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.
In March 2017, Section 5, Variation to the Foster Carer's Terms of Approval was extensively updated and should be read throughout.
- Usual Fostering Limit on Number of Children
- Reasons why an Exemption may be Considered
- The Process for Exemptions
- Review and Monitoring of Exemptions
- Variation to the Foster Carer's Terms of Approval
1. Usual Fostering Limit on Number of Children
A person may not foster more than three children in each foster home except where all the children are siblings.
In all other circumstances, foster carers may only exceed this number if an exemption has been agreed.
2. Reasons why an Exemption may be Considered
Applications for an exemption will usually be made because of the following exceptional circumstances:
- The child concerned was previously placed with the foster carers and his or her placement elsewhere has disrupted;
- The foster carers have special skills to meet the child's needs which are not available elsewhere;
- 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;
- 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.
- The number, ages and circumstances of the children concerned;
- The arrangements proposed for the care and accommodation of the children concerned;
- The relationship between the foster carers and the children concerned;
- The period of time over which the placement is likely to last;
- The likely effect on the children concerned and any other children living in the household;
- The foster carers' capacity to provide sufficient care for all the children in the placement;
- 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.
3. The Process for Exemptions
3.1 Planned Exemptions
The need for an exemption will be identified at the point when the Placements Team 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 Placements Team 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 the local authority area must be made in writing, supported by reasons, to the Registered Fostering Manager for approval. Where the foster carers live in a different local authority area, the application must be made to the manager of the fostering service for that area. The written application will be prepared by the supervising social worker for the foster carers in conjunction with the relevant child's social worker.
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 for the relevant local authority area authorises it.
The decision must be recorded on the ICS system.The decision will be reported to the next available Fostering Panel for ratification.
3.2 Emergency Exemptions
The Duty Manager for the Out of Hours Service can agree for a child to be placed in a foster home above the usual limit in an emergency i.e. without the agreement of the Registered Fostering Manager. This agreement will only last until the next working day.
An application for exemption beyond the next working day must then be made to the Registered Fostering Manager and any such emergency exemption needs to be presented to the next available Fostering Panel, as with planned exemptions.
An interim decision by the Registered Fostering Manager may be necessary pending full consideration of the exemption.
As with 3.1, the emergency and interim approval can only be given by the local authority for the area where the foster carers reside. Depending on the local authority involved, there may be arrangements in place for a Duty Manager within the local authority to agree an emergency or interim exemption. If such arrangements exist, an application for an emergency or interim exemption must be made to the relevant manager in line with their procedures. Otherwise an emergency exemption cannot be granted.
Any emergency or interim decisions to grant an exemption must be confirmed in writing and copies of the decision, together with the reasons, must be placed on the child's file and the foster carer's case record. A copy must also be sent to the foster carer.The decision must be recorded on the ICS system.
4. 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 on the ICS system when the exemption is no longer required.
5. Variation to the Foster Carer's Terms of Approval
The placement must also be compatible with the foster carer's terms of approval. If the placement would not be compatible, then a variation to their terms of approval will be required. (This will usually be in addition to an exemption to the usual number of children, as detailed above).
- Research evidence consistently shows that placement outside the terms of approval are significantly more likely to result in placement breakdown, therefore good practice suggests that any changes in the terms of a foster carer's approval should only be considered at the time of the foster carer's review by the Fostering Panel before being agreed by the Agency Decision Maker;
- However, there are occasions when it is appropriate to consider changes to a foster carer's terms of approval. In order to do this a Variation form must be completed and include wherever practicable, the views of children already placed and the views of their social workers. This change in terms of approval must be agreed by the Registered Manager of the Fostering Service prior to the placement being made;
- The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (Reg 23) states that this temporary variation can only be agreed for up to 6 working days. Beyond this date then the terms of the Foster Carers approval must be formally changed and their Foster Care Agreement be altered;
- To extend the variation beyond 6 working days the guidance to The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 states that:
- The fostering service provides the foster carer with a written statement setting out whether they consider the foster carer's household, including any children placed there, to have additional support needs as a result of the change, if so what these support needs are and how they will be met; and
- The foster carer provides their written agreement to the change.
- There is a regulatory requirement for a variation beyond 6 days to be considered by the Fostering Panel if the FC is within their first year of approval. However, good practice would suggest that all such changes of approval should be considered by the Fostering Panel;
- Where a temporary variation is agreed that is anticipated to last longer than 6 days, this should be presented to the next Fostering Panel for consideration;
- Where the next Fostering Panel falls outside the timeframe for the variation, this should be presented to the Registered Manager for consideration and reported retrospectively to the Fostering Panel. The Registered Manager will make arrangements for the terms of approval to be altered pending Fostering Panel consideration;
- Having altered the terms of approval in this way, the next Foster Carers Review will consider whether the terms should revert to what they were originally or remain as they now are. Please note, FC will have the right to appeal against any change back to their previous terms of approval and without a Foster Care Review recommendation they will not revert.