A Special Guardianship Order is an order made by the Family Courts which places a child with someone other than their parents. The person or persons with whom the child is placed becomes their Special Guardian or Special Guardians.
They are often made when a child has been placed in the care of a family member or a close friend due to their parents no longer being able to care for them.
For a child this means that the ties with parents and family are not broken and this can be very positive for them as they grow up knowing their family.
Special Guardianship Orders can be made in existing proceedings such as at the conclusion of care proceedings if the court decides this is the best option for a child’s long-term care. It is also possible to make a private application, however it is important that the Local Authority are given three months’ notice of this.
It is a big decision to care for another child and you should never feel under pressure to do this as it is important to take the time to consider what is not only best for the child/ children but also you and your family.
If the child is a family member then we understand this will make the decision making process even harder and that this is likely to be a very emotional time for you as you do not want to let your family down or the child whose other options may be long-term foster care or adoption.
It is important to get independent legal advice to make sure you are making the right choice and we are here to help.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How long does a Special Guardianship Order last?
Special Guardianship orders are designed to provide long-term permanence and stability for a child/ children. These orders are until a child is 18 years old.
Does a Special Guardian get Parental Responsibility?
Yes. A Special Guardianship order gives the Special Guardian or Guardians Parental Responsibility. This means you will have day to day responsibility for the care of the child/ children. It also means that you can make decisions about what is best for the child or children you are caring for to the exclusion of anyone else with Parental Responsibility save for another Special Guardian.
What Support will you get as Special Guardian?
You will have access to the Kinship Support Service Team within Children's Services via a helpline which is open during the week.
All Special Guardians are entitled to apply for means-tested Special Guardianship Allowance but not all who apply will receive it.
Support offered is not always financial and instead the Local Authority may offer counselling, therapy or respite care as well as support around contact between the child and their parents.
Carers who are Special Guardians have the same right to benefits and tax credits as parents.
As a Special Guardian can I take a child in my care abroad?
As a Special Guardian you can remove a child from the country for up to three months without the consent of a parent or leave of the court.
Is there anything I cannot do?
You cannot change the child’s name unless of course this is by agreement of everyone with parental responsibility or ordered by the court.
What alternatives are there to Special Guardianship?
A Child Arrangements Order or long-term foster care or adoption.
How do I pay for this advice?
Usually, if there are ongoing care proceedings, the Local Authority will offer to pay for independent legal advice so you are clear what being a Special Guardian would mean and to ensure that any support offered is appropriate and in line with what you need.
Please do not hesitate to call us to discuss further. We are here to help and have a number of experienced solicitors in our family department to advise you.