find friends – Mockingbird assisting her to meet children from similar background. Gave me the first night off in five months, just being able to go to the supermarket by myself, a luxury!”
  • “All the children going up to high school met at the hub home and two of the young people spoke about the experience at high school. This was done as a response to the young people having limited transition. All the new starters said they felt much better as a result of the event, all felt they felt pleased others had similar emotions to them.”
  • “I love that as a carer I have other carers for support and a fabulous supervising social worker who is there to support and guide.”

Funded by the Department for Education, Wakefield was chosen as one of only eight local authorities to pilot the “Mockingbird” model during 2020.

It brings together six to eight foster families to work with an experienced foster carer who acts as a mentor.

This gives foster carers a bigger support network to turn to during difficult times, increases resilience and helps children remain in high quality placements.

Children and young people also gain a greater sense of belonging, which boosts well-being for them, their carers and social workers.

The model was first pioneered by children’s organisation the Mockingbird Society in the USA, from which it gets its name.

In the Wakefield district, the programme has helped retain foster carers by providing intensive support during challenging times.

There is out of hours help, fast-tracked access to children’s health and wellbeing support teams and monthly informal foster carer groups.

It has also created smoother transitions for children, improved sibling relationships and prevented youngsters from entering residential care.

This means more children from the district are able to remain where they have family and friends.

And there has been therapeutic training for foster carers, with opportunities for them to reflect on their learning in a shared environment.

Margaret Isherwood smiling
Cllr Margaret Isherwood

Cllr Margaret Isherwood, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “I’m delighted to hear the new model of care is proving to be so successful.

“We want all our children and young people to have the best start in life possible, and this model is working for those in challenging circumstances.

“That’s a very positive outcome so far and it’s why the service is being expanded – to bring the benefits to more of those in need.”

If you’ve ever thought of fostering, find out more about becoming a foster carer and enquire at www.wakefield.gov.uk/fostering.