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8.4 Fostering Exemptions and Extensions / Variations to Foster Carer’s Terms of Approval

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Please note that applications for exemption in relation to foster carers living in a different local authority area must be made to the manager of the fostering service for the local authority in whose area the foster carer lives.

References to Legislation, Regulation and Statutory Guidance (England):

AMENDMENT

In July 2021, this chapter was reviewed and updated. Detail in Section 9, Emergency Placements Outside the Foster Carer’s Terms of Approval was clarified to set out the circumstances in which an emergency placement with a foster carer can be made, and for how long.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Usual Fostering Limit on Number of Children
  3. Reasons why an Exemption may be Considered
  4. The Process for Exemptions
  5. Review and Monitoring of Exemptions
  6. Extension/Variation to Foster Carer Approval
  7. When a Variation of Approval is Required
  8. Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer’s Approval
  9. Emergency Placements Outside the Foster Carer’s Terms of Approval


1. Introduction

Schedule 7 of the Children Act 1989 limits the number of children who may be fostered by a foster carer. The ‘usual fostering limit’ is set at three children. This means that no foster carer may foster more than three children unless:

  1. The foster children are all siblings in relation to each other; or
  2. The local authority in whose area the foster carer lives exempts the foster carer from the usual fostering limit in relation to specific placements and the foster carers’ terms of approval allow it.
The Department for Education have included a section on the Usual Fostering Limit in the amendments to the Children Act 1989 Volume 4: Fostering Services: Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers: Amendments to the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations. This is intended to clarify the requirements around exemptions.

 


2. Usual Fostering Limit on Number of Children

A person may not foster more than three children in each foster home except where all children are siblings.

In all other circumstances, foster carers may only exceed this number if an exemption has been agreed.


3. Reasons why an Exemption may be Considered

Applications will usually be made because of the following exceptional circumstances:

  1. The child concerned was previously placed with the foster carers and his or her placement elsewhere has disrupted;
  2. The foster carers have special skills to meet the child's needs which are not available elsewhere;
  3. The placement of the child over the limit is the most appropriate way of meeting the child's needs arising from disability, race, religion, language and/or culture;
  4. The placement is required to keep siblings together.

Applications can only be made with the agreement of the foster carers concerned. When considering an exemption the following factors should be regarded:

  1. The number, ages and circumstances of the children concerned;
  2. The arrangements proposed for the care and accommodation of the children concerned;
  3. The relationship between the foster carers and the children concerned;
  4. The period of time over which the placement is likely to last;
  5. The likely effect on the children concerned and any other children living in the household;
  6. The foster carers' capacity to provide sufficient care for all the children in the placement;
  7. The need to safeguard and promote the welfare of the fostered children / young people and any other children / young people who live in the foster home.


4. The Process for Exemptions

The need for an exemption will be identified at the point when the duty fostering social worker is seeking to identify a suitable placement for a child or children.

Where a foster carer is identified as the most appropriate option to meet the child's needs, and this is agreed by the supervising social worker for the carers and the foster carer, the duty social worker should consult with the manager and if agreed prepare an application for an exemption.

The social worker(s) to any other child in the placement should also be consulted in order to seek their views on any impact (positive or negative) from a further placement commencing.

All applications for planned exemption for foster carers living in York must be made in writing, supported by reasons, to the Agency Decision Maker for approval. The written application will be prepared by the duty social worker or the supervising social worker in conjunction with the relevant child's social worker.

The exemption must be approved by the Service Manager Fostering, and forwarded to panel admin so that it can be considered at the next available fostering panel.

For foster carers living outside the City boundaries, application must be made to the designated manager in the appropriate local authority.

The decision whether or not to grant an exemption will be recorded in writing, together with reasons. Any exemption will be specific to a child or children and can be subject to conditions. The foster carer will be notified in writing of the decision.

Upon the granting of an exemption, a time limit will be specified and an exemption can only extend beyond that date if the designated manager authorises it. The decision must be recorded.

The decision will be reported to the next available Fostering Panel for information.


5. Review and Monitoring of Exemptions

The Fostering Panel will be responsible for the ongoing monitoring of the exemption.

The Fostering Service is responsible for recording the ending the exemption when the exemption is no longer required.


6. Extension/Variation to Foster Carer Approval

Proposed placements must be compatible with the foster carer’s terms of approval. If the proposed placement would not be compatible, then an extension / variation to their terms of approval will be required.


7. When a Variation of Approval is Required

Where a foster placement identified for a child would be within the usual fostering limit but outside of the foster carer's terms of approval, a variation to their approval is required.

A variation to a foster carer’s terms of approval may also be proposed following an annual review.

The following are examples of circumstances where a variation of approval is required:

  • A foster carer is approved for a child aged 0 to 5 but it is proposed to place a 6 year old with him or her;
  • A foster carer is approved for two children but is proposed to take three.


8. Proposal to Revise the Terms of the Foster Carer’s Approval

8.1 General

The approval of the Fostering Service Manager will be required prior to approval by the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering).

The same principles and processes apply to extensions as exemptions, i.e. the decision should be referred to the first available Fostering Panel.

A variation of Foster Carer Approval Form must be completed by the supervising social worker in all cases. The form must also be signed by the Fostering Service Manager confirming that the proposed variation will not be of any detriment to any child in the placement.

Any significant change to the terms of a foster carer's approval will require evidence that the fostering household is able to meet the needs of the proposed change of approval terms and may require additional support, training or equipment.

8.2 Following a Review, where the Foster Carer is in Agreement

Where, as a result of a review, it is proposed to revise the terms of the foster carer’s approval, a statement must be sent to the foster carer setting out whether it is considered that the foster carer or members of their household (including any children placed there) may have additional support needs as a result of the proposed revision and, if so, how those needs will be met, and request the foster carer’s agreement in writing to the proposed revision of terms.

Where the foster carer’s written agreement is received, the decision to revise the terms of approval may be made immediately.

The Agency Decision Maker’s decision in such circumstances is not a Qualifying Determination and the foster carer may not apply for an independent review of the decision by way of the Independent Review Mechanism.

Foster carers must not be pressured to accept changes to their terms of approval.

8.3 Following a Review, where the Foster Carer is not in Agreement

Where, as a result of a review, it is proposed to revise the terms of the foster carer’s approval, and the foster carer does not agree in writing to the revision of their terms of approval, then the representations/review procedure as set out in Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers Procedure, Representations/Independent Review Procedure will apply.


9. Emergency Placements of a Child outside the Foster Carer’s Terms of Approval

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 allow ‘a responsible authority to place the child with any local authority foster parent who has been approved, even if the terms of that approval are not consistent with the placement, provided that the placement is for no longer than 6 working days’. At the end of those 6 working days, the responsible authority must terminate the placement, unless the terms of approval have been amended to be consistent with the placement.

In 2013, Regulation 28 of The Fostering Regulations (England) 2011 was amended (as set out in The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 (8)) to allow this decision to be made without the need to issue a qualifying determination first.

The local authority can only agree an ‘exemption’ if the specified placements are within in the foster carer’s terms of approval or it is necessary to plan in an emergency under Regulation 23. In the latter circumstances, the placement must be terminated after 6 days or the foster carer’s terms of approval must be amended. If the placement is to be terminated within 6 working days, a change of approval is not required.

End