- Emergency Placements
- Procedure Required when Making Changes to a Foster Carer's Terms of Approval
- Do Changes to a Foster Carer's Approval have to go back to Panel?
Oxfordshire County Council, in accordance with its statutory responsibilities set out under the Care Standards Act 2000 and the Regulatory Guidance issued in 2011 upholds the principle that with the exception of carers granted temporary approval under Regulations 24 and 25 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, all of Oxfordshire's foster carers will be approved by the Fostering Panel.
Evidence suggests that placing a child outside a carer's terms of approval has a negative impact on placement stability.
Fostering services should ensure that terms of approval accurately reflect the nature/number of children that a foster carer is suitable to care for. A foster carer's terms of approval should not include children of a nature/number that the carer is not suitable to foster, but equally terms should not be unnecessarily restricted to exclude children that the carer would be suitable to foster. Terms of approval should be kept under review so, for example, if a carer's circumstances change, or as a new carer becomes more confident and capable of looking after a broader range of children, their terms of approval can be amended accordingly.
There will be circumstances where the department and/or carers seek alteration to their approval. This guidance is intended to give clarity about those occasions and to outline the process for ratifying permanent changes.
Regulation 23 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 allows a child to be placed outside a carers terms of approval for up to 6 working days in an emergency (increased from 24 hours previously set out in the Fostering Services Regulations 2002). Once 6 working days have elapsed, the child must be moved to a foster carer whose terms of approval are appropriate.
There is no need for placements made under Regulation 23 of the Care Planning and Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 to go to the Fostering Panel.
If a fostering service wishes to change a foster carer's terms of approval it must carry out a review of the suitability of the foster carer and their household to continue to foster and of the appropriateness of their terms of approval. The regulations do not make provision for changing approval terms on a temporary basis or without a review, or for reviewing terms of approval in isolation.
If having considered the review report, the Agency Decision Maker feels it appropriate to change the foster carer's terms of approval, a qualifying determination must always be issued giving the foster carer 28 days to make representation. Even if the foster carer is in agreement with the proposed change to their approval terms, they must still be given 28 days to object to the changes proposed in the qualifying determination before the decision can be made. The Regulations do not allow the foster carer to waive this period of notice in order to permit a change of approval to be made any faster.
4.1 Changes to approval which need to go back to Panel
If this is a first review after approval it must be considered by the Fostering Panel. Oxfordshire also requires a return to Panel for endorsement of a change of approval in the following circumstances:
- Relief/ Short Break to long/short term;
- Short to long term;
- Relationship breakdown leading to the continuation of one approved carer and/or the de-registration of the other.
4.2 Changes to approval which do not need to go back to Panel
Unless specifically prohibited by the original Panel approval process (or a first review) the following changes may be agreed by the Fostering Team Manager and Fostering Service Manager through the review process without referral to Panel:
- Age range of carer's approval. This is particularly relevant as their own children get older and move out, or if people move house etc;
- Changes of approval which represent a less onerous task than that on the original approval e.g. relief care for carers approved as long/short term carers;
- Whether a foster carer is on the EDT list;
- Change in number of children, e.g. from 2 if siblings to 2 unrelated children, or from 2 unrelated children to 3 if siblings.
A foster carer is not allowed to foster more than 3 children unless the children are all siblings to each other or the foster carer is exempted from the 'usual fostering limit' of three by the local authority in whose area they live (otherwise the foster carer will be regarded as running a children's home and need to register with OFSTED).
Applications will usually be made because of the following 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 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;
- The location of the foster home facilitates the child's contact with his or her natural family, school attendance or use of specialist resources such as health or therapeutic.
Applications can only be made with the agreement of the foster carers concerned.
The factors to be taken into account in considering whether to grant an exemption are as follows:
- 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 views of the social worker for the children already in placement;
- The views of the children already in placement.
Applications for exemption in relation to foster carers living outside the county must be made to the manager of the fostering service for the local authority in whose area the foster carer lives.
Exemption requests must be made to the Fostering Service Manager. Once agreed, a letter must be sent to the carer amending the approval and exempting the carer from becoming a children's home. Failure to do so means that the service is in breach of the Children Act 1989 and associated Regulations.