A 'pioneering' foster project operating in Greenwich has been named as the winner of a national charity award after delivering "a compassionate, sustainable, new way of delivering foster care."

The Fostering Network's Mockingbird programme has seen off other outstanding projects to win the Big Impact Award at this years' Third Sector Awards.

Mockingbird, which serves fostered children and young people in Greenwich and beyond, uses a pioneering model which sees a constellation of fostering households set up in a similar structure to an extended family.

Maria, a Greenwich foster carer, said: “Most fostered young people don’t have the benefit of having the experience of going for sleepovers at their aunties, uncles or their grandparents. With the Mockingbird family model, this is not only made possible, but it is ‘normalised’.”

As one of the pioneering London boroughs to adopt the programme in 2015, the Royal Borough of Greenwich has seen increased retention rates in foster carers who may have otherwise left the role and experienced enhanced placement stability in fostered children and young people.

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Cllr Matt Morrow, the council's cabinet member for children and young people said: “We’re really proud to be part of the Mockingbird programme which is at the forefront of developing a service that better supports all children in foster care.

"It has given foster carers and young people in our fostering services a sense of a positive extended family that they may have never had.

"It has allowed our foster families to feel like they’re part of a much bigger, likeminded community and offered a space for them to talk to other people similar to them. Winning this award is a testament to all of the hard work that goes into the programme from staff and foster carers alike and I’d like to offer a huge congratulations to all involved.”

The Fostering Network's goal was to transform children and young people's experiences of care, and to create vital support systems for the families and professionals who make foster care work, finding new ways to reduce the risks of children's placements breaking down, and of foster carers resigning.

It works by using one foster home as a hub, offering sleep overs and short breaks, advice, training and support to six to 10 satellite households, forming a 'constellation'.

The constellation also builds links with other families important to children's lives, such as birth families and families caring for their siblings, as well as to the wider community which can provide enhanced opportunities to learn, develop and succeed.

As of May 2020, there are 38 Mockingbird sites across the UK and these constellations support over 1,500 children and adults in 380 hub and satellite homes.

Judges of the awards said: “A fantastic and innovative project, bringing real change and with demonstrable impact. This is a sea-change in the way foster care is delivered.”

Lily Stevens, head of the Mockingbird programme at The Fostering Network, said: “We are delighted to have won in this category, it is testament to the faith of our funders and partners in a compassionate, sustainable, new way of delivering foster care.

"It also speaks volumes about the efforts of everyone involved in the programme.”