Higher foster care allowances
What's Important To Us
Sometimes children or young people living with a caregiver have special or additional needs and we need to recognise the additional costs associated with caring for them. It is important that we respond early to any requests for assistance, assess the circumstances and make an application for a higher foster care allowance when it is needed.
When a child or young person in the custody of the chief executive is placed with a caregiver, the caregiver receives a standard foster care allowance. For most children and young people this standard allowance meets the cost of their care related needs. Where a child or young person has additional or special needs higher foster care allowance can be used to recognise the extra cost associated with caring for them.
A higher foster care allowance can be provided to any approved caregiver with whom a child or young person in the custody of the chief executive is placed.
Before you place a child or young person who has additional care needs, talk to the social worker allocated to the proposed caregiver. The caregiver social worker will have a good assessment of the skills and ability of the caregiver to meet the needs of the child or young person. This is important because a poor fit between the child or young person and the caregiver may result in placement difficulties or even placement breakdown. The caregiver social worker will also be a key person to utilise in supporting the caregiver to meet the demands of the placement.
What are extra or special needs?
We know that children and young people in the care of the chief executive can have significant challenges in their social, emotional, physical, intellectual or educational development. Others may have a disability, require a special diet or behave in ways that require more supervisory vigilance on behalf of their caregiver/s than might be expected under more usual circumstances. In these kinds of situations the child or young person's difficulties are more complex than for most children and young people in care and require more support than most caregiving situations.
Some examples of situations where additional support may be required include a child or young person who:
- is extremely withdrawn, or aggressive, or at risk of self harming or sexually abusing others requiring more intensive supervision
- has a physical or medical condition which requires extra care such as home nursing, preparing special diets or extra tasks
- is part of a large sibling group with complex family/whānau issues which creates a need for the caregiver to spend considerable effort and adjustment to meet the child or young person's needs
- is receiving extra support from their caregiver to assist with the permanency goal.
What are the extra requirements for caregivers?
At times these difficulties mean that the child or young person's caregiver is required to provide extra or special care of a level higher than is normally expected. This care might include:
- taking the child or young person to frequent appointments for assessment or treatment
- providing vigilant supervision and care when the child or young person is medically vulnerable or in danger of harming themselves or others
- working closely with professionals and family/whānau, amid complexity, to meet the safety and therapeutic needs of the child or young person
- carrying out extra tasks related to significant development delays for the child or young person.
It is important to discuss the child or young person's needs with the caregiver in order to better understand what is needed to support the child or young person and how the caregiver might see themselves doing that.
Every consideration for a higher foster care allowance goes alongside carefully constructed care plans for the child or young person and good quality support for the caregiver. It might be necessary to purchase extra services directly from another person in order to support the care placement. For example it may be appropriate to purchase services from someone else to assist with housework when there is a large sibling group, or to provide supervision/ mentoring to a child or young person who has challenging behaviour.
Be sure to discuss any additional support required by the caregiver with your supervisor and the caregiver's social worker and include them in formulating the plan.
Writing higher foster care allowance applications
The higher foster care allowance application explains why the child or young person and their caregiver need this extra funding and support, and how it will be used to enhance and sustain the care placement. Applications need to state the dollar amount of the standard weekly foster care allowance and then what the higher foster care allowance application is requesting. For example if the standard weekly foster care allowance is $150 and the weekly request for a higher foster care allowance is $50, the total will be a request of $200.00 per week.
The higher foster care allowance application will describe the child or young person's behaviours and needs, any diagnoses, the extra requirements on the caregiver and how they are expected to meet these needs. The application will also specify any costs associated with meeting the child or young person's needs, for example, special food, equipment or extra travel costs associated with visits for assessment and treatment with the child or young person.
Reviewing the higher foster care allowance
Higher foster care allowance payments are reviewed at least every six months. Where the need for a higher foster care allowance is for a shorter period, an earlier review period can be set. There will be times when the child or young person has extra or special needs that are ongoing, and the higher foster care allowance will continue beyond the six month period; however the six monthly review must still be done.
Applications for a higher foster care allowance are endorsed (or otherwise commented on) by a supervisor prior to referring to the appropriate manager for approval.
If the manager requires any changes in the report (e.g. a shorter review time or a smaller dollar amount) they will send the social worker a CYRAS reminder requesting further work on the report. The altered report will then be re-submitted for approval from the manager.
Confirmation to caregivers
When approval is given, advise the caregiver in writing of the details of the allowance including the rate, purpose, time frame, review date and when the allowance will start. Remember to include the caregiver in the higher foster care allowance review and advise them, in writing, of any subsequent changes or termination of the allowance.