Exemptions and Variations of Approval
This chapter was revised in March 2013, external links to Herts Compass added.This chapter is currently under review.
1. Introduction and Overview
All Hertfordshire foster carers have specific terms of approval which set out details regarding the children they are approved to foster. These may include the number of children, age of children, gender of children, type of placement etc.
Over time the specific terms of approval relating to particular carers may become outdated or otherwise need to be revised and this procedure describes the process whereby these terms and conditions of approval may be amended.
2. Changes to Foster Carers Terms of Approval
Changes to the approval terms of a Foster Carer will only be made following a recommendation from an annual review meeting being presented to panel and a subsequent decision (qualifying determination) by the Agency Decision Maker.
A Foster Carer annual review must take place at a maximum of twelve monthly intervals however this can be brought forward should there need to be consideration given to an application to alter the Foster Carers terms of approval.
3. Exemption from the Usual Fostering Limit
A person may not foster more than three children ("the usual fostering limit") unless they are all siblings with respect to each other. A child may be placed with foster carers for up to six days irrespective of their approval. If the placement lasts for more than six days an exemption needs to be agreed.
A person may exceed the usual fostering limit if s/he is exempted from it by the Local Authority in whose area s/he lives. In considering whether to exempt a person, the Local Authority must have regard, in particular to:
- The number, ages and circumstances of the children whom the person proposes to foster;
- The arrangements which the person proposes for the care and accommodation of the fostered children;
- Whether the welfare of the fostered children (and any other children who are living in the accommodation) will be safeguarded and promoted);
- 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 and any other children who live in the foster home.
Where consideration is being given to placing a child in an emergency on an exemption, the Brokerage Accommodation Team must consult with the Supervising Social Worker or duty Social Worker and with the Fostering Team Manager to obtain their agreement. This plan to make the placement can be agreed for up to six days by the Team Manager. At this point, however the Fostering Services Manager needs to be consulted and asked to give their verbal agreement to the placement.
The Supervising Social Worker should at this point get the verbal agreement from the foster carer. The Fostering Services Manager can agree the placement for up to two months. This timescale will enable the Supervising Social Worker to complete the foster carers review and present to panel CS0252F12 and to must be written to the carers informing them that the named child is placed with them on an exemption.
The supervising social worker needs to complete form CS4152 to gain agreement for any exemption to the Fostering Services Manager.
4. Variation of Approval
It is anticipated that where at all possible children should be placed with carers whose approval is consistent with the placement. ONLY IN EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD A CHILD BE PLACED OUTSIDE THE CARERS TERMS OF APPROVAL.
Regulation 23 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 permits a foster placement to be made outside of the carer's terms of approval for a maximum period of 6 working days. When such a placement is required specific approval must be sought.
While the regulations state that a variation of approval should only be agreed for six days HCC wishes to remain child focused so would not want to see multiple moves for the child unless this was unavoidable. All decision-making has to be about the welfare of the child; this is a guiding principle of HCC Fostering Service.
Where a foster placement is identified for a child which would be within the usual fostering limit but outside of the foster carer's terms of approval (for example in terms of age/gender etc) a variation in the terms of approval is required.
There is no provision in the legislation to extend this approval beyond six days and non-statutory guidance has been issued which sets out that a child who is placed under this arrangement must then be moved if the placement continues to fall outside the terms of approval after six working days have elapsed.
However if the supervising social worker's Team Manager is satisfied that the placement meets the needs of the child/children, and indeed, a further move for the children would be detrimental to their welfare. CS would support the children remaining in placement. The welfare of the child is paramount.
To achieve this, the foster carer's approval must be amended to be consistent with the placement.
Where consideration is being given to placing a child in an emergency with a carer where a variation of approval is needed, the Brokerage Accommodation Team in the first instance must discuss this with the Supervising Social Worker or Duty Social Worker. This must then be discussed with the Team Manager who can agree the placement for up to six days. At this point, however, the Fostering Services Manager needs to be consulted and asked to give their verbal agreement to the placement. A Variation of Approval letter is sent to the carer after the Services Manager has approved (see Herts Compass).
The Supervising Social Worker/Duty Social Worker should at this point discuss the placement with the relevant carer and get a verbal agreement from them accepting the placement.
The Supervising Social Worker needs to complete form CS0252F11 within six days to gain agreement from the Services Manager.
In the case of a variation of approval the Fostering Services Manager may agree to the placement continuing for longer than 6 days if they are satisfied that the identified carer can meet the needs of the new placement alongside any other children in the household.
If the variation of approval is agreed by the Services Manager, Variation of Approval letter CS0252F13 must be sent to the foster carer giving them twenty-eight days notice of presenting the variation of approval to panel.
The carer needs to respond to their Supervising Social Worker within six days that they agree with the variation for the specific child. They have twenty eight days from receipt of this letter in which to present any written representations that they wish to make. These twenty-eight days can enable them to change their mind about whether or not the placement should continue.
The decision to place a child with a carer for more than six days outside their approval has to be ratified by the Operations Director.
Once the Operations Director has agreed the placement, the paperwork needs to be attached to the carer's LCS record. Once HCC has received a response from the carer the Supervising Social Worker must arrange a panel date. This date has to be as soon as possible after the twenty-eight days notice period is up
Once a panel date is booked the panel process is followed in the usual way (link to panel procedures). Foster carers are expected to attend panel.
The Supervising Social Worker has to present the most recent review to panel together with form CS0252F11.
It would be anticipated that unless serious concerns were raised about the placement then panel would recommend the variation of approval should continue.
Panel may feel that they wish to put conditions on their recommendation, e.g. a time-limit or request for a new review to be completed within a certain time.
If the Operations Director does not agree to the Variation of approval an urgent planning meeting (within 24 hours) needs to be convened to plan to move the child.
Once the variation or a change of approval has been recommended by panel. The agency decision maker must make the decision. Once this is done then the letter about re approval needs to inform the carer(s) that the variation of approval is no longer in place.
5. Independent Fostering Agencies
All Independent Fostering Agencies who have approved foster carers in Hertfordshire must request permission of HCC to exempt placements above the usual fostering limit.
The Supervising Social Worker for the IFA in consultation with their manager should complete form CS4152 and submit it to the Agency Decision Maker.
The HCC Agency Decision Maker must consider this request and confirm the decision in writing to the agency, together with the reasons. Any exemption will be specific to a child or children and can be subject to conditions.
The Agency Decision Maker can agree an exemption for up to two months. This decision will be reported to the next IFA Fostering panel for ratification.
Foster Carers must receive written notification of an exemption from the IFA, naming the child(ren) subject to the exemption and the duration of the exemption and any conditions attached.
Notification must be given in writing of any variation or cancellation of the exemption.