Family Foster Model Takes Flight

Posted by: Press team on 21 September 2021 10:43

A new model of foster care in South Tyneside is set to improve the support for carers and enhance the lives of looked-after children.

The Council has introduced the Mockingbird model which builds on the concept of the extended family. The model uses the idea of a constellation where one foster home acts as a hub, offering advice, training and support to six satellite households.

First pioneered in America, Mockingbird has been proven to help both foster carers and the children they care for by building strong relationships with all those in the constellation, empowering families to support each other and overcome problems before they escalate or lead to placement breakdown.

Civil servant Richard Rattenbury and his wife Becky Hawdon are the first people to take on the role of hub carers.

The couple, who have looked after more than 17 foster children over the past 11 years, will be on hand to share their advice with other carers while their home will be available for sleepovers for any of the 13 foster children in the satellite groups.

Richard, 42, said: "I think this model is a great idea and badly needed. Fostering is the best job I've ever done but it can be a rollercoaster at times. We get great support from fostering officers but it's always good to have other people around who truly understand what you are experiencing. By being hub carers, we can provide a listening ear to both carers and children, almost as an extended family.

"The more positive relationships foster children have, the better their life chances. And the more support foster carers have, the better the chances of successful placements and of keeping siblings together. It's a win-win all round and we are absolutely committed to making a success of it."

The Mockingbird model has been shown to be effective in helping foster carers overcome challenges and in improving the lives of foster children by building positive links with other families in the constellation. It also improves the stability of placements with fewer children having to move on to new homes and will help the Council deliver on its priority of supporting young people in need.

Councillor Adam Ellison, Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: "Mockingbird is about empowering foster families to support one another in a meaningful way through their shared network.

"I am delighted to see South Tyneside launching this model, and am confident that this will have significant benefits to our young people and their foster carers. I look forward to seeing Mockingbird develop."

South Tyneside Council is always keen to hear from people interested in fostering. To find out more about fostering, visit or contact the fostering service on 0191 423 8500 or email

Last modified: 28 September 2021 10:45