Special Guardianship

The meaning and means of becoming a special guardian

Special Guardianship orders have been in place since 2002 and offer an alternative to adoption and fostering. A special guardianship order gives the guardian of the child parental responsibility until the child is 18, and unlike adoption orders, does not take away parental responsibility from the birth parents. However, the guardian(s) only has to consult with birth parents in extreme conditions.

Why Special Guardianship Orders were introduced

After a lot of research, it has been found that many older children accept that they can no longer live with their families but do not like the legal implications that being going through the adoption process involves e.g. severing all ties with their birth family. While long term fostering was an option for children in these circumstances, it often did not provide the sense of security that the child needed. Coupled with this is the fact that foster carers themselves can often feel frustrated that they are not able to make decisions for a child in their care, and so Special Guardianship Orders were put in place to satisfy both these issues. On top of this there are several other reasons why special guardianship may be preferred, for example:

  • A child has come to the UK unaccompanied and needs a stable home, but has strong family ties back in the country they came from.
  • For some members of ethnic minorities adoption conflicts with their religion and with kinship care.
  • A family member does not want to fully adopt the child but wants to be able to have control of the day to day decisions about their welfare.

How the process works

Each local authority will have its own procedure when working toward a special guardianship order. Applicants must give the local authority three months notice that they are going to apply, and the local authority must then produce a report about the children for the court once the application has been made. The report should cover all details about the child and whether they believe a special guardianship order would be in the child’s best interests. The court will then consider the case and come to the conclusion which they believe benefits the child the most.

What support is available?

If the child has lived in the care of the local authority at any time then financial support and other services may be available. If the child has never been in the care of the local authority then no support will be available.

Changes to a Special Guardianship Order

Unlike an Adoption Order, a Special Guardianship Order can be changed before the child reaches the age of 18, at which time the order will have ended anyway. This can only be done when the circumstances in which the order was made have changed considerably. It can also only be done by specific people.  

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