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3.9.3 Exemptions and Extensions/Variations to Foster Carer Approval


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.


This chapter was extensively revised and updated in November 2014 and should be re-read in full.


  1. Usual Fostering Limit on Number of Children
  2. Applications for Variations
  3. The Process for Variations
  4. Review and Monitoring of Variations
  5. Extension/Variation to the Foster Carer’s Terms of Approval

1. Usual Fostering Limit on Number of Children

1.1 A person may not foster more than three children in each foster home except where all children are siblings.
1.2 In all other circumstances, foster carers may only exceed this number if a variation has been agreed.

2. Applications for Variations 

2.1 Applications will usually be made because of the following exceptional circumstances:
  1. The child concerned 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;
  5. The placement is required to meet sufficiency guidelines.
Applications can only be made with the agreement of the foster carers concerned.
2.2 When considering an exemption the following factors should be regarded:
  1. The number, ages and circumstances of the children concerned;
  2. The arrangements proposed for the care and accommodation of the children concerned;
  3. The relationship between the foster carers and the children concerned;
  4. The period of time over which the placement is likely to last;
  5. The likely effect on the children concerned and any other children living in the household;
  6. The foster carers’ capability to provide sufficient care for all the children in the placement;
  7. 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.
2.3 Applications for exemption in relation to foster carers living outside the borough must be made to the manager of the fostering service for the local authority in whose area the foster carer lives.

3. The Process for Variations


Planned Variations

The need for a variation will be identified at the point when the duty fostering 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 duty social worker should consult with the team 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 Hillingdon must be made in writing, supported by reasons, to the Designated Manager (Exemptions from Fostering Limit) 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 duty social worker in conjunction with the relevant child’s social worker and Fostering Team Manager.

The decision whether or not to grant a variation will be recorded in writing, together with reasons. Any variation 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 the variation, a time limit will be specified and the variation can only extend beyond that date if the Designated Manager for the relevant local authority area authorises it.

The decision must be recorded.

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


Emergency Variation

An application for the variation must be made to the Designated Manager (Exemptions from Fostering Limit) as soon as practicable thereafter and any such variation needs to be presented to the next available Fostering Panel, as with planned variations.

An interim decision may be necessary on an emergency basis pending full consideration of the variation.

As with paragraph 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 decisions to grant variations 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.

4. Review and Monitoring of Variations

4.1 The Fostering Panel will be responsible for the ongoing monitoring of the variation.
4.2 The Fostering Team is responsible for ending the variation on the electronic records when it is no longer required.

5. Extension/Variation to the Foster Carer’s Terms of Approval

5.1 The placement must also be compatible with the foster carer’s terms of approval. If the placement would not be compatible, then an extension/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 must be presented in writing to the Fostering Panel and thereafter the Agency Decision Maker.

The only exception to this is where an emergency extension 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 Designated Manager (Extensions) can agree an emergency extension of the foster carer’s approval to allow the placement to go ahead. Any such decision can last for up to 6 working days.