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.
The guardian need to apply to the court which will consider their suitability and the child's needs, based on a report from the local authority.
Special Guardianship means that the child lives with carers who have parental responsibility for them until they are grown up. If the child was looked after before the Special Guardianship 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 to be a Special Guardian?
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.
Why apply for a Special Guardianship Order?
A Special Guardianship Order has several potentially positive effects:
- it gives a child the security of a long-term placement
- the child's birth parents retain shared parental responsibility
- it gives the Special Guardian day-to-day control (jointly, if there are several Special Guardians)
Unlike adoption, a Special Guardianship Order will not remove parental responsibility from the child's birth parents. This means that the Special Guardian will have responsibility for the day-to-day decisions as well as all the important decisions about the child or young person, but will need to consult the birth parents at times where key decisions are being made such as changing their name, moving overseas or agreeing adoption.
What kind of support can I get if I am a Special Guardian?
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, then 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 possible 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.
For further information, please see Brent’s Kinship Care and Support Policy.
How do I seek an assessment for support services as a special guardian?
The Local Authority 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, the original Local Authority should be contacted as they are responsible for assessing the support needs for the three years following the Special Guardianship Order being made.
If the child in question is not a looked after child, the following people can request an assessment from their Local Authority for support services:
- the child
- the Special Guardian
- a parent
- a child of the Special Guardian
- any person that 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.
What will the assessment for support services involve?
The assessment undertaken by the Local Authority 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 whether a person has a need for special support services. Where the Local Authority decides to offer support services, they should give the person notice of the services they intend to offer including, if applicable, the amount of financial support.
Who Provides me Support as a Special Guardian?
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 relating to special guardianship, including requests for financial assessment or review, please contact Brent’s Commissioning and Resources Team directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.