A Special Guardianship Order is an order made by the Family Courts that 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.
These Orders are often made when a child has been placed in the care of a family member or a close friend because their parents are no longer able to care for them.
For a child, this means that the ties with their parents and family are not broken. It can be very positive for them because 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 is given three months’ notice.
It is a big decision to care for another child and you should never feel under pressure to do this. 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, we understand this will make the decision-making process harder. This is likely to be an emotional time for you because 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 ensure you are making the right choice.
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 last until a child is 18 years old.
As a Special Guardian, do I get Parental Responsibility?
Yes. A Special Guardianship order gives the Special Guardian or Guardians Parental Responsibility. This means you 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.
Who can apply for a Special Guardianship Order?
If you are over 18 years old and are not the parent of the child/children in question, you can apply for Special Guardian status. For instance, family, friends and foster parents can apply, but you must meet the local authority’s requirements in order to be suitable.
Is there a Special Guardianship Order assessment?
Yes. You may be subject to assessment by the local authority to ensure that you are a suitable candidate.
What support will I get as a Special Guardian?
You will have access to the Kinship Support Service Team within Children's Services. They have a helpline that is open during the week.
All Special Guardians are entitled to apply for a means-tested Special Guardianship Allowance but not all who apply will receive it.
Support is not always financial. 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 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 Special Guardianship Order guidance?
Usually, if there are ongoing care proceedings, the local authority will offer to pay for independent legal advice. It ensures that you fully understand what being a Special Guardian would mean and ensure that any support offered is appropriate and in line with what you need.
Please do not hesitate to call us on 01603 660 811 for further guidance. We are here to help and have a number of experienced solicitors to advise you.