Special guardianship is a formal court order which places a child or young person with someone permanently and gives this person parental responsibility for the child. This could be a grandparent, close relative, former foster carer or a family friend.
Unlike adoption, a Special Guardianship Order will not remove parental responsibility from the child's birth parents.
The child lives with you until grown up. You will have responsibility (jointly, if there are several special guardians) for both day-to-day and important decisions, but you will need to consult the birth parents at times for key decisions such as changing the child’s name, moving overseas or agreeing adoption.
To become a special guardian you must apply to the court. We will provide a report to the court about your suitability.
If the child was ‘looked after’ before the order was granted, they will no longer be the responsibility of the local authority.
The order usually lasts until the child is 18 years old.
Who can apply?
You can apply for a Special Guardianship Order if:
- you are a local authority foster carer and the child has lived with you for at least one year preceding the application
- the child has lived with you for three of the last five years (and the child has not stopped living with you more than three months before the application)
- you are the guardian of the child (you do not need to be related to the child)
- you have the consent of those who have parental responsibility for the child
- you have the consent of the local authority if the child is looked after
- you have a Child Arrangements Order or a Residence Order in respect of the child and you have the consent of the person in whose favour the Order was made
- you have permission from the court to make the application
You must be over 18 and must not be the child's birth parent. You can apply jointly with one or more people. Joint applicants do not need to be married.
Support for special guardians
Under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, financial support and other services may be available for the special guardian, the child and the parent(s).
However, if a child is not (or was not) looked after by a local authority, there is no automatic entitlement to an assessment for special guardianship support services. It is possible to request an assessment for support in this situation.
Examples of services include:
- mediation to assist with new or existing contact arrangements
- counselling and advice and information
- access to support groups
- therapy services
- training for the special guardian to meet the needs of the child
- respite care
- financial assistance.
Seeking an assessment for support services
We must provide an assessment for support services to a parent, special guardian or child in relation to a child who is looked after by the local authority.
If the child was in the care of a different local authority immediately before the Special Guardianship Order was granted, you should contact the original local authority, as it is responsible for assessing support needs for the three years following the order being made.
If the child is not a looked after child, the following people can request an assessment:
- the child
- the special guardian
- a parent
- a child of the special guardian
- any person the local authority considers has a significant and ongoing relationship with the child.
However, it will be the decision of the local authority whether they decide to carry out an assessment.
Any queries can be sent to the Kinship Duty Team: email@example.com or by calling the duty telephone number: 020 8937 2749
Assessment for support services
If we carry out an assessment it will consider:
- the developmental needs of the child
- the parenting capacity of the special guardian
- the family and environmental factors which have shaped the life of the child
- what the life of the child might be like with the special guardian
- any previous assessment undertaken
- the needs of the special guardian and their family
The assessment will determine if a person has a need for special support services.
If we decide to offer support services we will inform you of the services we intend to offer including, if applicable, the amount of financial support.
Support for special guardians
Brent’s Regional Adoption Agency, Adopt London West, offer advice and guidance for special guardians on all matters except financial support.
For any information or support with financial matters, including requests for a financial assessment or review, email Brent’s Commissioning and Resources Team: firstname.lastname@example.org