New support for foster families facing trauma

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has launched fostering projects in 10 new locations to help boost their resilience and provide practical and emotional support.

It is hoped that the projects will help hundreds more foster families tackle the day-to-day challenges of taking in a vulnerable young person from care and create a stable environment for them to live in. The expansion forms parts of the Department for Education’s Supporting Families; Investing in Practice programme.

The ‘Mockingbird Family Model’, delivered by The Fostering Network, brings foster families together in groups, centred around one experienced foster carer who lives nearby to act as a mentor. This builds a network on which they can rely in difficult moments, in the same way that families who are together from birth often rely on the support of extended family, friends or neighbours, and helping them cope with challenging behaviour or problems caused by trauma before they escalate.

Williamson said: “Foster parents give stability to children who have often experienced nothing but trauma and chaos at home, giving them opportunities that most of us take for granted. The unique circumstances they face in becoming a new family means they need daily support from people who understand the challenges, offering them much-needed advice and respite when they feel isolated or alone.

“Expanding the Mockingbird Family Model into new areas builds on a programme we know has real value to foster families, helping them to form vital communities so that parents can rely on one another through tough times and vulnerable children get the safe, supportive home life they deserve.”

Kevin Williams, chief executive at The Fostering Network, said: “We’re delighted that the government is showing confidence in the Mockingbird programme and the difference it is making in the lives of fostered children and young people, as well as the foster families caring for them. This extra funding will allow us to bring the benefits of Mockingbird’s extended family model to many more foster families across England and to get further insight into the impact of the programme.”

Alongside this additional help for foster families, the Department for Education has also today launched new projects in 18 council areas to support vulnerable children coping with chaotic home lives as a result of their parents’ problems with mental health, domestic violence or addiction. Backed by £84 million, secured in last year’s Autumn Budget, these projects reaffirm the core principle of the Children Act 1989 that where possible, children are best brought up with their parents.

Data shows Newcastle City Council has a higher number of children in care than the national average, so it has been named as one of the area that will adopt ‘Family Valued’, one of three successful projects created through the government’s landmark Innovation Programme.

Veronica Dunn, cabinet member for education and skills, said: “Being selected to work alongside Leeds and its Family Valued model will help to reinforce our transformative approach to children’s social care and help us to continue providing positive outcomes for children across the city. Like many places across the North East, Newcastle has seen an increase in the number of looked-after children and it is important we adapt services to meet this changing population.

“We strongly believe that working closely with families and developing relationships with children will help us protect them, allow them to reach their ambitions and goals and keep families together where it is safe to do so. Investing in our social care workforce, recruiting passionate and dedicated staff and creating new accommodation options across Newcastle will help us achieve this vision and ensure our Right Child, Right Care strategy benefits all young people and families in Newcastle.”