Exemptions and Variations of Approval
AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed and updated in March 2023 to include information on Mockingbird Support.
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 placements foster carers offer 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Over time the specific terms of approval relating to particular carers may become outdated or otherwise need to be revised and this procedure describes the process whereby these terms and conditions of approval may be amended.
Changes to Foster Carers Terms of Approval and exemptions
1. Exemption from the Usual Fostering Limit
Schedule 7 of the Children Act 1989 sets a limit of three on the number of children that a foster carer may foster at any one time. This may only be exceeded if the children are all siblings of each other, or (if not all siblings of each other) if an exemption is granted by the local authority where the foster carer resides. The exemption names the specific children that the foster carer may foster, and sets out any conditions which apply to the exemption. When considering whether to grant an exemption, the local authority in whose area the foster carer lives must have regard to (Sch. 7(4)(2) CA1989):
- The number of children whom the person proposes to foster;
- The arrangements which the person proposes for the care and accommodation of the fostered children;
- The intended and likely relationship between the person and the fostered children;
- The period of time for which he proposes to foster the children; and
- Whether the welfare of the fostered children (and of any other children who are or will be living in the accommodation) will be safeguarded and promoted.
The exemption must be notified in writing, naming each of the children who may be fostered and any conditions to which the exemption is subject. Exemptions may be varied or cancelled by the local authority that has granted the exemption and ongoing exemptions will need to be reviewed regularly.
2. Variation of Approval
A variation of approval is different to an exemption and is relevant when children are placed within the usual fostering limit, but outside of the foster carers approval terms; i.e.:
- A Foster Carer is approved for two children but it is proposed to place a third child with him or her;
- A Foster Carer is approved for a child aged 0 to 5 but it is proposed to place a 6 year old child with him or her;
- A Foster Carer is approved for female children but it is proposed to place a male child with him or her.
3. Procedure and Process for Change of Approval following variation of approval
Fostering regulations state that if the placement of a further child or children with a foster carer would mean making a placement outside a foster carer's terms of approval (variations) then:
- The placement may be made in an emergency with any carer outside their terms of approval for a maximum of six working days under Reg 23(1) of the The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010;
- After six working days the placement must be terminated unless the terms of approval have been changed.
The Fostering Services Regulations 2011 were amended in 2013, so that in cases where the only change is to the terms of approval, as well as a determination notifying the foster carer of the proposed change, the fostering provider must also:
- "(i) Provide a statement setting out whether the fostering service provider considers that the foster parent or members of the foster parent's 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
- (ii)Request the foster parent's agreement in writing to the proposed revision of terms,"
If the foster carer agrees to the change it is then possible to 'waive' the 28 days' waiting period and implement the decision immediately, in which case the decision is not a qualifying determination.
This written agreement must be freely given by the foster carer. If the foster carer does not agree to the change to the terms of their approval, the decision cannot be implemented until 28 days from the date of the qualifying determination. The foster carer may make representations to the fostering service or apply to the Secretary of State for a review of the qualifying determination (by applying to the Independent Review Mechanism) within the 28 day period.
If a child is to be placed with a foster carer outside their approval, the following process must be followed:
- Discussion to be had and agreement to be sought from the foster carer(s), Fostering service and the child's Social worker team;
- The LCS variation form to be completed and agreed by Fostering Team manager, Fostering Service manager and Head of Service prior to any child moving to a foster carer out of approval;
- Once the variation form is signed by the Fostering Head of Service, the child can be placed outside of a carer's terms of approval and the variation of approval is valid for 6 days. The foster carers will be provided with a letter confirming the exemption/variation;
- On or before Day 4, a Change of approval Review meeting to be held to include Foster carer(s), SSW and Fostering team manager. The LCS Change of approval review form to be discussed and completed in the meeting;
- Fostering Team manager, Service manager and Head of Service to sign off Change of approval review and ADM decision to be made on or before day 6 following the child being placed;
- Change of approval letter to be sent to foster carer;
- Qualifying termination waiver to be signed by the foster carers;
- A review to be presented to panel within 6 month following change of approval.
Variations and exemptions for Mockingbird
As part of Mockingbird support, Mockingbird hub carers offer sleepovers for all children who are part of their hub. Hub carers are approved for 3 children.
If a child is placed with a hub carer (outside of the hub carers approval terms), there is no requirement for an exemption to be made for up to 3 days sleepover. If the same child remains placed with the hub carer for more than 3 days, then the usual variation/exemption procedures apply.
4. 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 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.