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5.2.6 Exemptions and Extensions/Variations to Foster Carer Approval


This procedures concerns the process for considering and authorising variations to the terms of a foster carer's approval, including exemptions to the usual fostering limit. It should be noted 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 May 2018, this chapter was extensively revised and should be re-read in full.


  1. The Usual Fostering Limit
  2. Reasons for an Exemption
  3. The Process for Exemptions
  4. Review and Monitoring of Exemptions
  5. Variation to the Terms of Approval

1. The Usual Fostering Limit

A foster carer 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 specifically been agreed.

2. Reasons for an Exemption

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

  1. The child to be placed 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 taken into account.

  • The number, ages and circumstances of the children concerned (to be placed and already in placement);
  • 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 for which the placement is planned to last;
  • The likely effect on the children concerned and any other children living in the household;
  • The views of the social workers for any other children currently placed;
  • 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 normally 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 supervising 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 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 Fostering Service Manager for approval. The written application will be prepared by the supervising social worker for the foster carers in conjunction with the relevant child's social worker.

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 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, naming the child(ren) and specifying any conditions associated with the exemption.

Upon the granting of an exemption, a time limit will be specified and an exemption can only extend beyond that date if the Service Manager authorises it.

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

3.2 Emergency Exemptions

The Duty Manager supporting the Emergency Duty Team 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 Service 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 Service Manager and any such emergency exemption must be presented to the next available Fostering Panel, as with planned exemptions.

An interim decision by the Service 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.

4. Review and Monitoring of Exemptions

The Fostering Panel will be responsible for the ongoing monitoring of the exemption. The supervising social worker will pay particular attention to the impact of the exemption on the foster carer's capacity to meet the needs of all the children in the placement and where there is any detrimental effect consideration must be given to providing additional support and/or ending the exemption.

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

5. Variation to the Terms of Approval

The placement must also be compatible with the foster carer's general 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 extension to the usual number of children, as detailed above.

All requests for extensions and variations must be presented in writing to the Fostering Panel and thereafter to the Agency Decision Maker (Fostering).

The only exception to this is where an emergency variation to approval is required to enable a placement to take place before the case has been presented to the Fostering Panel. In these circumstances, the Service Manager can agree an emergency variation of the foster carer's approval to allow the placement to go ahead. Any such decision can last for up to 6 working days.